Posts Tagged 'principle'

Courgettes (Zucchini) and Buffalo Curry

I needed something to bring to the office for a surprise “man shower” we were having for a soon-to-be new dad. I wanted to make something from my garden, but it was between the spring veggies (snow peas, etc.,) and the onslaught of zucchini and tomatoes that was surely soon to come.  I managed to pick a handful of baby zucchini and yellow squash and cut them up for this nice curry from my favorite low fat Indian cookbook by Husain and Kanani.

One of the quickest ways to lower the fat in many recipes (besides substituting buffalo for the beef) is to eliminate the fat or oil. If the oil is only being used as a vehicle to soften veggies and is not a critical component of the flavor, you don’t need it.  You can steam fry the veggies. Don’t remember how to steam fry? Spray a large frying pan (or wok in my case) with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Add your onions, celery or whatever the recipe calls for. Cook, stirring frequently. As the veggies start to turn golden, add a little water and stir. It will soon evaporate. You can do this several times until the veggies are softened or you reach the shade of golden brown you are looking for.

You lose 14 grams of unneeded fat for each tablespoon of oil you eliminate, and you still get the good flavor of sautéed onions, garlic, and the like.  So in a dish that serves 4, you eliminate 3.5 grams of fat/tablespoon of oil eliminated.

This recipe would have made nice leftovers, but there weren’t any. It is not a particularly incendiary curry, and thus suitable for friends who don’t like “hot” foods.

Courgettes (Zucchini) and Buffalo Curry

Cooking spray
2 medium onions, chopped
8 oz buffalo, trimmed and cut into small strips
½ cup non-fat yogurt (I used Greek, but regular is ok)
1 teaspoon garam masala (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 zucchini, sliced
1 Tablespoon cilantro to garnish

Either broil the zucchini slices in a preheated broiler for 3 minutes, turning once, or cook them in a frying pan or griddle pan coated with cooking spray until they are lightly browned (this is what I did).  Set aside.

Steam fry onion until golden brown. Add buffalo and stir fry for 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, garam masala, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and ground coriander. Pour yogurt mixture over the buffalo and stir fry for 2 minutes. Cook over medium to low heat for 12-15 minutes.

Check to see that the buffalo is cooked and the sauce is quite thick.  Then gently add zucchini. Cook for about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro.  I served it with couscous for convenience, but I think it would be better with rice. Makes 4 servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: Garam masala is a Hindi term meaning hot (garam) spice (masala). The word garam refers to intensity of the spices;  masala is pungent, but not hot in the same way as a chili pepper. The actual mixture of spices used in garam masala differs regionally, and even from family to family, with a wide variety across India. You can buy an acceptable bottle garam masala from a number of companies, or you can find a recipe in an Indian cookbook and make your own.

Moroccan Braised Veal Shanks

Some friends came to dinner the other night, and I needed to make something that met both their dietary habits and my desire not to have leftovers that have too much fat for me to eat. One of my principles is to only make food that I can eat – and that includes leftovers in the freezer for lunches and hasty dinners.  My friends don’t eat gluten and most starches, including potatoes and rice, and I, of course, focus on low fat eating.  I was beginning to feel like that nursery rhyme about “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean.”

I started the meal with roasted cherry tomatoes over goat cheese and baby greens.

I am really enamored of these roasted cherry tomatoes.  I make them every couple of weeks and spoon them hot over chicken or fish, or most frequently cold on good bread or crackers spread with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge and topped with the tomatoes.

I really felt like making something Moroccan, but had to find a recipe that wasn’t heavy on fruit and honey, which are so typical of this North African cuisine. These braised veal shanks were perfect, and they even contain sweet potato, which is one of my friend’s favorite dishes (and one of the few starches she still eats.)  Instead of serving it over couscous, which would be its more usual presentation, I made a wild rice pilaf, which I will post later. Wild rice is actually a grass, and not in the same category as wheat and other grains.

This recipe, originally from Cooking Light, kind of puzzled me, because the serving size math seemed to be wrong. It called for 4 pounds of veal shanks. Even if there were a pound of bone in the veal shanks, that still leaves about 48 ounces of meat. But the recipe said it made six 3 ounce servings, which is mathematically impossible. That would only be 18 ounces of meat, total, and this made much more.  I used cross-cut veal shanks, which may have been a bit meatier, even after the fat was trimmed away, although many pieces had only a little meat.

The finished braised veal filled one of my largest pans.

