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LOW-FAT GOAL IS TO TRICK TASTE BUDS

SHARE LOW-FAT GOAL IS TO TRICK TASTE BUDS

The meaning of the larder has changed. Larder, another term for pantry, once referred to the place where meat, other foods and especially the precious, fortifying fat of butchered hogs were kept.

Fat today is eaten in what health experts consider to be excessive amounts by a mostly sedentary population and has become a hazard. The smart larder is now increasingly low in fat.Yet, as inadvisable as fat may be for the diet, it is still highly desirable from the point of view of taste and texture. It's impossible to make mayonnaise at home without egg yolks and oil. And for many people, thin, ordinary skim milk does not have the appeal that whole milk has.

Indulgence is not the point of low-fat cuisine. Rather, the goal is to trick the taste buds by making do, manipulating and coming up with clever adjustments.

In response to a demand from consumers and from consumer watchdog groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, food manufacturers have developed new technologies for replacing some or all the fat in products with other thickeners.

In some food categories like yogurt, nonfat and low-fat products account for up to 30 percent of sales in the United States. Low-fat and nonfat milk account for only 20 percent of all milk sold.

At Kraft General Foods, a bonanza - more than $500 million in sales of nonfat products - rolled in last year. The company introduced the first of these products just four years ago. Thirty percent of its salad dressing sales are now of the nonfat variety.

Home cooks - especially those who have no intention of sacrificing flavor, and the enjoyment of digging into great food, for health benefits - can successfully incorporate low-fat and fat-free products into traditional recipes.

There are very few reduced-fat or nonfat food products that do not rely on thickeners to adjust the texture. Many of these products are also more seasoned, especially with salt, than their regular counterparts, in order to make up for the richness of flavor that is lost.

This trade-off is typical when fat is removed or reduced. But home cooks and food experts often dig their heels in about making certain compromises.

"I can cut down on the amount of eggs and fat I use in a cake, but I'd rather use real eggs than the substitutes," said Susan Purdy, whose book about low-fat desserts, "Have Your Cake and Eat It Too," is to be published by William Morrow & Co. this fall. "And with one or two eggs in a cake that serves eight people, you're not talking about that much fat or cholesterol."

Some of the new nonfat products can be used in place of their higher-fat counterparts without adjusting the recipe. For example, low-fat, skim and fortified skim milks can replace whole milk to make puddings, custards and even a sumptuous potato gratin.

Nonfat yogurt is an acceptable substitute for the whole-milk variety.

Some lower-fat cheddars and processed cheeses, however, can be reasonably good when used to enrich a sauce but are disappointing when eaten plain and turn rubbery when melted on top of foods.

Evaporated skim milk, whose sales increased 11 percent last year, can take the place of cream in a sauce. But it does not make a satisfactory whipped topping.

Fromage blanc, which is naturally fat-free, is an excellent replacement for whole-milk fresh cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese. It is expensive and is usually sold only in cheese shops.

Egg substitutes are made from egg whites, gums and coloring. While they can be used in some dessert recipes and to make scrambled eggs and omelets, they will not work in recipes that require eggs to be separated.

Although low-fat mayonnaise is a reasonably good mimic of regular mayonnaise, there is quite a difference with the fat-free variety. The texture is starchier and more gelatinous, and the flavor is both sweeter and sharper than the regular kind. Low-fat mayonnaise dressings are made with egg whites, starches and gums and often artificial coloring. The sodium content is fairly high.

Technology has played an essential role in the development of these products.

"The kinds of ingredients, how they are processed and the new equipment we can use have made these products possible," said Ken Foster, the senior brand manager for Hellmann's Mayonnaise.

Vegetable gums like guar and locust bean are typical thickeners. These ooze naturally out of plants that grow in warm climates.

Pectin, from citrus fruits, and carrageen or Irish moss, a kind of gelatinous seaweed, have been used by home cooks for centuries. Agar is another seaweed thickener. Xanthan gum, a natural byproduct of the fermentation of starches, is a newcomer to the list.

