The food in chain restaurant commercials is seductive. It is sun-soaked, or at least artificially lighted within an inch of its life to look so. It’s wet, dripping with the water of vegetables freshly picked and washed.

And it is shiny. It glistens in that faux sunlight like the screen of a brand new iPad, just loosened from its pristine white box. ┬áThe mouth waters. And all that sheen adds up to…fat.
Whether it’s butter or the cheapest canola oil available, restaurant food often arrives at the table with a veneer of fat. Often it’s more than a mere veneer. A piece of fish can easily have a whole tablespoon of fat clinging to it on all sides. With olive oil, that’s 119 calories and 14 grams of fat.
There’s even a thin sheen when you’ve asked for it to be grilled without fat, picked up from residue on the grill itself.
On Weight Watchers, this presents a question: How to account for an undetermined amount of shine. A Weight Watchers leader told me she follows a simple rule: 1 point if its a thin sheen and 2 if it looks properly shellacked. In my loss of 50 pounds, I followed this rule scrupulously.
At a Mexican restaurant, for example, chicken or shrimp fajitas, especially if eaten with higher-fiber corn tortillas, are a good option. But they often arrive at the table sizzling in the grease. I’ve taken to telling the server: “Please ask the kitchen to take it out of whatever it’s marinating in, run it under some water and then throw it on the grill.” Try it sometime. The waiter may pretend to be confused, like you’re speaking in Chinese or something, and it may well come out dripping anyway. But you can always send it back, and I have. The resulting dish doesn’t suffer in flavor in the least.
So I was a little dubious recently when I stopped for another Whole Paycheck salad and saw on the salad bar a bottle of shiny brown liquid that purported to be no-fat balsamic dressing. Such items don’t have to carry nutritional labeling, so one has to take it on faith. The ingredients were water, balsamic vinegar, tamari, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, onion powder, rosemary, thyme and garlic.
Nutritional yeast carries a small amount of fat, which may account for the shine, but very little. Lacking oil, it didn’t spread through the salad the way an oily dressing does. It didn’t have the silky flavor of a first-class balsamic dressing, but on the other hand, it was fine.
Chalk one up for nutritional yeast. Anyone have a recipe to replicate this dressing at home?


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