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Spice Rub : Making Up for Lost Flavor

October 06, 1994|DONNA DEANE | TIMES FOOD STYLIST; Deane is co-author of "Simply Healthful Cakes" (Chapters Publishing: 1993; $9.95)

Let's face it: Fat tastes good. The marbling or internal fat is what gives meats their flavor, and so does the butter and oil that we slather on during and after cooking.

When we reduce the fat in our food, whether by choosing leaner cuts or by reducing the amount of sauce used, we need to compensate by adding flavor through spices, fresh herbs and other flavor enhancers such as garlic, lemon and lime juices.

In the following recipes we used "skinny" cuts of meats--those with the least intrinsic fat--and spiced them up with low-fat marinades. As a result, all of the recipes come in at five grams of fat or less per serving, except for the flank steak, which has seven grams.

Though the flank steak contains a little more fat than the rest, it is still very lean for beef. And when trimmed of any surface fat and cooked properly, it can be one of the tastiest and most economical steaks on the market.

First, make small slits all over the top side of the meat and insert slivers of garlic (this dish tastes--and looks--best when the meat is sliced and there are one or two pieces of garlic in each slice). Then lightly score the surface with a sharp knife and rub in the adobo seasoning.

Don't cook flank steak much past the medium-rare stage. When overcooked, it tends to toughen. To make it even more tender, slice the meat very thin, cutting diagonally across the grain.


A combination of spices, garlic and lemon juice rubbed on and under the skin gives this stuffed turkey breast a robust flavor despite containing only five grams of fat per serving. The skin is left on during roasting to keep the turkey breast moist, then removed before serving to keep the fat low.

The grilled chicken breast and vegetables tossed with fettuccine, a favorite among testers in The Times Test Kitchen, is just about a meal-in-one. All that's needed to complete the menu is a crisp salad.

After rubbing the chicken breasts with chopped herbs and letting them stand for a bit, we grilled them on our heavy iron stove-top grill. A light spray of mesquite-flavored nonstick cooking spray gave them that great barbecued flavor. Leaving the skin on during cooking helped to keep the chicken juicy and moist during grilling; taking it off before serving cut the fat by 10 grams.


Shrimp fried rice, spiked with red pepper flakes, has only three grams of fat per serving. Remember that cooked rice should be cold for stir-frying, so it doesn't get a "gummy" texture. It is fried in a wok sprayed with sesame-flavored cooking spray. Egg substitute, rather than of real eggs, is stirred into the rice at the end of frying. The remainder of the egg substitute is used to make an omelet that is then cut into strips and lightly stirred in just before serving.

This twist on the classic Cajun jambalaya is made with grilled, marinated shrimp and comes out to only five grams of fat per serving. Spoon the grilled shrimp on top of the cooked rice--stained bright-yellow by the turmeric--and toss lightly just before serving. Don't forget the chopped cilantro. Despite being decidedly un-Cajun, it adds just the right touch needed to complete the dish.


This terrific flank steak recipe was a favorite among tasters in The Times Test Kitchen. The meat can be seasoned with the dry rub and left to marinate in the refrigerator for one or two days. The steak can then be grilled and served within minutes.


1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak

3 to 4 cloves garlic, cut into slivers

Adobo Seasoning Rub

Trim excess fat from flank steak. Lightly score surface of both sides of meat in crisscross diamond pattern. Make slits with knife large enough to insert slivers of garlic over top surface of meat. Rub Adobo Seasoning Rub over both sides of meat to cover. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 days.

Spray grill pan or grill with mesquite flavor nonstick cooking spray and grill over high heat 7 to 9 minutes until steak is rare inside and outside is charred. Slice meat thinly on diagonal across grain. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

142 calories; 858 mg sodium; 43 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.46 grams fiber.

Adobo Seasoning Rub

2 teaspoons pasilla chile powder

2 teaspoons paprika

1 3/4 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In bowl combine chile powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, mustard, salt and cayenne. Store in covered container. Makes 1/4 cup.


The combination of flavors in this spice rub adds a whole new dimension to turkey breast. Stuffed with spinach, turkey sausage and nonfat ricotta cheese, this is great served hot or cold.


1 (1-pound) boneless turkey breast

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon oregano leaves

1 teaspoon paprika


1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 ounces turkey sausage

2 tablespoons minced green onions

1 (6-ounce) package small spinach leaves, rinsed

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