Resolutions From a Southern Chef

By Regina Charboneau
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Photo by Regina Charboneau


To try Regina's trio of sauce-inspired meals, click here for her sautéed shrimp with preserved lemon, here for her poached chicken and vegetables with horseradish and mustard, and here for her cast iron vegetables with smoked tomato coulis.

I know you probably don't have a lot of faith in someone from Mississippi talking about low-fat cooking. Although we do have a less than favorable record in the department of fitness and health, there are many here who do try. Like the rest of the country, we start off the New Year with too many resolutions. Weight loss is always at the top of the list.

I've been pretty lucky in the past. Before the age of 40 I could eat whatever I wanted and my weight stayed about the same. That soon changed. When 50 came (and went) everything I put into my mouth attached itself to my body with a vengeance. So, like many of you I have resolved to take some pounds off this year. Will it be more difficult because my entire life revolves around food? Yes and no: yes, for the fact that I love cooking for my family and friends and love, love, love good food. And no, for the fact that I have a variety of food in my kitchen, and I can usually put together a low-calorie meal without much trouble.

I love preserved lemons and just one piece can take a low-fat dish to a higher level.

Whether you are a chef or physician, weight loss all boils down to the basics: calories and exercise. I think the first thing to tackle is getting rid of those "empty calories"; for me this has meant giving up (painfully) my evening glass of wine. At 250 calories a glass, I know why my weight has crept up over time. I've also exchanged my morning lattes for tea. And at lunch today I had a bowl of 120-calorie Progresso vegetable soup while my husband ate the creamy ham and potato soup I'd made. I got through the bowl by dreaming of shopping for spring clothes and feeling comfortable in a pair of jeans.

But enough about things you already know. (Don't worry this will be my one and only article about my attempt to lose weight.) Let's get to the heart of what I want to talk about--flavor without fat.

To this end, sauce is a remarkable solution, and I am grateful that I'm such a sauce person. (Chicken and fish have had one purpose in my life: to carry a sauce to my mouth.) So now that I have to make the transition to meals of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or small portions of fish, I know sauce will help make them more palatable.

I'd like to share the three key ingredients I use to help add flavor without calories--lemon, mustard, and tomato--and three recipes to help you discover the possibilities of a great sauce.

Lemon
Whether squeezed onto a salad or roast chicken, fresh lemon juice satisfies. I love preserved lemons and just one piece can take a low-fat dish to a higher level. Try my recipe for Sauteed Shrimp with Preserved Lemon over some brown rice to see this in action.

Mustard-
Poached chicken breast and vegetables can be elegant with the addition of herbed Dijon mustard. With the plate bordered with some pink sea salt, this meal takes me back to a favorite lunch at La Grenouille in New York. For this I've shared my recipe for Poached Chicken and Vegetables With Horseradish.

Tomato
Virtually calorie-free, tomatoes also add moisture and flavor to any piece of fish or chicken. They do especially well with basil, rosemary, or capers--another low-calorie, flavorful ingredient. I also like to make a smoked tomatoes coulis, the perfect sauce for my last recipe idea: Cast Iron Vegetables.

Recipe: Sautéed Shrimp with Preserved Lemon
Recipe: Poached Chicken and Vegetables with Horseradish and Mustard
Recipe: Cast Iron Vegetables with Smoked Tomato Coulis

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/01/resolutions-from-a-southern-chef/32945/