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An otherwise low-fat or non-fat salad can become an oil slick with a classic French Dressing or Thousand Island dressing. Here's how you can dress down a salad:

Give that old Vinaigrette a new, slim look by altering proportions. Instead of the traditional three-to-one ratio of oil to vinegar, try a one-to-one ratio — or even lower — say, one part oil to

two parts vinegar. You'll get around 30 calories per tablespoon

instead of the 90 you get in the standard version. (Use a flavourful oil such as sesame — til — or olive or walnut, so you'll need

less. All oils have the same amount of fat and the same amount of

calories).

For a creamy, thick texture in dressings and dips, substitute sour cream and mayonnaise with pureed non-fat cottage cheese (paneer), or low-fat cream (available in the Indian market), low-

fat yoghurt, skim milk or buttermilk as a base. Flavour with herbs and spices.

One example: pureed paneer with mustard sauce and garlic.

Another: A curd-and-cucumber combo — a puree of cucumber, low-fat curd and minced onion with a small amount of oil and vinegar.

You can also slim down your dressing by stretching it with de-fatted stocky wine, honey or fruit juice.

Go all the way... with a non-oil dressing. For instance, vinegar blended with mustard and apple juice — terrific with cabbage, cauliflower and carrot salads.

Or the strong-flavoured dill (sua leaves) over a platter of cucumber-and-boiled-kidney-beans.

Other no-oil options include sprinklings of lime juice or vinegar (mixed in with a bit of an artificial sweetener, if you like). (Mix-and-match from this smorgasbord of choices: dry or prepared mustard, minced or crushed garlic: minced onion; herbs such as coriander and parsley; tomato juice or tomato puree, freshly ground pepper; non-fat cottage cheese or yoghurt; apple juice; cumminseed; pepper; small amounts of hot-and-sour sauce or Worcestershire).

You'll be surprised how good a salad can taste without being awash in fat.

Prepared low-calorie salad dressings are now available in select outlets in India, including health-food stores.

Marinades

Skewer small cubes of skinless chicken that have been rubbed

with chopped lemon grass, garlic arid a bit of salt. This is so flavourful, you won't even stop to remember how healthful it is.

Another spice rub for skinless chicken or for fish fillets:

Combine and grind 2 tablespoons of peppercorns with 3 tablespoons each of coriander seeds (dhania) and cuminseed (jeera). Then add 3 tablespoons of red chilli powder, 2 tablespoons of ginger powder and 1 tablespoon of curry powder. Grind till blended, rub on chicken or fish and grill.

Sauces and Dips

Use skim milk when making "cream" sauces.

Sub for a classic white sauce with a puree of low-fat cottage cheese, thinned with skim milk and mixed with sauteed onions and garlic.

Instead of mayonnaise-heavy tartar sauce for fish, try pureed cooked red peppers.

For grilled fish fillets, black bean sauce makes a light accompaniment.

A mint sauce (mint, vinegar and sugar) is a tangy but fat-free accompaniment for hot mutton roast.

Alfredo sauce is not the only thing with which to toss pasta. What a pasta sauce calls for is something that will coat the noodles while adding flavour to the dish. Tomatoes alone can do the trick; and they really come alive when they're paired with ingredients like fresh, chopped garlic, basil, roasted red peppers, balsamic vinegar.

Another substitute for cream sauce for pasta: White beans (or other beans) pureed with chicken stock and seasoned with herbs of your choice.

Beans can also give a dip a creamy texture without the fat. One hors d'oeuvres creation to try: Kidney beans pureed with garlic, red chilly powder, powdered cuminseed, lime juice, olive oil and salsa; stir in chopped onion and coriander leaves.

Make a guilt-free dip for crudites by beating in a few tablespoons of chopped spring onions into a cup of yoghurt cheese.

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