With spring more than two weeks old, we've now entered the time of year when we begin to think about summer. But I don't mean summertime cooking.
You won't believe how many people start asking me in April to cook them "something light, because I want to get ready for my swimsuit." It's like a second wave of New Year's resolutions, more than three months after the first.
Eating more seafood is another good idea. Most of it is amazingly low in fat. And even many higher-fat fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, and whitefish, are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that have been found to benefit cardiovascular health.
The next piece of advice I give is to incorporate as much fresh produce into your meals as possible. Vegetables and fruits are low in calories and fat and as bursting with nutrients as they are with great flavor. On a more practical level, they provide a lot of fiber, which helps to fill you up while also slowing down the time it takes you to eat. That results in you leaving the table feeling more satisfied from less food.
One final piece of advice -- eat food that tastes exciting -- yields a similar result. When you enjoy something that's full of big, bold flavors, you often find yourself slowing down to savor every bite.
You can probably imagine what the result will be when you put lean seafood together with lots of vegetables and lively flavors. So, when there isn't enough time to offer all of the explanations I've just given, I simply suggest that my swimsuit-conscious friends order a great seafood salad. And that's what I'm happy to share with you here today: a recipe for my Shrimp Salad with Spicy Jalapeno Sauce, a classic from the menu of my Asian-fusion restaurant Chinois on Main in Santa Monica, Calif.
It's quick and easy to make, taking no more than about 20 minutes. You'll find all the ingredients you need in any well-stocked supermarket. You can also adapt it to change your tastes and what's available in the market, substituting sea scallops or salmon fillets for the shrimp; using heirloom tomatoes in season for the sauce; and adding other leaves or vegetables to the salad mixture.
You'll be amazed by how beautiful the salad looks -- and how great you'll look in your swimsuit when summer rolls around.
SHRIMP SALAD WITH SPICY JALAPENO SAUCE
About 1 pound fresh Italian plum tomatoes, 8 to 10, cored and cut into chunks
2 jalapeno chiles, halved, stemmed, seeded, and deveined
2 or 3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
Freshly ground black pepper
Lightening up for spring
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