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Food to Diet for (November 20, 2002)


This is to announce that we are on a diet. A serious diet. Why? Good food and wine and delightful company is a major plus of food writing, and no question, the biggest downside.

This year was a particular problem. For starts, it has been a splendid fall: 3 weeks in Amsterdam was fabulous with really good food and, alas, the Warme Bakker and their fresh hot croissants steps away, plus a great cheese shop just around the corner. Then we returned to Toronto to face a lineup of wonderful food and wine events and, alas, it all shows, both inside and out. The waistline is a bit too ample and the arteries a bit too stuffed. Ugh.

At the splendid Port Wine Tasting in October, we couldn't help but notice that a few of our colleagues were looking pretty good – downright slim, as a matter of fact. Not-so-discrete comments on the newly svelte profiles were answered with one short phrase: high protein, low carbohydrates.

The premise has been around for 25 or more years, and resurfaced lately in a variety of guises and names, all variations on one main theme – drop the carbs. It worked for us in the '70s, and it's working for us again today.

As we do not consider a plain hamburger patty etc. real food, the search was on for recipes that would allow us to still eat splendid meals, not feel cheated and drop the unwanted bloat all at the same time. A tall order indeed! Thankfully, and not a moment too soon, some lovely new cookbooks arrived and – sure enough – they were full of glorious recipes that matched the Yes List in our diet book.

We're not telling you how to lose weight – that's between you and your doctor and dietician – but we are telling you that you can follow the rules and still eat spectacularly well. Wine? Well that's up to you, but perhaps a glass of one of Tony's suggestions is allowed on the second week. It is on ours!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (95 KB)


Rare Tuna Salad with Fennel and Lemon Dressing

Oh, those Aussies! Renowned Sydney-based restaurateur Bill Granger loves food, and loves to entertain at home. In his gorgeous new book, Bills Food, Granger gives us quick, easy, nourishing and comforting foods perfect for making healthier and lighter home-made meals for family and friends.

Bills Food inspired us to get going on the diet with his recipes. The first was so perfect, we've done dozens of others. You'll love this rare tuna salad; its flavour fills your mouth, but not your thighs. Sigh!

Make no mistake; this beautiful book is not a "diet" book, but a great way for food lovers everywhere to eat spectacular food with pure pleasure and no guilt!

Serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (15 mL)
  • 18 oz (1 lb, 2 oz; 500 g) tuna, cut into large batons, roughly 2" (5 cm) square at the ends
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt (15 mL)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 11 oz green beans (300 g)
  • 1 baby romaine lettuce
  • 2 heads Belgian endive, broken into leaves
  • 1 baby fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • Lemon dressing (see below)

Brush the olive oil over the tuna and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, add the tuna and cook for 20 seconds on each side of the batons. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for up to 1 hour. Cut the tuna into ¼" (5 mm) slices.

Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 minutes, then refresh them in cold water. Arrange the romaine, chicory, fennel and beans on plates, top with the tuna and spoon the lemon dressing over the top.

Lemon Dressing

  • 1 lemon, segmented, with pith and membrane removed
  • 2 Tbsp baby capers (50 mL)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (60 mL)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Stir all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a light or medium-bodied dry white wine – Muscadet (Loire), Chablis or Soave.


Sea Scallops and Enoki Mushrooms

On the other side of the Pacific is John Garrett, Chef at the spectacular Horizons Restaurant perched high in Burnaby Mountain Park and commanding a 180-degree view of most of Vancouver. Sure, the view is magnificent, but the food is what keeps everyone returning to Horizons. His new cookbook, the eponymous Horizons, follows Garrett's simple but perfect philosophy: "Use only the best ingredients, prepared and cooked in such a way as to enhance their natural flavours, and you will win every time!"

He's won this one hands down, and we shriek and say, Oh joy, we can eat his recipes happily, especially this one as it's all on the Yes List! We promise, Horizons is surely going to be on yours.

  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves (60 mL)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger (10 mL)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (10 mL)
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil (90 mL)
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar (10 mL)
  • 4 tsp lime juice (20 mL)
  • 1 tsp liquid honey (5 mL)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together. The cilantro vinaigrette can be made up to 2 hours in advance. Refrigerate until needed.

To assemble the salad:

  • 1 long English cucumber
  • 4 leaves Belgian endive
  • Two 3½ oz (200 g) packages enoki mushrooms
  • 2 cups mesclun greens (240 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp butter (15 mL)
  • 1 cup Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (240 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp clarified butter (30mL) (see below)
  • 12 large sea scallops

Slice the cucumber lengthwise, as thin as possible, into 4 long slices. Lay the slices on the counter. Place a leaf of endive across one end of each slice of cucumber. Trim about ½" (1.2 cm) off the bottom of each package of mushrooms and split them in half. You will have a total of 4 trimmed bunches of mushrooms. Lay 1 bunch of mushrooms and ¼ cup (60 mL) of mesclun greens on top of the Belgian endive. Make sure the bottoms of the endive and mushrooms bundles are even with the bottom edge of the cucumber so it will stand up. Carefully roll up the mushrooms and lettuce bundle inside the cucumber slice and stand it up in the centre of a plate. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Heat the 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the shiitake mushrooms and stir for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Transfer to the plates, spooning them up against the back of the enoki bundles. Heat the clarified butter in a pan over medium to high heat and sauté the scallops for about 2 minutes, or until just browned and firm to the touch. Transfer them to the plates, placing 3 scallops on top of the warm shiitake mushrooms on each plate. To finish, drizzle the cilantro vinaigrette around the plates. Serve immediately.

