Last week, when our MBOTY finalists were in town (we'll reveal the winner in October!), we thought it'd be fun to take them for lunch and a cooking class on "healthy desserts that won't make your dress tight." We went to Rouge Tomate, which opened last October and is known for its seasonal, locally sourced and super-nutritious cuisine. With the help of executive pastry chef James Distefano, who's recently engaged, we made a low-fat chocolate cake and tequila-laced melon granita. What I learned:
1. You can reduce calories and add nutrients (and moistness) by using pureed black beans instead of butter. I was skeptical, but I swear, you really couldn't taste them. We had a few non-black-bean eaters in our crowd and they completely agreed.
2. Professional kitchens are hot. In all my seasons of watching Top Chef, I can't believe I never picked up on this! We all downed ice water throughout our lesson to cool off.
3. I should invest in Silpat mats. These are silicone and fiberglass non-stick baking mats that you place on a cookie sheet or pan. They never need greasing and can be used in place of parchment paper. If you're a baker, this is a must-have registry item for the easiest cleanups ever. (You can find them at Williams-Sonoma and Bed Bath & Beyond.)
Rouge Tomate is unique in that it has a resident dietician, Natalia Rusin, R.D., who has a degree in culinary nutrition. She's also getting married next month, so she really understands how to eat right and avoid temptation, even in potentially stressful times—like the weeks leading up to your wedding. I'll be back next week to give you her best tips for healthy eating. —Betsy Goldberg, deputy editor, Modern Bride