The truth is, I am no stranger to cooking without added fat. Years ago before lapriscopic surgery was really the norm, my father suffered from a bad gall bladder. In order to stave off the frequent attacks, my mother learned to cook without fat. And my mother is the best cook I know.......
This week I started cooking without any added fat. It actually is not so hard once you get the hang of it. While I am still very much in the beginning stages, here are some of the tricks I have learned about pan frying (or some that I knew already from my mom!):
1. Replace oil with water or broth. When pan frying veggies or meats, the liquid keeps the food from sticking to the bottom of the pan if you aren't using non-stick. By the way, this is in addition to using non-stick spray. Just add small amounts of liquid at a time and more as you need it. This will eliminate the possibility of drowning the food in too much broth or water.
2. Cook it slow. This hint I discovered online from several websites. If you cook the veggies slowly, there is less chance of them burning and a better chance of them cooking evenly. I have found this particularly true when browning onions.
3. Use savory vegetables as a flavor base. In particular, onions and tomatoes. Onions, of course, add loads of flavor, but so do cooked tomatoes. In addition to flavor, the tomatoes add juice and substance so the food doesn't get dried out. So far, I have found cooked tomatoes to be the most effective vegetable as a flavor base. You can use fresh or canned tomatoes. By the way, tomato sauce is also a great option. It acts as both a liquid like water and broth, plus flavor enhancer.
4. Up the seasoning. Since oil adds taste, you need to replace it with another. I do like to use salt. However, that is not the only seasoning that goes far. I rely quite a lot on onion powder and garlic powder. They add a tremendous amount of flavor to recipes. I also use a lot of paprika. The good thing about these seasonings is that they are powerful but not overpowering and you can use them liberally. Spices like cumin, which I personally love, is very strong and needs to be used with more care.
That being said, here's a recipe I developed this week. Hope you enjoy it!
One Dish Dinner: Chicken, Veggies and Rice
Leftover chicken from the Shabbos chicken soup or 2 stewed chicken quarters, cut in strips
2 cups rice
Cook rice according to directions. When the rice is almost ready, add about 1/4 cup water and let it cook almost all down so the rice will remain a bit moist. Season with 1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder, onion powder. Increase or decrease seasonings to taste.
Chop onions, tomatoes and zucchini. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray and add onions. Put on medium heat. After about 3 minutes, add 1/4 cup water and let it cook down. When the onions are tender, about 5 minutes, add tomatoes and another 1/4 cup water. Let cook about 5 minutes until tomatoes get tender. Add zucchini and another 1/4 cup water. Add 1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Cook until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Then add chicken pieces and another 1/4 cup water if needed, and cook another 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve chicken and vegetables over the rice.