The Ultimate Foodie Diet
It’s the New Year, and you’re hoping to show off a new you (this time for real). But just because you’re dedicated to dieting and exercising doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on 2014’s hottest food- and drink-trends. We asked chefs at health-conscious restaurants to give us delicious diet hacks and calorie-restricted recipes that will teach you how to enjoy this year’s top flavors while watching your waistline.
Opt for: “BLT” Thin-Crust Pizza
Recipe courtesy Kristi Ritchey, executive chef, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, California
Though delicious, a typical BLT is made on white bread, slathered with mayo and features crispy bacon—not very calorie conscious. But if that flavor combination sounds too tasty to pass up, give this lighter twist a try: Executive Chef Kristi Ritchey, who lost 110 pounds, has designed a diet-focused menu at Greanleaf Gourmet Chopshop, including a popular “BLT” Pizza that skimps on calories by substituting a whole wheat tortilla for bread and avocado pesto for aioli.
5 ripe avocados
½ tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
½ tablespoon chili flakes
1 bunch basil
2 ounces pine nuts
Pinch of Kosher salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 10-inch whole wheat tortilla (look for a low calorie, trans fat-free version available at most grocery stores)
1 large fresh Roma tomato, thinly sliced
⅓ cup grilled turkey bacon, chopped
1 ounce Parmesan cheese
¾ cup fresh Romaine lettuce, shredded
Preheat an oven to 475°F.
Scoop the flesh from the avocados with a spoon and place into a food processor with garlic, chili flakes, basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Purée all the ingredients together. The pesto should have a spaghetti sauce consistency, so add cold water, one teaspoon at a time, if the mixture is too thick. This recipe yields enough sauce for 6 pizzas.
Partially cook a tortilla in the oven on an ungreased, unlined baking sheet until it is slightly brown on both sides, no longer than 2–3 minutes. Remove it from the oven and spread 3 ounces of the avocado pesto on the tortilla, then layer tomato slices and turkey bacon on top. Sprinkle with the cheese. Place it on a baking sheet and bake it in the oven set at 475°F until the tomatoes are golden brown, no more than 4 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven, top with lettuce and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Ritchey recommends La Merika’s 2010 Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast. “Pinot is one of my favorite varieties,” says Ritchey. “It pairs well with many dishes, especially the BLT pizza because its flavors are mild and straightforward.”
Tips: Chef Ritchey offers these tips when making pizza at home.
Find oil substitutes. “With the BLT pizza, we use a pesto made with avocado, relying on the natural fat from the avocado,” says Ritchey. “Adding lemon juice and water gets a similar consistency.”
Hard cheese, please. “Using a harder cheese is a great way to decrease calories and fat because you use less, versus a softer cheese like mozzarella,” says Ritchey. “The flavor profile stands out much more without the additional calories.”
Rethink bacon. Though everyone loves bacon, “use turkey bacon instead of regular bacon, because you’ll cut down on calories and fat,” says Ritchey, who notes that nitrate-free turkey bacon is the healthiest choice.
Opt for: Smoked Turkey Tacos with Kimchi and Pickled Radish
Recipe courtesy Rex Hale, executive chef, The Restaurant at The Cheshire, St. Louis, Missouri
“Culinary mashups, or ethnic fusion, is continuing to trend in 2014, with Korean food at the top,” says Rex Hale, who brings more than 25 years of experience to his executive chef role at The Cheshire in St. Louis. Instead of Korean barbeque pork tacos, Hale offers a lighter version using turkey, and incorporates other low-calorie hacks, like Stevia.
“We took out all the sugar of the original recipe and substituted Stevia, which has zero calories,” says Hale. “We also substituted black kale, which is continuing to trend this year, for the tortillas, and the dish still tastes great.”
4 ounces Korean fermented hot pepper sauce (available at Asian markets)
17½ packets Sweetleaf Stevia (available at Whole Foods or other specialty grocers)
8 ounces light soy sauce, divided
8 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, divided
4 teaspoons sesame oil, plus 2 teaspoons
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon Serrano chili, seeded and minced
2 ounces sea salt, plus 2 teaspoons
1 head (about 1 pound) green cabbage, finely shredded)
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1-inch blade fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 carrots, julienned
1 pound pulled smoked turkey breast
12 leaves of black kale or lacinato kale (look for pieces approximately 3½ by 2½ inches)
Korean barbecue sauce (recipe to follow)
2 cups kimchi (recipe to follow)
1 cup pickled cucumber (recipe to follow)
To make the Korean barbecue sauce, combine the hot pepper sauce, 14 packets of Stevia, 6 ounces of soy sauce, 4 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar and 4 teaspoons of sesame oil in a stock pot and bring to a quick simmer. Remove it from the heat and transfer to a container. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
In a nonreactive container, combine the radish with 2 tablespoons vinegar, 2 packets Stevia, chili and salt. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
Prepare the kimchi by tossing the cabbage with 2 ounces of salt and set in a colander off to the side, allowing the cabbage to wilt for about two hours. In the meantime, mix 4 ounces of vinegar, 1½ packets of Stevia, Sriracha, ginger, garlic, scallions, carrots, and the remaining soy sauce and sesame oil together in a large mixing bowl to make a dressing.
Rinse the salt from the cabbage with several changes of water and press dry. Mix the dressing with the cabbage and place in a glass container. Add water to cover, if necessary. Refrigerate for several hours.
Finish the dish by heating the turkey in the barbecue sauce in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring gently until hot throughout. Remove from heat and divide the turkey evenly between the 12 kale leaves. Top with kimchi and pickled watermelon radish. Serves 4.
