I seem to be out of sync with the times. Just when I embark on a regimen of diet and physical fitness, the National Bureau of Health Statistics releases the news that most of my fellow Americans are going to pot. Countrywide surveys indicate that liquor sales are up, while enrollment in exercise programs and calisthenic clinics is down. Also, the sale of diet products is dipping almost as fast as bathroom scales soar.
My newest diet is another skirmish in my battle of the bulge. However, this time around, the weight loss program is so simple that I am embarrassed to spell it out. But since the practice has helped me shed 26 pounds in two months, I will face the scoffers head-on.
What I am doing is eating normally, with one major difference. When I fill my plate, I take reduced portions and (this is the key) ask a silent question each time a fork is raised to my lips: "Are you still hungry?"
Needless to say, it is tedious to become one's own inquisitor. But due to that quiz game I very often discover I am really not hungry at all. It is no longer necessary to consume an entire plateful of food.
It was not easy to lose those 26 pounds but it was not as hard as I had expected. Even when traveling and eating at restaurants, I drink only one glass of wine no matter how much a host presses, and I try to limit my caloric intake of butter fat, red meat and sweets. Limit luckily does not mean excise, which is the reason I'm still on this course of action. I've learned that I can live with the diet without any deprivation.
One major facet of my limited intake is the consumption of salad, heavy on the greens but always well-seasoned and reasonably sauced so I will not be tempted to cheat and opt for a thick burger and fries instead.
Since cold salad is a bore for dinner, I have turned mine warm. The trick is to add some modest amount of protein and serve the dish fast so the lettuce does not wilt. My trusty portable gas burner helps enormously when it comes to a crisp warm slaw, allowing it to be made right at the table and tossed directly onto waiting room-temperature plates.
Here are a few of my recent warm salad inventions.
WARM SHRIMP SALAD
1/3 cup brown rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup slivered cooked ham or prosciutto
1 large tomato, seeded and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Belgian endive, cut into strips lengthwise and halved
1/2 cup shredded Boston, bibb or leaf lettuce
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped chives
Cook rice in boiling salted water until almost tender, about 35 minutes. Drain into colander. Place colander over simmering water. Cover with 1 layer paper towels. Steam at least 25 minutes.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add green onions. Cook 1 minute. Add garlic. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add shrimp, cook, tossing constantly, 2 minutes.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add ham, tomato and basil. Cook 1 minute. Stir in rice. Sprinkle with vinegar. Toss in endive and lettuce. Toss until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in parsley and chives. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
The next recipe is a classic example of a fast, yet non-fattening dish. It's economical besides. Serve it on a bed of lettuce.
HOT TUNA-PEPPER SALAD
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 (7-ounce) can tuna, drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chiles
1 small head leaf lettuce, roughly torn
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot. Cook 1 minute. Add garlic, peppers and anchovies. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, 5 minutes.
Add tuna and chiles to mixture in skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until peppers are just barely tender, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Toss in lettuce. Serve immediately. Makes 2 to 3 servings.