Thursday, October 30, 2008

Charleston Cuisine: A "Light" Dinner

My mother told me she wanted me to make something light for our weekly Wednesday night dinner, which was to include our cousins Luis and Ana Maria who are visiting from Guatemala.

Light. What does that mean exactly? And was my mother trying to tell me something? Has my cooking become overly rich? Has she been leaving my home feeling bloated and ill? Is she on a diet? 

Louis Osteen isn't really about light, but I finally settled on his preserved duck and lentil salad as the lightest option in Charleston Cuisine. First I "preserved" the poultry which meant marinating two duck legs overnight in an elaborate spice mixture, then simmering them in peanut oil for an hour and a half. This is duck confit and if it doesn't sound very light, rest assured: two duck legs, even if simmered in oil, constitute decidedly light fare for a party of six.

After the duck was preserved, I cooked lentils, chopped a lot of vegetables (turnip, tomato, mushroom, carrot, etc.), shredded and crisped the duck meat, and tossed it all together with a vinaigrette.

That was it. Everyone got two shreds of the excellent, salty duck, several lentils and a few vegetables. I noticed people cleaned their plates. My mother kept reaching for the cheese platter that I put together at the last minute after I realized how very light this dinner actually was.

For dessert: Osteen's lemon-mint ice cream. Mint + lemon = refreshing = light. Correct? No cookies because they are not light. It was wonderful ice cream, and even after a bowl of it I felt energetic and light and kind of skinny!

But just before the party broke up, I took a group portrait and I thought everyone else looked a little hungry and heavy-hearted. No, I didn't tell them to pose like that for laughs.


  1. It sounds delicious and light and that next time the recipe should be at least doubled. I am impressed by your ability to get such involved recipes on the table so consistently for family dinners. My sister in Michigan read some of your blog and then for my birthday as a surprise made me cardamon cake. (I was touched.) She served it with creme anglais and fresh berries and it was delicious though a little dry. My mom had turned off the oven mid-baking thinking she had left the oven on after dinner, so it was a guess how long to finish baking it. My neice Andrea had painstakingly made a beautiful design with almonds in the bottom of the pan which looked pretty when the cake came out of the pan. My sister later made the cardamon cake for friends in Utah to serve with coffee for breakfast. She said it was underdone (maybe the higher altitude called for longer baking time) but still was scrumptious. So, tipsy baker, your recommendations are having an effect across the nation.

  2. Oh Jane, I'm so sorry the cardamom cake didn't work out just right. By its nature it's a little dry, but I really like it. Some people find the intense cardamom flavor off-putting. My brother-in-law, for one, dislikes it intensely.