Spinach Salad with Pan Seared Wild Salmon: Meal Giving for Weight Loss
When I cook for myself or my family, I try pretty hard to lightly sprinkle the cheese, minimize the oil and choose extra-lean cuts of meat. When I’m giving away a meal, well, sometimes I don’t try so hard. I toss extra Parmesan into the lasagne and overload the chocolate-chip cookies with chips. I aim for comfort and maximum yumminess. (Hmmm . . . maybe that’s why restaurant meals have gazillions of calories.)
But sometimes what makes a friend happy isn’t comfort food in the mac-and-cheese sense but rather in the quinoa-salad sense. On this blog we’ve heard from several Grateful Neighbors who — while always appreciative of meals delivered — are looking for lighter fare. Usually it’s because they’re trying to lose weight or control a chronic condition or because they’re laid up and their metabolism has come to a screeching halt.
What meal givers often forget is that lighter dishes can be plenty flavorful and satisfying — often more so than pasta drowning in cream sauce or veggies bathed in butter, because you actually taste the food’s natural flavors. The trick is to punch up these flavors with herbs and spices and fresh seasonings.
That’s registered dietitian Cynthia Sass’s forte. Cynthia, my coauthor on The Ultimate Diet Log and the nutritionist behind Flat Belly Diet, is the author of a clever new book called Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Yeah, yeah, it sounds like your garden-variety diet book. But seriously, it’s not! You won’t find fake sugar or skimpy portions. Cinch! emphasizes fresh, whole, unprocessed, organic foods, and it’s full of simple, tasty recipes and excellent ideas for boosting flavor without ODing on calories, sodium or unhealthy fats.
Mayo, ketchup and ranch dressing are out. Balsamic vinegar, ginger and fresh tangerine juice are in. Fresh mint, Thai chili peppers, basil, cinnamon sticks, cloves, turmeric — these are a few of the spices and seasonings Sass liberally uses in her recipes.
Cynthia’s Spinach Salad with Pan Seared Wild Salmon, below, is a real treat and a great example of how a few simple flavors go a long way. Toss spinach and radicchio with balsamic vinaigrette and fresh-squeezed orange juice, top with quinoa and veggies and add salmon seared in coconut oil with garlic. It’s a meal you can feel terrific about delivering to any health-conscious friend. Here are a few tips from Cynthia for slimming down meals you bring to others.
•Go easy on the oil. Oil can be heart healthy but still has 120 calories per tablespoon. If you pour from the bottle rather than measure, you could end up using two or three times as much as you need. A good rule of thumb: Use 1 tablespoon of oil for 2 cups of vegetables and a protein. For a flavorful stir-fry sauce, try: 1 tablespoon vinegar (I like Japanese rice vinegar), 2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed citrus juice, freshly grated ginger, and a dash of crushed red pepper. I add sliced almonds, crushed cashews or sunflower seeds. I doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough, but it goes a long way and also makes a great salad dressing.
•Be fruitful. I try to give fruits that people wouldn’t buy them for themselves, like fresh figs. I slice a few and leave the rest whole because they’re so gorgeous. I put some fresh mint in the dish for a splash of color, or some curly lemon peel. A fruit parfait is a beautiful gift, too: Layer yogurt, sliced fruit and nuts or toasted oats, and put a slice of star fruit on the edge of the cup. A favorite from my childhood is taking a watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew and filling it with other cut fruit. That always seems special.
•Make veggies the star of the meal. Revise your casserole so that it’s 50 percent veggies and scale back the lean protein and whole grains. You still have a really good volume – you’re not bringing someone a piddly little thing — but it’s a great way to cut calories.
Spinach Salad with Pan Seared Wild Salmon
Prep time: 15
Total time: 15 minutes
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1⁄2 cup torn radicchio leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon 100% orange juice
1 cup cooked, chilled red quinoa
1⁄2 cup sliced red onion
1⁄2 cup sliced crimini or button mushrooms
1⁄2 cup yellow or red grape tomatoes, halved
2 3-ounce pieces wild salmon fillet
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Using tongs, toss the spinach and radicchio with the vinegar and orange juice. Transfer to serving bowls and top with quinoa, onion, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Pat the salmon dry and season both sides with black pepper. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the salmon and garlic to the skillet and cook until the edges of the salmon are opaque and the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Gently flip the salmon with a spatula and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, untilthe salmon is opaque throughout. Top the salad with salmon and serve.