"But how do you stay so thin?" people ask when I tell them I earn my bread and butter by eating out. It is a paradox. As a restaurant critic, I sample not only the chef's signature sake-poached salmon, but also his foie gras terrine, crispy-skin duck and molten chocolate cake. The secret is that I taste my food. Instead of mindlessly gobbling down a dish, I concentrate on the flavors in each mouthful.
The truth be told, tasting great food is like enjoying great sex, only in reverse. Instead of building up to a climax, you begin with a bang that gradually trails off. Take something like lemon-grilled tuna over truffled white beans and broccoli raab, for example. When the dish first hits your tongue, its flavors explode. Your mouth fills with the steaklike taste of tuna, bitter greens and earthy truffles. As you chew, you discover more subtle taste sensations until there's nothing left in your mouth but a lingering bouquet of, perhaps, lemon, garlic and truffle.
With this approach, I'm happy with only a few bites. But those bites must be extraordinary. They must pulse with flavors so big and bold that I'm not eating endlessly to find satisfaction through volume. The same theory holds true when cooking at home. Pump up your dishes with zesty flavors and you'll feel satisfied at the end of the meal. Experts have found that a monotonous diet increases cravings, so the more spices, herbs and flavorings you can add, the better.
To get you going on the road to contentment, here are six recipes low in saturated fat and high in flavor to rev up your taste buds. And by taking the time to savor them, you'll experience the sultry side of taste.
Flavor boosters make your food shimmy
Herbs, spices and condiments are the secret to making dishes dance with flavor. Here are seven that will help them shimmy:
Citrus The rind and juice of lemons, limes and oranges fill dishes with a tangy brightness. Add at the last moment for greatest impact.
Chilies Whether in the form of pods, pastes or sauces, these pepper grenades lace dishes with tongue-tingling heat.
Garlic Called the "stinking rose," this bulb infuses dishes with a pungent hot-onion punch. Use raw or lightly sautéed in oil.
Herbs Sprinkle dried herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme into slow-cooking dishes such as soups; use fresh herbs like basil, tarragon and dill over salads or in sautéed dishes for an aromatic earthiness.
Spices Whether used roasted and ground or added whole, spices, such as cumin, pepper and cinnamon, will perfume foods with warm, musky flavors.
Soy sauce This salty brown liquid adds a savory richness to sauces, soups, salad dressings and stir-fries.
Mustard Use this condiment to impart a spicy, salty touch to many dressings, sauces, sandwiches and marinades.