I estimate that there were easily 12 servings – I’m going to be eating the leftovers forever – yum.

Moroccan Braised Veal Shanks

Spice rub:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 (16-ounce) veal shanks (because I used cross-cut shanks, I just purchased 4 lbs., rather than 4 shanks.

Remaining ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chopped onion (I chopped the onion, celery, and carrot in the food processor)
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup diced carrot
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic cloves
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash or sweet potato (I used sweet potato)
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch-thick pieces (about 8 ounces)
1 14 ounce can drained canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
4 teaspoons (or more) chopped fresh mint (optional) for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare spice rub, combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Trim fat from veal; rub surface of veal with spice rub. Set aside.

Heat oil in a (very) large Dutch oven or large heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add veal; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add onion, celery, diced carrot, garlic, and ginger; cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 teaspoon turmeric, paprika, and coriander. Add broth, wine, juice, and tomato paste, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return veal to pan; bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Turn shanks; add squash, carrot pieces, and chick peas. Cover and bake an additional 45 minutes or until veal shreds easily with a fork. Remove veal from pan, and remove meat from bones.  Return veal to pan  and stir into other ingredients.

Serve veal and vegetable mixture over couscous or other pilaf. Garnish with mint, if desired. Makes 12 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

Veal with wild rice pilaf

Caribbean Pork and Plantain Stew

This was my Christmas Eve dinner – it has a nice tropical taste to offset the frigid outdoor temperatures we are experiencing.  This stew also packs quite a bit of heat – I mean sinus-clearing, eye-watering heat, which was fine with me tonight. It really warmed me up. But if you want less of a punch, reduce the amount of pepper. It was also very quick to make, so that I could finish baking cookies and wrapping presents, since I am rather behind on my holiday tasks (at least I got the cards out before Christmas this year.)

The  recipe for this dish came from Cooking Light. It was originally a bit high in fat for me, since, as usual, I want to freeze the leftovers and take them for lunch.  One of my principles for low fat cooking is to eliminate the oil, especially if all it is doing is being used to brown onions or other ingredients (I steam fry them instead).  But in this case, I thought that the peanut oil probably was going to add to the complexity of flavors in the stew, so I just reduced the amount.

This is one of those dishes that comes together fast, so I prepared all the ingredients in advance in order to be able to add them in rapid sequence:

That’s the cut up pork and plantains, the green onion sliced, the ginger and peppers in the bowl, and the liquids combined in the measuring cup.

In this stew, the plantains take the place of a starch like potatoes.  I didn’t serve it over rice. Rather, I sopped up the juices with some slightly sweet rolls.

Caribbean Pork and Plantain Stew

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of all fat and membrane
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
3/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon  Szechuan or pink peppercorns, crushed (I was out of Szechuan pepper so I used 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced (I used jalapeno)
3 plantains, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch-thick pieces (about 3 cups) My plantains were yellow with brown spots, not fully ripe and black.
1 cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rum
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Cut pork into 2 x 1/4-inch-wide strips. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onions, ginger, peppercorns, and chile; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add pork; stir-fry 1 minute. Add plantains; stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in broth, soy sauce, rum, and sugar; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, or until plantains soften.

Combine water and cornstarch, stirring well with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pork mixture, stirring well; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until somewhat thick, stirring constantly.  This makes 6 tummy-warming servings at about 7 grams of fat/serving.

HINT: Plantains, unlike bananas, are rather difficult to peel unless they are dead ripe and black. To peel them, I cut off the ends, and then run the tip of a sharp knife down the side twice, about an inch apart. Pull this thin strip off. You should now be able to use your fingers to lift the remaining skin off the plantain.

Smoked Trout Platter

There is a potluck today.  It’s hot – in the 90’s, although today might be 2 degrees cooler. Too hot to bake something interesting.  And you know everyone will be bringing salads and if they don’t feel creative, boxes of store-bought baked goods.  And did I mention it’s hot?  I am not fond of hot weather.  I like clouds.

Then, to my rescue, the local grocery had whole trout on sale. Chubby, sleek trout with their heads on. I bought six of them.   I had the butcher remove their heads (“I’m decapitating” he said. “Tell the other trout not to look”).   I took off tails and fins at home and smoked the whole trout in my handy smoker.  I didn’t do anything special to them – no seasoning or brine. I smoked them over alder chips for 2½  hours.  Trout are actually rather fatty, so they grill and smoke well without getting dried out.  They have a distinctive flavor, too, that I didn’t want to mask.  I think next to steelhead, trout are my favorite fish.

