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The Low-Carb Gourmet 

The Low-Carb Gourmet 
Recipes for the New Lifestyle 
by Brigit Binns
Ten Speed Press, 2004

The fresh vegetable and fish markets on Spain's south coast and a 10-year familiarity with a Mediterranean pantry of anchovies, capers, chickpeas, lentils, saffron and olive oil are as much an influence on this native Californian's low-carb cuisine as the raging popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets.

Brigit Binns offers a collection of 70 recipes that play up fresh vegetables, lean proteins, eggs and heart-healthy fats. Inspired by the places she's lived and admired, this peripatetic food writer serves up dishes like Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Florets, Burrata and Seared Fig Salad with Prosciutto, and a Bacon, Portobello Mushroom, and Deep-Fried Egg Frisee Salad.

Binn, a gourmet trained at the Tante Marie cordon bleu cookery school in England, has written or co-authored more than a dozen cookbooks, including The Palm Restaurant Cookbook, Polenta and several titles in the Williams-Sonoma Collection.

"I have never found the low-carb regime to be limiting or in any way boring," she explains. "Over the years, the availability of fine and varied ingredients has become not just inspiring, but awesome. Every major city now has supermarkets that cater to concerned, serious cooks. The farmers' markets springing up everywhere bring the joy of chatty, choosy marketing to more and more people. For those who live far from a city, countless internet companies offer quick, safe, and fairly reasonable delivery of global exotica, even perishable foods."

Most of us do not live on the coast of Spain, Greece or California with the allure of fresh-caught seafood and year-round farmers' markets, but with careful spending, mail-order vendors and a cookbook like this one, we can cook and dine as if we were there.

The Low-Carb Gourmet

Pumpkin Puree With a Pancetta Crisp
Serves 4

  • 4 slices pancetta 1/8-inch think (this is thicker than pancetta is normally cut)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, well washed and finely chopped
  • Large sprig or branch of fresh thyme
  • 1-1/2 pounds peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped pumpkin or kabocha squash (from about 2-1/4 pounds pumpkin)
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Generous pinch of white pepper, preferably freshly ground

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the pancetta on a parchment-lined baking sheet and top with another sheet of parchment and a baking sheet that is the same size or that will sit flat on top of the paper.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.  Transfer to paper towels and set aside until serving time.  (Begin making the soup while the crisps are cooking, if desired.)

    In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek, and thyme and cook gently without browning for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the pumpkin, partially cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes. Check occasionally and add a few tablespoons of water if the pumpkin begins to brown. Add the wine, adjust the heat so the liquid simmers briskly, and cook until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, partially cover the pan, and simmer for about 35 minutes, until the pumpkin is very tender.  Remove from the heat and let cool, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

    Remove the thyme branch and puree the pumpkin mixture in a blender (preferably a Vita-Mix, for the fluffiest result). Puree in batches if necessary, until completely smooth. Work the puree through a medium sieve to remove any fibers and make the soup silky smooth. Return to the pan and stir in the salt and pepper. Warm through gently, then divide among 4 shallow soup bowls.  Float a pancetta crisp in the center of each, and serve.

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