Patricia Wamhoff, sommelier and beverage director for the Restaurant at The Cheshire, recommends matching the turkey tacos with Champagne, such as A. Margaine’s NV le Traditionelle Demi-Sec Premier Cru à Villers-Marmery Champagne, as “it’s the perfect pairing for fusion cuisine,” says Wamhoff.
“The crisp acidity and the residual sugar balance the acid from the kimchi and soothes the heat of the barbecue, and everyone should love the pop of the bubbles.”
Tips: Chef Rex Hale presents these diet-friendly shortcuts for food lovers this New Year.
Talk Turkey. “Find a source of naturally raised, local fresh turkey breast,” says Hale, and substitute it for beef or pork. “It has great flavor and is lower in calories.”
Skip the Sugar. “Stevia is a very good substitute for sugar and has absolutely zero calories,” says Hale, who recommends Sweetleaf Stevia, since “other brands may have some additional hidden ingredients, and this substitution is great for anyone who might be diabetic.”
Forget about the Bread. “Substitute dark greens, such as kale or lettuce leaves, for bread or tortillas,” says Hale, as they make excellent wrappers for healthier fillings.
Opt for: Pea Leaf and Water Chestnut Dumplings
Courtesy Tyson Wong, executive chef, Chi Lin, West Hollywood, California
Everyone loves Chinese takeout, but the calories and fat add up fast. Yet not all Chinese food has to be oily and heavy: At Chi Lin in Hollywood, California, Executive Chef Tyson Wong eschews deep-fried, sauce-heavy dishes loaded with sodium and MSG for a healthful take on Chinese classics, like these vegan pea leaf and water chestnut dumplings.
“Our pea leaf dumplings are lightened up by omitting pork lard in the housemade wrapper,” says Wong, who also steams the dumplings instead of frying them. Easy to make at home, serve these savory treats with a low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce for dipping.
1 pound pea leaves, stems removed
¼ pound fresh water chestnuts, diced small
2 tablespoons sea salt, divided
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons white or black truffle oil
1 pound wheat flour
Blanch the pea leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes. Place them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Strain and squeeze the water from the pea leaves until almost dry.
Mix the blanched pea leaves and water chestnuts together in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon salt with the sugar, sesame oil and truffle oil to the mixture. Stir and set aside.
To make the dough, mix the wheat flour with 4 cups of boiling water and 1 tablespoon of sea salt, then paddle it with a KitchenAid mixer (or with hands) for several minutes, or until the flour and water combines to make a dough.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, until it’s approximately the thickness of a penny. Use a small glass to cut out circles in the dough (to make approximately 40 dumplings). Use a teaspoon to scoop the pea leaf and water chestnut mixture and place it in the center of the dough circle. Seal the edges with a bit of water and press with a fork to close dumpling. Steam the dumplings for about 6 minutes. Serves 10.
Aaron Alvarez, bar manager at Chi Lin, likes to pair the pea leaf dumplings with a Belgian beer like Chimay Red Cap. “The malty, rich complexity of this beer goes perfectly with the earthy and nutty quality of the dumpling,” says Alvarez.
Tips: Wong offers these tricks for putting a healthy spin on Chinese cuisine.
Cue the chopsticks. “Chopsticks are great because they allow for even sauce distribution, and cutting down on sauces means cutting down on one’s waistline,” says Wong. “Chopsticks also help slow down eating, allowing your body time to feel satiated.”
Learn Labels. “Look for words like boiled and steamed as opposed to fried or breaded,” says Wong.
Skip the Sides. “Although tasty, many calories stem from Chinese sides dishes,” says Wong. So pass on the rice and noodles.
Opt for: The Healthy Moscow Mule
Courtesy Annie Lawless, co-founder, Suja Juice
Served at Searsucker restaurants in San Diego and Del Mar, California, this take on the classic Moscow mule cocktail gets a kick of nutrients from the addition of cold-pressed juice (the blend in this recipe is a combination of apples, celery, cucumber, spinach, collard greens, kale, lemon and ginger).
“Cold-pressed juices are the perfect mixers for cocktails because they are a complete package of hydration, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals,” says Lawless. “If you wouldn’t drink energy drinks or sugar syrups usually, there’s no reason to do so when you are having a cocktail.”
4 ounces Fever Tree ginger beer
2 ounces Belvedere vodka
2 ounces Suja Fiji juice
Lime wedge, for garnish
Ginger matchstick, for garnish
Stir together the ginger beer, vodka and juice in a mixing glass. Pour into a copper mug filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge and ginger matchstick.
Tips: Annie Lawless serves up these shortcuts for calorie-counting cocktail lovers.
Get informed. “Know what’s in your favorite cocktails,” says Lawless. “Many people order their favorite drinks, like a margarita, piña colada or cosmopolitan, with no idea how many calories they are consuming. There’s no need to fully eliminate these things from your life, but if you hit the bar informed, you’re in a much better position to order one and split with a friend before switching to something much lighter.”
Watch your mixers. “You could have a few mimosas before you realize you’ve consumed half a carton of low-grade orange juice,” says Lawless. “Opt instead for soda water or sparkling water with a splash of your favorite juice for all the flavor without the calories.”
Break it up. “Space your drinks out and sip water in between so you don’t get caught up and drink more than you actually need or truly want to,” says Lawless. Aim to sip on one full glass of water between each cocktail.
- 2You want: Designer sandwiches
- 3You want: Korean Barbecued Pork
- 4You want: Upscale Chinese Takeout
- 5You want: A Ginger Margarita