Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cookbook review: The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook

Yeah, so my doctor told me I needed to lose some weight.  Like, 12 pounds in the next three months.  Not too difficult, but I figured some healthy new recipes might help jumpstart things.

I didn't find many appealing "diet" cookbooks at our library, but one that stood out was The South Beach Diet Taste of Summer Cookbook.  I knew that cutting out the "bad" carbs was going to be part of my diet approach, so this seemed like a good way to find recipes that weren't so focused on pasta, tortillas, and toast.

I like the fact that the recipes don't seem like diet cooking ... there are no weird techniques you'd never use in regular cooking, and very few odd ingredients that you wouldn't normally use.  There are some artificial sweeteners in some of the recipes (mostly desserts and a few breakfast smoothie type things), but those would be easy to sub in a smaller amount of regular sugar if you wanted to avoid the chemicals.  I think the best thing is that lots of the recipes are self-contained, with veggies and protein all in one shot.  That means fewer things to think about when trying to get food on the table, and it also means I don't feel like I'm missing out on something by cutting back.

It's also nice that there are recipes for all three "phases" of the diet, which means there are very low carb recipes, moderate carb recipes, and some recipes that are for the "maintenance" side of the South Beach lifestyle.  There are also suggestions on how to take the phase 2 recipes and make them lower carb, for example, which makes things more flexible.

This week we tried four recipes from the book:  two chicken, one beef, and one vegetarian.  Three of them were great and I'll definitely be making again, and one was good, but probably won't show up again for us.  Here's what we tried:

Spicy Chicken and Black Bean Tacos:  This makes a ton of food, especially considering you're supposed to cram it all onto four tortillas.  We ended up serving it open-faced, and there was enough of the filling mixture to cover the tortillas about 1/2" thick all the way around.  The chicken/bean mixture is a bit dry, so we added a small bit of shredded cheese and some salsa at the table.  The chicken preparation was very easy, and yielded chicken that was still tender on the inside while being nice and crispy on the outside.  Definitely going to keep this recipe, although in the future I might tweak it with more tomatoes or something else to make it a little saucier.

Herb Marinated Sirloin with Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes:  This is the stand-out recipe of all the ones we tried.  Put the rub on the steak, let it sit around for a while, then pan-fry it.  While the steak is resting after it's cooked, roast the asparagus and tomatoes in the oven for less than 10 minutes.  Perfectly done, perfectly complementary, and really, really tasty.  We'll definitely be making this one again, and I'll be using the asparagus/tomato technique a lot.  We love our asparagus around here!

Curried Chicken Salad with Peanuts: This was the only disappointment in the bunch.  It tasted fine, and the mix of textures in the salad was nice with the tender chicken and crunchy veggies and peanuts.  But the recipe makes an insane amount of dressing for the amounts of salad ingredients, and if you follow the recipe, you're making the dressing in the serving bowl before adding the veggies, so you don't know until it's too late that you're actually making soup.  Seriously, we saved half of this for leftovers the next day, and in the 7" tall plastic container we used, at least 3.5" at the bottom was sauce.  If I made this again (which I probably won't - curried chicken salad just doesn't do it for me), I'd make the dressing seperately and add it at the last minute in small increments.  You could always pass the extra at the table in case anyone wants theirs drowned in dressing like the original recipe suggests.

Vietnamese Style Vegetables with Rice Noodles:  This is the only one I can't find online already, and it's so good, I can't resist sharing the recipe with you.  Considering how few ingredients are in the sauce, this has a remarkable depth of flavor ... sweet/tangy/spicy/smoky.  Yum!  My only quibble is that the directions given in the recipe for cooking the rice noodles didn't match the ones on the package, and I should have followed the package instructions.  There was a little bit of last-minute panicked improvisational rice noodle cooking, but I think it turned out okay anyway.  

Vietnamese Style Vegetables with Rice Noodles 

2 ounces rice noodles
1 tablespoon chili paste (from a jar)
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets (4 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking, in a small bowl whisk together chili paste, fish sauce, lime juice, and vinegar.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli and toss to coat; cook, tossing gently, until tender, about 4 minutes.  Transfer broccoli to a plate.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add pepper, onion, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.  Return broccoli to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes more.  Stir in chili paste mixture, cover, and cook 1 minute more.

Add noodles to the skillet and toss well.  Add cilantro and toss again.  Divide among 4 plates and serve warm with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

1 comment:

mlf said...

As someone who would willingly part with 12 pounds, did the doctor recommend any particular method for loosing the weight?

From my read of the snidbits in the newspaper, I am curious whether there is a method for loosing weight that works over the long term. The snidbits imply that weight loss is typically temporary.