Whether you’re hosting an event or attending, Chef Anthony Rea of Creations in Cuisine shows how you can cut the fat and still party ‘hearty’.
Holiday gatherings often highjack our best intentions to eat healthier. Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings soon leads to Christmas ham, New Year’s Eve indulgence, and right into Super Bowl snacking. Resolve to eat better starting now – even if it’s still party season.
“As a host, starting with quality ingredients is the first step,” Rea says. “If you’d like to serve a dip, prepare it yourself, knowing what has gone into it is of quality.” Instead of fried tortilla chips and high-calorie dip, cut pita bread into triangles, toast at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, and serve with protein-rich dip and you have a flavorful low fat option.
Sesame Roasted Eggplant Dip
3 eggplants, about 1 pound each
1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil
1 ½ cup chopped green onion
1 ½ tablespoons chopped, peeled ginger
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Asian garlic chili sauce
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Cut eggplant in half, length wise, and grill until eggplant is soft and tender. Turn as needed so not to burn.
2. Scoop the meat from the eggplant skin, discard skin. Place in sieve and drain for a least 1 hour. Mash eggplant finely.
3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet. Add green onion, garlic, ginger. Sauté until onion is soft. Add eggplant, soy, vinegar, and chili garlic sauce, and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Mix in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cover and chill until needed. Serve at room temperature with pita chips or sliced baquette.
“A crudités platter is an easy solution for a healthy option, but for the most part it is always left untouched,” Rea says. “I like to grill or roast our vegetable platters. Roasting or grilling helps to intensify the natural flavors, and you can add a quality balsamic vinegar, cold-pressed olive oil, sea salt, and fresh herbs.”
If you feel you have to serve raw vegetables, try some options that are more uncommon, like red, orange, and green bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, green and white asparagus when in season, and fresh beets or radishes. Rea suggests using a freshly made aioli instead of ranch dressing for the dip.
Add an elegant touch to your offerings by preparing Portobello Mushroom ‘Caviar’ with rosemary flatbread or sliced baguette. “It looks like caviar, but it has a rich, intense mushroom flavor,” Rea says – and it’s heart healthy. Serve with roasted red pepper and balsamic onions for garnish.
Portobello Mushroom 'Caviar'
4 Portobello mushrooms
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon roasted garlic pure
Sea salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
2 roasted red bell peppers, diced and seasoned with salt pepper
½ cup cipollino onion, cut in thin slices
¼ cup Italian parsley
1. Coat mushrooms with olive oil and place in a 200 degree oven for 2- 2 ½ hours.
2. Allow mushrooms to cool, then process in a food processor until it resembles caviar pearls. Season the mushroom mixture with the salt, pepper, and garlic.
3. Place about a ½ tablespoon of the mushroom mixture on bread or cracker. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of roasted pepper, and garnish with a few slices of onion and a small parsley sprig.
If you’re attending a party, hopefully your host has prepared a few health-conscious items. “Stay away from fried and processed foods, and foods that have been prepared with heavy sauces or wrapped in some type of dough,” Rea says. “Look for grilled or poached seafood and meats. If there is a deli platter, then roll sliced turkey in a portion of cheese and skip the bread and mayo. And if you do not have a lot of healthy options, then remember: everything in moderation.”