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Nutrition Smarts

Balancing The Small Plate Trend
by Frances Largeman, RD
Managing Editor

Just a Taste

A good selection of small plates should be balanced with appropriate amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat. At her restaurant, Nora suggests starting with a soup and then moving on to a shrimp dish and then the carpaccio. The complete meal of small plates could be as follows: grilled shrimp served with some avocado salsa and a chili vinaigrette; carpaccio paired with breadsticks, Parmesan and some fresh arugula. Each plate has a vegetable and a starch on it—just enough to enjoy—but not enough to overindulge.

Fred's ideal dinner from his menu is the Endive and Apple Salad, followed by the Curried Chicken Lumpia (akin to a spring roll) with Mango Relish and then the Petit Filet (a tidy four-ounces), served with Truffle Butter, Chateau Potatoes and Creamed Leeks. Fred would finish the meal with the Rhubarb Soup and a cheese plate. Even if your appetite isn't as robust as Chef Fred's, you don't have to worry, these portions are not overwhelming and are meant to be shared—if you're willing.

Try This at Home

The home cook can easily translate the small plate concept to the meals they serve at home. For starters, when you cook, don't use the one-meal mentality. Think of how you can start with the main ingredients and use them in several different ways.

If your main dish is smaller, you can make your salad or soup more substantial. Instead of just a salad of greens, Nora suggests adding items like some grilled shrimp, croutons, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, olives, nuts or cheese. Dessert should be kept simple—a cookie with a piece of fresh or poached fruit, or a small portion of ice cream, for example.

When I asked Nora if she thought this way of eating was inherently healthier, she replied, "I don't know if it's a healthier way to eat. It definitely gives you a bigger variety of food to eat, but you have to be careful that the quantity of food doesn't go overboard." Nora cautions that if the courses aren't truly little, then you may end up eating even more than you normally would have at a restaurant. The small plate "needs to stay a small plate". As with most things, balance is everything.

As an antidote to our society's super-sized everything, give the small plate idea a try. See what's going on in your local restaurant scene or check out Chef Fred's recipes. Whichever you choose, it's fun to nibble your way through a delicious and light meal with a variety of flavors.

Rhubarb Soup with Almond Biscuit and Mango Sorbet
Fred Przyborowski, Bardeo, Washington, DC
Ahi Poke Tuna with Coconut Rice and Cilantro Emulsion
Fred Przyborowski, Bardeo, Washington, DC
Skewered Chicken with Mango Dipping Sauce

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