Looking after the well being of the men who lunch at my house, when meat and potatoes are the integral part of the menu, is not an easy task. But I am absolutely adamant in creating a delicious menu for them, so they won’t even notice that what I am serving is actually thinning and healthy.
The current fad in healthy eating is total avoidance of starch, and as I keep trying to explain to my husband: just avoid anything that is white: potatoes, pasta, sugar, bread and flour. Not that I am a nutritional expert, but to me it makes sense, anything that is highly processed, can’t be that good for you. And even though I am a strong believer in dieting behind closed doors, a low carbohydrate diet allows you to eat in public, and in restaurants for that matter, without asking about the caloric content or the fat grams of a dish. In addition, olive oil, heavy cream, meat and a little wine are all a welcome part of this diet.
For this lunch, and in keeping with my own dieting ideas (not theirs), I am making an eggplant gratin made with tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini layered with a parsley, basil and garlic sauce that is full of flavor. The sliced eggplant is cooked in the oven for ten minutes and layered with the zucchini and tomatoes with a sauce made by pureeing parsley, basil and garlic with olive oil. It is then topped with grated Parmesan cheese and baked in a 350 degree oven for about one hour for all the vegetables to release their juices and infuse with the garlic aroma. This dish is also delicious for dinner with a poached egg on top. Ten minutes before its ready, make small indentations with a spoon and crack an egg inside. Return to the oven for the eggs to set to your liking.
The chopped steak made with extra lean beef is mixed with sautéed onions, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. You can always add an egg and freshly chopped parsley to the ground meat mixture to make it richer. Make large patties, about the size of your fist, but don’t over handle them, as that makes the meat tough. I cook the chopped steaks in a ridged pan, but a flat frying pan or a barbecue works just as well. Cook them first over high heat to sear the sides and the juices, and then lower the flame and cover the pan to cook the inside until done to your liking. My group likes their meat rare, any surprises? About six to eight minutes per side is perfect. For a different occasion, or when not counting fat grams, use a fattier type of meat like ground chuck that actually shrinks as it cooks releasing all the fat and keeping all the flavor. Serve the chopped steaks with a group of mustards: Dijon, Country and a tarragon-scented one for a pretty presentation; but please, present the sauces in small bowls or plates, leaving the jars with the labels in the kitchen.
For dessert, I am serving a fresh fruit salad served in hollowed out cantaloupe melons. Use kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, peaches and plums…actually any seasonal fruit would be excellent and toss the fruit with orange juice and a few mint leaves. If you haven’t used your allotment of alcohol during lunch, add a few tablespoons of Cointreau, an orange liqueur, to the fruit salad.
I must tell you that this menu is so flavorful and sensational, that the men in your life won’t even notice you are serving them a “skinny lunch for the men who lunch”.
Ingredients [Serves 6]
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, cut into ¼ inch slices
4 medium zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 large Spanish onion, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 large tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the vegetables on one layer on separate cookie sheets (or do it in batches) and sprinkle lightly with olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven for about ten minutes until barely tender. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. In the mean time, place the parsley, basil, garlic, a pinch of salt and olive oil in a blender and combine until smooth. In an oven dish, place the eggplant overlapping in one layer, add the zucchini the same way and top with the parsley basil sauce. Add the tomatoes and top with the onions. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the juices are bubbly and the Parmesan golden. Serve hot. ■