Among the new low-calorie fat substitutes, Simplesse is permitted by the federal government to be used only in frozen desserts. Procter & Gamble's Olestra has not been approved by the government.

Some chefs invent their own fat-free thickeners. A spa chef like Kathleen Daelemans of the Grand Hyatt Wailea on Maui, Hawaii, will often use prune, apple or apricot puree in place of some or all the fat in baking. Cooked vegetable purees, especially potato and roasted onion, can thicken sauces and dips.

The amount of fat used to coat a pan or baking tin can be greatly reduced by using oil sprays. Good quality nonstick cookware can also brown food fairly effectively with minimal fat. But it's also important to learn how to take the time to soften or "sweat" ingredients like onions in a covered pan over very low heat without fat.

Still, it's certainly easier to heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan to saute vegetables. And it's more satisfying to bake a cake following grandma's recipe or to make a sauce by swirling softened butter or creme fraiche into reduced pan juices.

But when recipes using new ingredients and new techniques to reduce fat turn out well, they can find an honored place on the table. "You should never have to apologize for the food," Purdy said.

*****

RECIPES

HOT CURRIED LOW-FAT ONION CANAPES

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon mango chutney, minced

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh coriander

1/3 cup low-fat or nonfat yogurt

1 egg white

12 slices, about 2 inches in diameter, of a lightly toasted baguette or 12 melba toast rounds.

Spread onion in bottom of heavy nonstick saucepan. Cover pan tightly, place over very low heat and cook until onion has softened and turned translucent, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder, cook another minute or so, then remove from heat. Stir in the chutney and coriander.

Fold in the yogurt. Beat egg white until stiff, and fold into onion mixture.

Preheat broiler.

Spoon a scant tablespoon of onion mixture on each toast round, covering toast completely. Place canapes on a foil-lined broiling pan, and place under broiler about 2 minutes, until tops begin to brown. Remove from broiler, arrange on a serving dish, and serve.

Yield: 12 canapes, 4 servings.

Note: The onion mixture is also excellent as a topping for fish to serve 2. Broil two 6-ounce fillets of flounder or sole for 2 minutes, turn them over, spread with onion mixture and broil until topping is lightly browned, another 2 minutes or so.

- Each serving contains approximately 85 calories, 1 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 4 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate.

CREAMY LOW-FAT POTATO GRATIN

2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced thin

3 cups low-fat or fortified skim milk

4 large cloves garlic, sliced

Cooking oil spray

1/3 cup dry bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Place potatoes, milk and garlic in a heavy nonstick saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook gently about 10 minutes, until milk has thickened.

Meanwhile, coat a 6-cup baking dish with the cooking spray, and coat it with 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season potato mixture with salt and pepper. Stir in the nutmeg. Spread potato mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Place in oven and bake about 35 minutes, until casserole is bubbling and top has started to brown. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes; then serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

- Each serving contains approximately 200 calories, 3 g fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium (before salting), 8 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate.

BUTTERMILK SHERBET

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup evaporated skim milk

Juice of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Combine ingredients in a bowl.

Pour into an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Yield: 1 pint, about 4 servings.

- Each serving contains approximately 170 calories, 1 g fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 165 mg sodium, 7 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate.

- Adapted from "How to Eat Like a Southerner and Live to Tell the Tale."

LOW-FAT APPLE BREAD PUDDING WITH CARAMEL SAUCE

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup warm rum or apple juice

1 pound fresh white or semolina Italian bread

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/3 cup sugar

Oil for greasing baking dish

1/2 cup evaporated skim milk

2 tablespoons apple butter

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

2 cups low-fat or fortified skim milk.

Place raisins in rum or apple juice and set aside to soften.

Tear bread in very small pieces and place in a large bowl.

Place apples in a nonstick skillet, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and cook over medium-high heat until sugar begins to caramelize. Turn apples, and continue cooking until they are lightly browned. Mix apples with bread. Stir in the raisins with their liquid.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil an 8-cup baking dish.

Mix remaining sugar with skim milk and apple butter. Stir in the egg whites and milk. Pour this mixture over the bread and apples, and mix thoroughly. Pour into baking dish.

