Spa food now comes in bigger portions

EATING WELL

November 24, 1992|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

During the past year I was lucky enough to be invited to visit several western spas, including the Sonoma Mission Inn in California. There were lessons to be learned there.

I was expecting to be starved to death, which goes against the grain. I found instead plenty of healthful food, deliciously prepared. What a nice surprise.

I talked recently with Pat Harper, a registered dietitian who serves as a consultant for several spas in the Pittsburgh area, including the Nemacolin Woodlands Spa in Farmington, Pa.

Ms. Harper says, "Spa used to mean spare. Now it means more plentiful portions of low-fat foods. There's plenty to eat, especially whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Low-fat meat, poultry, fish and dairy foods are used more as an accompaniment." Visits to spas used to starve you down and shape you up, using regimens so Spartan they had to be abandoned at the end of the visit.

Now a spa is more likely to be an introduction to a healthier lifestyle.

Ms. Harper notes that food styles begun at a spa can easily be adopted at home, "and people are really surprised at how wonderful the food is, although it does take some planning to have ingredients on hand to enhance flavor.

"Freshness of ingredients gives the unique quality. Food is especially tasty because of fresh herbs and spaces, garlic and natural vegetable seasonings.

A dish I found particularly delicious is "Six Grain Pilaf" developed by Chef Chris Pedersen at the Sonoma Mission Inn. The preparation is simple, yet the texture and flavors are complex, due to the variety of grains involved.

The original preparation takes a while, because the dish is best when each of the grains is cooked separately to develop its distinctive flavor.

The grains are available at health food stores, gourmet grocery stores and even in the health-food sections of some local grocery stores. (And remember, the more often you ask for them at your local store, the more likely they are to stock them for you.) Each package comes with its own cooking instructions. While most simply require simmering until chicken stock or water is absorbed, the buckwheat must be cooked with beaten egg or egg white first, so it doesn't clump.

The pilaf can be used as stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey, or as a side dish with another meal. The buckwheat and Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) are high-protein grains, making this an ideal vegetarian entree.

This recipe makes 15-20 servings. If you don't want to stuff a turkey or feed a large group, reduce ingredients by one-half or three-quarters.

Six-grain pilaf

1/2 cup basmati rice

1/2 cup wheat berries

1/4 cup toasted buckwheat

1/2 cup wild rice

1/2 cup wehani rice, 1/4 cup Quinoa

1 large yellow onion

1/2 cup Italian parsley

6 ribs of celery, diced

Cook various grains separately in simmering salted water or chicken stock until done. Drain excess water/stock. Saute together the onions and celery. Add parsley, salt and pepper.

Mix together the cooked grains and vegetables. Serve hot.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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