Everyday Gourmet (4/1/10)

Hold the mayo

April 1, 2010

By Kim Dannies

A sure fast way to slim down for spring is to substitute yogurt for mayonnaise whenever possible. If you don’t feel brave enough to go all the way, try mixing half yogurt and half mayo at first. While the quality of low-fat and fat-free yogurt products has improved dramatically, I still don’t care that much for the low-fat versions of mayonnaise currently on the market, so this is a nice alternative.

In a typical chicken salad, 1 cup of mayo contributes 1,540 calories, 176 grams of fat and zero protein and vitamins. That’s 28-plus grams of fat per serving before any other ingredients are added! One cup of plain fat-free yogurt (I use Stonyfield organic) is 110 calories, zero fat and adds 10 grams of protein and lots of vitamins and calcium.

You may be thinking, “Sure, the math is sensational, but how does it actually taste?” Well, here’s the good news: Yogurt makes an excellent binder; your salad will look like it is coated in luscious mayonnaise, and it will taste like a burst of spring in your mouth. Despite the fact that this column appears on April Fool’s Day, you must trust me — this recipe is so good, even my mayo-maniacal hubby is a convert.

Curried Yogurt Chicken Salad

Gently poach 16 ounces of boneless chicken breast. Cool; cut into bite sized cubes. Boil 4 cups of water and add 1/2 cup barely. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes, drain.

In a prep bowl whisk together 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt, 2 or 3 finely minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, kosher salt to taste. Sample the dressing and adjust seasonings to your taste.

Fold in cubed chicken and cooked barley.

Gently fold in 6 thinly sliced scallions, 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, 2 bunches of Italian parsley leaves (stems removed), 8 ounces of drained and chopped water chestnuts. Top with 1 ounce toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Lightly scatter a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the top (optional). Serves 4 to 6.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.