Healthy cookbooks have gone glossy. On these slick pages, however, the color photos of double fudge cakes and triple nut brownies have been replaced by marinated chicken breasts, broiled and fanned with grilled zucchini; bowls of cantaloupe sorbet or birscher muesli with fresh fruit and yogurt.
One of the best new examples is Sally Schneider's "The Art of Low-Calorie Cooking," (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35), a sophisticated collection of recipes that produce light yet flavorful dishes. Although she does not eliminate butter or cream entirely, Schneider has found clever ways to compensate for calories and fat. Many of the dishes are a bit esoteric for everyday eating, but there are simple combinations to be had, too, such as mashed potatoes with warm buttermilk or black-eyed peas with onions and a touch of bacon.
Just as pretty to flip through is Edward Sadje's "New Spa Food" (Clarkson N. Pottter, Inc., $27.50), the second book from the owner of the Norwich Inn and Spa in Norwich, Conn. There are unnecessary directions and off amounts of ingredients in some of the recipes. But with a little finagling, dishes such as apple-pumpkin soup, white bean salad, eggplant caviar, asparagus flan and grilled leg of lamb are impressive in both their presentation and taste, and satisfying for waist-watchers as well as remorseless indulgers.
One of the season's biggest disappointments is "Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet" (W.W. Norton & Company, $25). Brody, well-respected health columnist for The New York Times, and author of many books, including "Jane Brody's Good Food," has borrowed, adapted and devised more than 500 recipes for healthful entertaining.
It is an ambitious book with sound principles for slashing fat from recipes. For this reason, it should be a popular tome for those embarking on a more virtuous diet. Those who want more, however, may find that Brody takes away but doesn't put back -- enough spices, herbs or interesting compensatory ingredients. The result, at least from testing almost a dozen recipes, is a blah-tasting and clumsy collection of dishes that are neither special enough for company nor appealing enough to make for weekday meals.
Brody also does a disservice to readers by introducing each recipe with how "great," "fabulous" or "wonderful," her tasters thought it was. The build-up only contributes to the letdown.
CLOVE AND PEPPER CURED ROAST PORK (6 servings)
In this recipe, lean pork tenderloins are marinated -- for several hours or overnight -- in a dry mixture of spices, sugar, and salt to cure the meat slightly. This yields the clove-and-pepper flavor of country ham -- with little of the fat, salt, or bother. The tenderloins are delicious hot or cold.
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pork tenderloins (12 ounces each), trimmed of fat
1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, pepper, coriander, and cloves. Place the tenderloins in a shallow non-reactive dish and rub the spice mixture into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Tuck the thin "tail" end of each tenderloin under itself to form a roast of even thickness. Tie with kitchen string at 2-inch intervals and place on a rack in a roasting pan.
Brush each loin with 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Brush the loins with the maple syrup. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes longer, basting twice more with the juices in the pan, until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Brush the meat with the pan juices. Slice the tenderloins across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange 7 to 8 slices in a fan on each of 6 dinner plates.
Per serving: 210 calories, 33 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 438 mg sodium.
From "The Art of Low-Calorie Cooking," by Sally Schneider (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35)