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A Low-Fat Lesson From the Locksmith

September 03, 1997|MARGARET SHERIDAN SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Locksmith Larry Felkin may keep his mouth shut about his celebrity clients, but when it comes to food and cooking, he's never at a loss for words.

The 42-year-old "locksmith to the stars," as wife Harriet has dubbed him, began his love affair with cooking as a bachelor almost 20 years ago, when his tolerance for frozen dinners ran out after two weeks. "Everything tasted like processed chemicals," he says.

He began his culinary education by watching cooking shows on PBS. "[Jacques] Pepin taught me the most," he says. "But there was one guy who did low-calorie cooking, and he made an impression."

The result: Many of Felkin's favorite tried-and-true recipes are low-fat, including many of his special bread recipes.

With his energy and concentration, he's a Martha Stewart kind of guy: organized, always prepared, a stickler for detail, a miser with minutes.

He's a voracious Net surfer and reader of anything food-related. Before his wife, a teacher, gets up in the morning, he has already checked the Net for recipes and other food-related information from the computer in the office of their Marina del Rey home.

Because he's always on call--at the sound of his pager, for example, he could be off to do a hasty household lock change for a star client about to announce a divorce--no midweek dinner can take more than 30 minutes to prepare.

"Time is important because we have so little during the week," he says. He prepares menu plans and does all his shopping and cooking on Saturday.

The freezer is his savior. Pasta sauce is made in batches. Sourdough starter for bread has squatter's rights in the refrigerator. Nancy Silverton, owner of La Brea Bakery and author of his favorite bread book, turned him into a fan of starters and rustic breads.

But he uses a bread machine--a favorite toy along with the smoker--and often alters recipes to reduce fat and increase fiber.

"I used to make bread by hand," he says, "but the machine changed that." There's a trade-off, though: "Bread by machine has a more uniform texture and basically one shape. I can live with that."

There is one more famous personality who has contributed to his culinary education: Jeff Smith. Felkin wastes nothing when he cooks.

"I'm pretty frugal," Felkin says. "I buy a whole chicken, bone it and make stock, which I freeze. I make three meals from one bird."

The Frugal Gourmet would be proud.

MUFFINS (LOW-FAT COOKING)

These muffins are low in fat, low in cholesterol and high in fiber. Be sure the banana is very ripe.

1/2 cup egg substitute

1 banana, mashed

2/3 cup nonfat milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon banana extract

2 cups low-fat buttermilk biscuit mix

1 tablespoon sugar substitute

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup chopped dried mixed fruit

1/4 cup chocolate chips, optional

Nonstick cooking spray

Combine egg substitute, banana, milk, vanilla and banana extracts in small bowl.

Combine biscuit mix, sugar and wheat germ in large bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in mixed fruit and chocolate chips.

Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees until top springs back when touched lightly, about 25 minutes.

12 muffins. Each muffin:

131 calories; 262 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.23 gram fiber.

GREEK OLIVE BREAD (LOW-FAT COOKING)

2 cups bread flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

24 Greek olives, pitted and quartered

2 teaspoons bread-machine yeast

Put bread and wheat flours, wheat germ, water, salt, sugar, half of olives and yeast in bread machine. Try not to let olives and yeast touch. Set machine on raisin bread or sweet bread cycle and follow manufacturer's instructions. At beep, add remaining olives and finish baking.

1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf. Each of 12 servings:

153 calories; 422 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 29 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.57 gram fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Kitchen Tip

One of the problems with bread machine recipes is that every manufacturer's product works a bit differently. Some cookbooks list as many as six or seven versions of each recipe in an attempt to cover every base. Alas, there are never quite enough options, and the machine that is left out is almost guaranteed to be yours.

The best way to adapt recipes to make sure they work in your machine is to check the recipe booklet that came with it. Compare the ratio of yeast to flour in your book and in the recipe, then correct the recipe to match your manual as closely as possible. Also, make sure the ingredients are added in the same order as in the instruction booklet. To adapt settings, look for similar breads (for example, with the olive bread on this page in which the olives are added after the initial mixing, look for a raisin bread).

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