Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Cookbook Review: Light and Healthy 2010

Light & Healthy 2010
The Year's Best Recipes Lightened Up
America's Test Kitchen

The staff at America's Test Kitchen have put out this book of their most popular recipes from last year, revamped for healthier eating.
I am always a little wary of "lightened up" recipes as I fear bogus "lite" products with unpronounceable ingredients will be listed to take the place of the original ingredients. I was relieved that this was not the case here. Much thought and study and experimentation went into getting the most flavour from the dishes while bringing the fat and sugar content down. Not all the way down, these recipes are not severely restricted, but down from their original state.

Peppered throughout the pages are helpful hints and notes pertaining to the tools and ingredients involved, as well as some history of the dishes and even the Test Kitchen's favorite store-bought ingredients.

The first dish I prepared was from the Supper-Sized Salads chapter, the Chinese Chicken Salad. The recipe gave instructions on cooking the chicken, shredding the cabbage, and even what the Test Kitchen deemed their favourite hoisin sauce. We were very happy with the bright and bold flavours, this made a delicious and healthy dinner.

The second dish I tried was from the same chapter, the Wheat Berry Salad with Arugula. An intense dressing is made by reducing down freshly squeezed orange juice and then combining it with other intense flavourings. The dressing was so bright and citrusy, (blogger says that is not a word but I have decided that it is..) it was the perfect lift for the wheat berries and chickpeas.

Later we tried the Black Bean Burgers from the Vegetarian Entrées (pictured here on whole wheat buns from the BBA challenge). These were okay, not my favourite. They were also my first black bean burgers and I think the lack of chewiness threw me off. I served these with salsa, cheese and avocado and found them very mild. The leftovers I served with leftover palak paneer on top and a good scoop of mango pickle - I liked that much better. Still, I think if I were going to cook a veggie burger in the future I would stick with portobello burgers.

Now look at that. Makes you want to lick your fingers just looking at the picture, doesn't it?
This is the Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin from the Meat chapter and it is every bit as sticky and delicious as it looks. Again, they rely on reducing the sauce for an intense flavour. This one was definitely a winner.

Another favourite was the Chicken Biryani from the Poultry chapter.
This was a dish I had always wanted to make and it did not disappoint. The rice is par-cooked pasta-style in a court bouillon of sorts, then layered with a seasoned onion mixture and par-cooked chicken thighs, and covered so that they all cook together in one delicious dish.

Lastly, I made the Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies from the Desserts chapter.
I have a thing for oatmeal raisin cookies. They taste like love to me.
At first I was cursing the book for what seemed like unnecessary extra steps and dishes but these techniques really did draw out great flavour and texture from the cookies. They were quite simply the best I have ever had.

In the end I was pleasantly impressed with the use of technique to extract big flavour from each dish. Testing these recipes did make me realize that I was used to cooking a certain way - it was good to have the impetus to try some new techniques in the kitchen and, even though more dirty dishes seemed to be the norm for this book - the increase in healthiness and flavour made those extra few dishes forgivable.