Once the trout were done, I skinned them and took as many of the bones out as possible.  I find this easier to do once the fish is cooked, since the skin peels right off and the bones more or less lift out when you pull the spine out.  Then I wrapped them individually and put them in the refrigerator to chill.  This morning, I made a big platter of smoked trout – three of the fish (the rest I’ll use for other things) atop fresh leaf lettuce, with thinly sliced sweet onion, ripe tomatoes, and  cucumber, with lemons scattered about for those who want them.  Now this has the requisite Wow Factor to take to a potluck.  It actually looks more involved than it was to make (Remember, it’s hot).  It’s all in the presentation, sort of like accessorizing a basic dress.

trout smoked

This also follows my Principle of never making anything for a potluck that you don’t want to eat as leftovers.

To accompany the trout platter, I thought that most people would want to put their bit of trout on bread or crackers.  I bought some interesting dark bread and also cut up a baguette, toasting the slices to crisp them up.  I made two spreads to go with the trout. One was cream cheese and chives – put chives in the food processor to chop, then add an 8 ounce bar of low fat or non-fat cream cheese.  The second spread was a little more unconventional – blue cheese and sun dried tomatoes.

Blue Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Spread

1 bar (8 ounces) fat free cream cheese
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes (not oil pack)
1/3 cup reduced fat blue cheese
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Place the sun dried tomatoes in a food processor and pulse several times to chop.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until fully blended. Refrigerate overnight to blend flavors. This has about 1 gram of fat/2 tablespoon serving.

trout bread plate

French Honey-Baked Chicken with Preserved Lemons

I have been so busy cooking for Passover that I haven’t had time to write about cooking for Passover.  There were 12 people coming to the seder, mostly old friends, but a couple of new people as well.  I always make some of the traditional foods that people expect to appear – chopped liver, matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish (from a jar) – but I try to make the actual Passover feast interesting and different. No fatty brisket or roast turkey for me.  Of course, I have to create a menu that follows the rules of Passover: no leavened products or flour or grains (although Sephardic Jews eat grains), no milk and meat in the same meal, etc.  I also have to make a lot of food, because to run out of anything would be, according to my dear late mother, a shondana or shame to be brought upon my household.

When I cook for a large group, I have a number of principles I follow.  I try to have enough variety among the dishes not only to have varied and often exotic flavors, but also to make sure that there is something for everyone to eat, even the picky eaters.  So I always make 2 main dishes, plus lots of sides.  Also, the food needs to be able to be made ahead both because I work during the day and often can’t spend my day cooking, and also because I want to be able to enjoy my guests. With a small dinner party, everyone can gather in the kitchen and socialize while you cook, but 12 people in the kitchen can get crowded. I like food that can be tucked into the oven to reheat during the seder ceremony or microwaved and put in my stove’s warming drawer to keep.  Food that can be served at room temperature is also good. And the most important principle is that all of the food served needs to be low fat, so that I can eat the leftovers.

The original recipe, from Cooking Light, called for a mix of chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks.  But I find that chicken breasts often overcook and get dried out in preparations such as this, especially if you are reheating.  Also, at a buffet dinner with lots of food to select from, guests often don’t want to take a large piece of food, and chicken thighs are a more amenable size.  The recipe also called for the addition of matzoh meal after the fat is taken off the gravy.  But I find that matzoh meal doesn’t tend to make a particularly good thickener.  Besides, I thought that when I reheated the chicken, a thickened gravy might get gummy.

The flavor of this chicken was outstanding and everyone raved about it.  It was a bit different because of the preserve lemon (see NOTE).  It is baked with the skin on to flavor the ample gravy, but the skin is removed before serving.

French Honey-Baked Chicken with Preserved Lemons

½ cup honey, divided
3 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup Preserved Lemons
1½  teaspoons  olive oil
2  medium onions, sliced and separated into rings
Cooking spray
8 chicken thighs, with skin and bone
8 chicken drumsticks
1¼  teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chop the preserved lemon to a medium chop (not ground fine). Be sure to remove any small seeds prior to chopping. Combine 6 tablespoons honey and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook over medium high heat until reduced to 1½  cups (about 20 minutes); stir in Preserved Lemons.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until slightly tender. Don’t let them burn. Transfer the onions to a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Carefully rub honey mixture under chicken skin, trying not to tear the skin. Place chicken pieces, meaty side up, on top of the onions in the baking pan. Pour the wine mixture over the chicken in roasting pan.