Clarified Butter

To make clarified butter, very gently melt whole butter. The milk solids will sink to the bottom and foam will form on the top, leaving a layer of clear pure butter in the middle. Carefully skim off the foam and pour the clarified butter into a separate container, leaving he milk solids in the pot. Clarified butter has a higher smoking point than whole butter and is perfect for searing seafood and sautéing at higher temperatures. It has slightly less flavour than whole butter and a longer shelf life due to the absence of the milk solids.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a dry white wine with a touch of residual sugar – which points to Riesling. Especially Kabinett style. Or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.


Hot Lobster Salad

Oh, quiver, we adore lobster, and who would have thought that it could appear on a weight loss diet? Ron found this while cruising Steam Cuisine, by Jenny Stacey, and we couldn't wait to try it. Just look, seafood, vegetables, and a good-for-you olive oil/herb dressing. Why what more do you need?

This is an excellent cookbook for many reasons, not the least of which is that steaming is such a healthy way to cook almost any food; it helps to retain the natural goodness in food without the need for added fat, and because the true flavour of the food is enhanced, there is little need to add extra salt either!

Eat on, you won't gain weight with this dish!

Serves 4 (2 in our house...)

  • Two 1 lb cooked lobsters (450 g each)
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and finely shredded
  • 4 cobs baby corn, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into julienne strips
  • ¼ cup snow peas, sliced (50 mL)
  • Mixed salad greens
  • Lime quarters, to garnish

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (25 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice (15 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic wine vinegar (15 mL)
  • 1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard 5 mL
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (15 mL)

Halve the lobsters and remove the meat. Cut into 1" (2.5 cm) cubes. Lay a sheet of dampened wax paper in the base of the steamer top and arrange the lobster and vegetables inside. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam over boiling water for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lobster is hot.

Meanwhile, arrange the salad greens in a shallow serving bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until hot.

Spoon the lobster and vegetables onto the salad leaves and pour the dressing over the top. Garnish with dill and serve immediately.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
A full-bodied dry white wine – a good white Burgundy or Chardonnay (Reserve or single vineyard) from South Africa, Ontario or New Zealand (cooler climate). Or Alsace Pinot Gris.


Don't Forget to Leave Room for Chocolate Cake!

Dreams come true! A chocolate cake to eat without any guilt... well, OK, maybe just a little. Made with "good-for-you ingredients," this one actually tastes like the sinful version that we all crave!

This won't be on a low-carb diet, but, hey... you've lost 10 pounds, you're looking great, and it's time for a major reward. Here it is, from The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan that Still Leaves Room for Chocolate, by actress, home economist and best-selling cookbook author Marilyn Smith and dietitian Liz Pearson. This easy make-ahead dessert will surely become your "official" best cake for every event and celebration – like losing 10 more pounds!

Serves 30 in a 9" by 13" pan (small pieces)

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (240 mL)
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour (180 mL)
  • 1½ cups white sugar (360 mL)
  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder (160 mL)
  • 1½ tsp baking soda (7.5 mL)
  • ¼ cup canola oil (60 mL)
  • 1 cup chocolate soy beverage (240 mL)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (10 mL)
  • 1 omega-3 egg
  • One 4.5 oz jar strained prunes (128 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla (15 mL)


  • 2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine (30 mL)
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate (28 g)
  • 6 Tbsp chocolate soy beverage (90 mL)
  • 2½ cups icing sugar (600 mL)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (80 mL)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  2. Lightly spray a 9"×13"/23×33 cm pan. Or line with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda.
  4. Start adding the chocolate soy beverage, lemon juice, oil, egg, strained prunes and pure vanilla.
  5. Using a hand mixer or wire whisk, blend or beat the ingredients together for 1 minute, scraping the bowl often.
  6. Turn the speed up to medium or whisk like your life depended on it and mix for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared 9"×13" (23×33 cm) pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and continue cooling.
  8. Prepare icing. Put the margarine, unsweetened chocolate and chocolate soy beverage in a microwaveable dish. Heat on medium-low for 1 minute. Stir. Repeat till almost melted. Stir till totally melted. The key is to underdo it! Scorched chocolate is ruined chocolate! And in some countries it's considered a sin.
  9. Pour the melted chocolate into a medium bowl. Don't lick this – it hasn't any sugar in it yet! Add the icing sugar and the cocoa powder and beat till smooth. If it is too thick, add a little bit of chocolate soy beverage until you reach the desired thickness. Lick beaters if desired.
  10. Ice cooled cake. Lick bowl. The cake can now be eaten immediately or the next day – remember that tomorrow it will taste better! Your choice.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a sweet fortified wine – LBV Port or 10 Year-Old Tawny Port; or Cream Sherry.


NOTE: Ron Morris has lost 10 pounds, Helen Hatton less, and Thomas, our beloved elderpussy, is doing just fine thank you on his usual regime including shrimp.

We wish to thank the following publishers for permission to publish recipes and photographs:

Firefly Books, Ltd., for Steam Cuisine: Full Steam Ahead with 100 delicious Recipes for a Healthier Diet by Jenny Stacey, ©1999. Photographs by Ian Garlick and Howard Shooter.

Whitecap Books for Bills Food by Bill Granger, ©2002. Photographs by Petrina Tinslay.

Whitecap Books for Horizons: The Cookbook by John Garrett, ©2002. Photographs by Hot Digital Dog Studios.

Whitecap Books for The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan That Still Leaves Room for Chocolate by Liz Pearson and Marilyn Smith. ©2002. Photographs by Firstlight.Ca.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (95 KB)




More Gourmet Recipes