"Many top chefs have discovered some surprisingly tasty ways to keep the pounds at bay. [Their] tantalizing suggestions [are] put forth in Smart Chefs Stay Slim, a new book detailing the eating strategies of today’s culinary superstars." -- OPRAH.COM

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10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: Love Your Time in the Kitchen

A little something different on the 10-day countdown, for the holiday. One point that several chefs made in talking about eating well was the importance of cooking for yourself, rather than relying too much on take-out or processed convenience foods. You can control the ingredients, the methods, and you are unlikely to hide duck fat or loads of butter from yourself. The good news is that most restaurant chefs don't cook at home the way they do at work. Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, chef-owner of Colicchio & Sons and the Craft restaurants, eats very simply at home, and will sometimes (as we all do, I think) toss pasta and vegetables in the same pot, just to save a washing-up step. Even those of us who cook rarely under normal circumstances will go all-out on a holiday, and Colicchio is no different. Here, in an excerpt from Smart Chefs Stay Slim, he describes a once-a-year family feast. The notion isn't to imitate this major undertaking, but to be reminded of the pleasure cooking can be.


For Christmas Eve, Colicchio has his family over, a dozen or so guests, and prepares a traditional Italian feast of thirteen fishes.“My grandmother used to do it, and I took it over. It’s not thirteen dishes, just thirteen fish. I do fritto misto, little whitebait and Nantucket bay scallops; sole with lemon, fennel, parsley, capers, red onion sliced really thin; then a crudo of tuna with a true vinaigrette and lardo; grilled sardines with a sweet-sour onion-and-raisin relish; a raw hamachi with a preserved lemon vinaigrette; salt cod, steamed and baked, with olive oil, parsley, garlic; a beet salad with anchovies and artichokes and celery, hot cherry peppers, olive oil, parsley, garlic; then we do cacciucco [an Italian fish stew; he uses squid, clams, tomatoes], roast cod with preserved lemon and olives, and pasta.”Off-duty chef Colicchio. (photo via the kitchn)

Phew. If you’re planning to cook that much, you had better have a good time doing it, and Colicchio does. “I do it all myself. Well, I cheat a little: I have the fish filleted at the restaurant.”  (Note: This is not cheating; you do not have to fillet your own fish.) “I wake up in the morning, get a pot of coffee going, put music on. I start cooking at ten in the morning and don’t stop until the guests walk in. I don’t rush. I enjoy it.”
This is welcome advice: Enjoy wonderful food, including the process of putting it together, especially for loved ones.

From Smart Chefs Stay Slim: Lessons in Eating and Living from America's Best Chefs by Allison Adato. copyright 2012, Penguin/NAL.


10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: How Not to Let Kids Upend your Best Eating Intentions

If it were up to my son, we would eat pasta most nights. I love pasta as much as he does -- probably as much as anyone-- but having it multiple times a week doesn't really fit into the way I want to eat anymore. Chefs who are parents have figured out a lot of ways to get the whole family onto the same food page: Serving the food they want to eat themselves, but making everything appealing to their children. Cooking with Muppets also helps, if you can arrange that. Image via Disney.

Iron Chef star Cat Cora is a mom of four young ones. She is a big fan of simply grilled meats, fish and vegetables and found that the act of presenting food on a stick got her kids' interest. "They love it," she told me. "We'll do a salmon skewer and romesco sauce, or lamb with mint-yogurt sauce and pita bread."

Who says kid food has to be bland? Romesco, a blend of nuts, garlic, olive oil and peppers, is an appealing shade of pink and delicious -- it need not be too spicy for young palates. Her family-friendly recipe for lettuce cup halibut gyros appears in Smart Chefs.

And as I encourage myself to eat more vegetables, I try to get my son to do the same. Another chef-mom Andrea Reusing, of Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., tipped me off to this trick: Put the vegetables out first, when they (and you) are hungriest -- during the cooking if necessary. After that, she says, "they can go to town on whatever they want."


Tomorrow: An excerpt from Smart Chefs featuring a Top Chef judge's family Christmas dinner.

Until then, happy holidays to all!



10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: Don't Eat Breakfast before your Appetizer Arrives

Day three of the 10-tip countdown is given to one of my favorites in the book, from Landmarc and Ditch Plains chef-owner Marc Murphy. It's so simple, yet so easy to forget, as we've become conditioned to swan diving into the bread basket once we've handed our menus back to the waiter.

Here it is: Skip the bread and butter before dinner. 

Murphy remembers being at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Paris and having a waiter ask if he wanted the sauce that came with the dish he ordered. Of course! he said.

The waiter told him that he always asked Americans this, because they often ask if there is butter in the sauce, and then ask the kitchen to hold it. But Have your breakfast for breakfast!then, he observed, they all "make the tartine," slathering butter on bread and eating what many French people eat for breakfast.

The moral: Keep the sauce on the plate where it belongs (there isn't that much butter in it anyway), and if you must have a tartine, enjoy it the next morning with your coffee or tea.


Tomorrow: Eating with Kids -- and not letting them ruin your best intentions.


10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: Fire Up with Chilies

Get many more of Rick's great ideas (including his workout) in Smart Chefs. "Chilies can be your friend if you are trying to lose weight," says Rick Bayless, chef-owner of Frontera Grill and other landmark Mexican restaurants in Chicago. He points to research that chilies may speed up your metabolism. But he likes them mainly because, he says in Smart Chefs, "chilies help you feel more satisfied. They fire your mouth on all cylinders."

One of his favorite easy ways to cook with chilies at home is to pop open a can of chipotles in adobe (smoked, dried jalepeños in a vinegar-tomato broth), whirr the contents in a blender, and use the resulting puree on "practically anything: soups, beans, or as a marinade for fish or chicken. Superdelicious."

Tomorrow: Another favorite chef tip as we count down to the new year and the paperback release. Meanwhile, what's your favorite way to harness the heat of chilies? Comment here, or Tweet me at @editgirlnyc.


10-Day Smart Tips Countdown: Separate Value from Appetite

There are just 10 days left in the year, and (not coincidentally) 10 days until Smart Chefs Stay Slim comes out as a paperback, with a delicious new cover. Every day between now and then, I'll be blogging a favorite tip from the book -- some of the best wisdom I learned from the more than three dozen chefs I interviewed.

Today? #52: Separate value from appetite.

Have you been watching the Food Network's Next Iron Chef: Redemption? I've been cheering some of the chefs who appeared in my book -- two are going to final on Sunday. You might not guess that one of them, the very fit chef Nate Appleman used to be very overweight.

Nate shares a lot in the book about how he did it. One important change he made was looking at restaurant meals differently, particularly those that he knows offer more food than he needs to eat.

images from Bon Appetit

"Your first instinct is 'I just paid eight dollars for this burrito, so I'm going to eat the whole thing," Appleman told me. "How many times have you finished a meal because you were 'paying good money'? Now I don't do that."

One solution: Take the extra food home. Even in a fine dining restaurant, several chefs assured me that it's perfectly okay to ask for half a dish wrapped "to go." Another plus? Great leftovers make for a great lunch the next day.