Place in oven and bake 40 minutes, until puffed and browned. Allow to cool about 30 minutes. Serve with caramel sauce on the side.

Yield: 8 servings.

- Each serving contains approximately 280 calories, 3 g fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 365 mg sodium, 10 g protein, 55 g carbohydrate.

CARAMEL SAUCE

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons warm rum or apple juice

1/2 cup evaporated skim milk.

Combine sugar and water in a heavy nonstick skillet, stirring gently until sugar is completely moistened.

Place over medium heat and cook without stirring, until mixture turns a rich amber color. Remove from heat, and slowly add rum or apple juice.

Gradually whisk in the milk. If caramel has not dissolved completely, heat mixture very gently, stirring for a minute or so without allowing it to come to a boil.

Remove from heat, pour into a dish or container, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 1 cup.

- Each serving contains approximately 65 calories, 0 g fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, 1 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Healthy diet: Easy switches and smarter choices

FOOD: Meats, fish & poultry

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Heavily marbled or fatty * Lean cuts of beef such as rump, round,

meats, sausage, bacon and flank steak, London broil and tenderloin;

organ meats like liver poultry (with all skin removed); and fish.

Trim off all visible fat from meats and

poultry before cooking. Opt for poultry

and fish more often.

* Tuna packed in oil * Tuna packed in water

* Bologna, salami, luncheon * Sliced turkey or chicken (including

meats and hot dogs turkey luncheon meats), tuna fish or lean

roast beef.

FOOD: Eggs & dairy products

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Whole eggs. * Egg whites.

* Sour cream or mayonnaise. * Herb-seasoned or plain low-fat yogurt,

or blended or whipped low-fat cottage

cheese.

* Ice cream * Frozen yogurt, ice milk, sherbet or

sorbet.

* American or cheddar cheese, * Low-fat cheeses such as ricotta,

cream cheese or semi-soft mozarella made from skim milk or low-

cheese like brie. fat cottage cheese.

* Whole or 2% milk. * Skim or 1% milk.

FOOD: Bread & grains

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Danish pastry, croissants, * Whole grain breads, english muffins,

sweet or butter rolls and oat bran muffins, breads or cereals.

FOOD: Snacks & sweets

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Some snacks crackers and * Popcorn air-popped in all-vegetable

chips (made with saturated canola oil, bread sticks, low-fat

fats). crackers or flat-bread crackers

* Rich desserts. * Fruit, angel food cake or cakes and

pastries made with all-vegetable canola

oil.

FOOD: Sauces & soups

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Gravies made with meat or * Gravy made with bouillon or defatted

pan drippings. broth.

* Vegetables cooked in butter * Stir-fried vegetables made with all-

or cream sauces. vegetable canola oil or steamed

vegetables.

* Creamy soups or those with * Bouillon, defatted broth, clear soups or

fat not removed soup with the fat skimmed off.

FOOD: Fats & oils

USE LESS SMART SUBSTITUTION

* Butter as a spread. * Margarine made from liquid vegetable oil.

* Butter, lard, meat fat or * Oil, made from canola oil. Where

shortening made from animal required for baking, use all-vegetable

fat for cooking or baking. shortening or margarine.

* Bottled salad dressings. * All-vegetable canola oil and vinegar;

add spices to taste.

* Butter or margarine for * All-vegetable canola oil with your

favorite spices.

Fat and oil comparison

CHOLESTEROL PERCENT mgs/Tbs SATURATED FAT PERCENT

Canola oil 0 6

Safflower oil 0 9

Sunflower oil 0 11

Corn oil 0 13

Peanut oil 0 13

Olive oil 0 14

Soybean oil 0 15

Margarine 0 18

Vegetable shortening 0 26

Cottonseed oil 0 27

Chicken fat 11 30

Lard 12 41

Precreamed/animal fat

shortening 9 44

Beef fat 14 51

Palm oil 0 51

Butter(fat) 33 54

Coconut oil 0 77

Palm kernel oil 0 79