Bake uncovered at 375° for 50 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan, reserving wine gravy mixture. Let chicken stand 10 minutes. Remove skin from chicken; discard.  Remove onions to a separate bowl.  Place wine gravy mixture in a large container and place it in the refrigerator, chilling until the fat becomes easy to remove (alternatively, you can use a gravy separator to remove the fat.)

To reheat, place the onions on the bottom of the pan, put the skinned chicken pieces on top of the onions, and put the defatted wine gravy over it. Bake for about 30 minutes, covered, in a 300 oven.  Makes 8 servings with about 7 grams of fat/serving.

french-baked-chicken

I made a double recipe of this chicken, so the pan was completely full of chicken in wine gravy.

NOTE: I have been reluctant to use preserved lemons, which are often called for in Moroccan food.  I thought they would have a strong and perhaps fermented flavor.  I finally bought a jar of them. To my delight, they turned out to only be made of lemon, salt, and water, and had a delightful perfumed aroma.  I will definitely use them more often.  They were, however, quite expensive.  There are a number of recipes to make preserved lemons at home, and I plan to experiment with them.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

Another potluck.  This time they said bring a salad or side dish that is “dairy” – contains no meat.  To complicate things, I had to run errands before the gathering, and was going to a jazz concert after, so It couldn’t be a hot dish, and leftovers would have to be able to survive in the car for a couple of hours.  Since it is very cold, I wasn’t really worried about spoilage.   And of course, it had to meet my standard potluck principle of being something I could eat at the potluck to avoid the fatty dishes others brought, and the leftovers would be ok to eat without being too high fat.

I decided on a pasta salad with a Thai flavor so it would be a little different, but easy to transport. This was also good as a leftover for lunch, when I added little cooked shrimp to it one day, and tuna the next.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

1 pound small pasta (see Note)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 colored pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tablespoons dried flaked onions
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

Dressing

1/3  cup  fresh lime juice
2  tablespoons  Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
2  Tablespoons  sugar
1/4  cup  finely shredded peeled carrot
1/2  teaspoon  Thai-style chili paste
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Rinse under cold water and allow to drain completely.   Toss pasta with remaining salad ingredients (tomatoes through cilantro). To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over pasta and toss thoroughly. Makes 8 1½  cup servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: You can use any kind of small pasta you’d like – orzo, little shells, small macaroni, etc.  I was originally planning to use small shells until I found adorable mini farfalle (bow ties), which I thought gave the salad an interesting look.

VARIATION: I made this salad milder and sweeter than I might have if I wasn’t taking it to a potluck.  If you want to give it a real Thai kick, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons, and increase the chili paste to 1 teaspoon – or more to taste.

thai-pasta

Oatmeal Coconut Snack Bars

I snack a lot – in the office, in the car on the way home – basically, all the time. One of my principles is that a snack should be 4 grams of fat or less. Of course you can snack on lots of non-fat food like fruit.  Grapes that have been cleaned and separated,  for example, are good to eat when driving home.  I’m not much on carrots and celery unless I have dip, although slices of red or orange pepper are tasty.  I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying snack food with me at all times, lest I get ravenously hungry and stop for a bite to eat of some high fat goody.  I often carry what I refer to as “food bars”, the chewy bars you buy in the grocery, since they pack in a purse or pocket well. There are some bars that meet the 4 gram requirement, but a lot of the tastiest bars are 8 grams or more, and since they’re not that filling, it seems like a waste of fat grams (and money) to eat them often.

So I have been making my own food bars.  These snack bars, which were called “breakfast bars” when the recipe appeared in American Profile, are rather moister than store bought bars.  I packed them each separately in a zip top snack-size bag, and they kept and traveled well.  I also froze about half of them.

Oatmeal Coconut Snack Bars

1 cup quick oats
1 ½ cups apple juice
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup toasted wheat germ
¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups finely grated carrots
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Combine oatmeal and apple juice in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and heat on high for 2 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, 1/2  cup of the coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, applesauce, carrots and eggs.  Fold into flour mixture.  Add oatmeal mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup of coconut.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  This makes 18 large bars at 2 grams of fat/bar.

oatmeal-snack-bars

Note:  These were good, but I wasn’t that crazy about the coconut, which I usually like. Somehow it didn’t go with the other flavors that well.  I’m going to experiment with other nuts, and maybe raisins or dried cranberries.  I’ll let you know how the experiments come out.


ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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