Dietician and nutritionist Connie Guttersen proves to both chefs and home cooks that healthy eating doesn't have to be dull.
The creator of the Sonoma Diet never planned to be a diet-guru. She was on track to becoming a professor in Texas when marriage brought her to California and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where she was hired to design a course in healthy cooking techniques.
She recalled how when she first arrived at the CIA the students shunned her, fearing she would take away their sugar, fats and salt.
In The Sonoma Cookbook Guttersen hopes to inspire readers with delicious recipes paired with wines and explains why she considers her eating program more of a lifestyle than a diet.
Q: What prompted you to write your first book?
A: Well my dad had passed away. I had watched him, a doctor, struggle with his weight his whole life. So I decided I was going to write a book in his honor.
Q: How does the Sonoma Diet differ from South Beach?
A: South Beach is very good, but it is physician driven. Mine is from more of a culinary background, more of a dietitian. South Beach is not flavor driven or celebrating a way of eating that becomes a way of life. And I think wine is an important part of life as is a fairly moderate amount of carbohydrates.
The differences really are that the food is delicious, you can have a glass of wine and it is written with a passion for food and wine and a lifestyle and not so much as a diet.
Q: What about the wine on this diet?
A: Well, you see I don't think of it as a diet. I think of it as a lifestyle. I mean I live here in Napa where wine is just part of life. We are all sitting down with friends enjoying great food and wine. And that's why the recipes are paired with wine. There are a ton of health benefits associated with wine in moderation.
Q: California is blessed with an incredible array of fresh fruits and vegetables. What about those who are not so fortunate?
A: I am very conscious of menu development and realize that not everyone has access to the same foods that we do here. The Sonoma Cookbook has plenty of recipes that use frozen or canned foods, so that if you're in say Kansas City, it still isn't a problem to eat well and healthfully.
Q: What about those who are short on time?
A: (There is) this whole idea of how do you embrace a healthier way of living but you're a working mom and you sure would like a glass of wine every once in a while. That's why there are family friendly recipes as well as food and wine pairings throughout. I know what it means to be a working mother. I have two children of my own.
The Gigi (30 minutes and yields 4 servings)
2 cups hearts of palms sliced
2 cups orange segments
1 cup jicama (a sweet root vegetable), julienne
1 pound shrimp, peeled and cooked
1/2 cup Citrus Vinaigrette (see below)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 California avocado, cut in quarters lengthwise, then in 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup scallions, thinly cut on bias
2 cups butter lettuce, cut into strips
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine heart of palm, orange, jicama, and shrimp in a bowl. Toss with salt and pepper. Dress with 4 tablespoons Citrus Vinaigrette. Gently mix in pomengranate seeds, avocado, scallions, and lettuce. Serve on top of warm whole-wheat flatbread. Garnish with almonds.
Citrus Vinaigrette (4 servings)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste