Cooking Lighter…Spa Cuisine

The following article is excerpted from Healthy Aging® Magazine. To continue reading this article and more like it, subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine, the lifestyle magazine that is all about following your passion and what you can do rather than what you can’t.
snapper Hua Hin Intercontinental

Hua Hin Pan Seared Red Snapper with Capers created by Chef Sayan, Intercontinental Hua Hin Resort, Thailand

Time for spa cuisine?

That’s it. The last Christmas cookie was eaten more than a month ago. The glass of champagne sipped, holiday decorations are back into their hiding places for another year and platters of Super Bowl nachos are in the books. And now, that sinking feeling: what have I done to my waistline?

Take a deep breath, realize you may have several months until real beach time and get started on shaping up today.

Of course, we all want a silver bullet to help us shed that weight and you may be weighing your options. Do I starve myself for two weeks? Do I try one of the latest crazy cleanses like the colon, liver, smoothie, juice or taco cleanse? What if I just eat soup?

These crazy ideas may work temporarily but will be unhealthy in the long run and may make you gain back even more weight than when you started.

The unfortunate reality is that losing weight is a scientific formula. Input must be less than output. In other words, you have to burn more calories than you consume.

What fun is that?

Although we cannot give you the silver bullet, we can help you think creatively about lighter fare to use in your arsenal of the battle of the bulge.

To that end, we have reached out to several authorities from Hillary Davis, author of Cuisine Nicoise, to some amazing chefs at spas from around the world for their suggestions on what to eat.

Some of the recipes they have shared are small plates for appetizers with a glass of wine (Yes, wine is good for you in moderation!), others are light main dishes and even some desserts.


Cuisine Nicoise

The style of cooking found around Nice, France, is cuisine nicoise, described by cookbook author Hillary Davis as, “vibrant and healthy, with an emphasis on vegetables and fish. . . It is designed with olive oil rather than butter and cream; it is light rather than bathed in rich sauces.”

This style is the basis for the Mediterranean diet, acclaimed for its health benefits from helping reduce heart disease to protecting against some cancers. Davis brings this cuisine to life in her book celebrating the cooking style, Cuisine Nicoise (Gibbs Smith publishers).

You will be inspired to try the recipes of this coffee-table-style book with exquisite photographs by world-class photographer, Steven Rothfeld. There are salads galore like the “Traditional Salade Nicoise” with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and tuna; “Grilled Swordfish Salad” of simply grilled swordfish over mesclun greens; pasta such as “Goat Cheese Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms;” veggies like “Vegetables with Anchovy Dip” and main dishes, “Honey and Vermouth-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fig Vinaigrette Salad.”

Davis, who is also the author of Le French OvenFrench Comfort Food and A Million A Minute, describes cuisine nicoise as, “simple and homey, using local ingredients or what you have on hand…it’s a healthy way of cooking.”

Here are two of Duff’s recipes from Cuisine Nicoise, “Black Olives with Orange,” a recipe destined to qualify for your own house olives and “Uncle Johns,” tiny pastries stuffed with a mild butternut squash filling. Both are light and delicious.

spa cuisine Hotel IntercontinentalSpa cuisine from luxurious hotel in Thailand

Moving on from the sun-kissed French Riviera, we visit with Chef Sayan at the beachfront InterContinental Hua Hin Resort, Thailand. This highly-rated luxury hotel is located two and a half hours by car or 35 minutes by air from Bankok and is near the vendors of Sam Phan Nam Floating Market as well as the waterslides of Black Mountain Water Park.

Here, guests are pampered with spa treatments from an Oriental Signature Massage combining Swedish, Shiatsu and Balinese techniques to a 90-minute Golden Revitalizer Signature Facial, a 24-carat gold mask facial touted as helping to maintain the natural elasticity and anti-wrinkle properties of the skin.

Chef Sayan recommends one of hotel’s signature dishes, available at the Azure Restaurant on property, offering a unique blend of traditional Thai flavors and classic European influences. All of the dishes at Hua are always prepared with the freshest ingredients, Chef Sayan tells us.

Below is his “Snapper with Capers,” pan-fried fillets of fresh Hua Hin snapper, white wine butter sauce, lemon capers, artichokes, roasted potatoes, arugula, finished with lemon confit.

spa cuisine

Reprinted with permission from Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-kissed Cooking from the French Riviera, published by Gibbs Smith. Photographs by Steven Rothfeld.

Black Olives with Orange

Makes about 1 cup

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau orange liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
  • 1 (6-ounce) can or jar pitted black olives, best quality available
  • ½  lemon, rind only, coarsely chopped

Whisk the olive oil, orange juice, salt, sugar, garlic, vinegar, Cointreau and orange rind together. Pour over the olives and toss with a fork to mix. Place everything in a screw-top glass jar and refrigerate to marinate for at least 1 day before serving.

To serve, spoon the olives into a bowl. Strain and reserve the marinade in another bowl to capture the orange rind; spoon rind over the top of the olives, sprinkle the chopped lemon peel over the top as well, and add a little drizzle of the marinade. Discard any remaining marinade.

Reprinted with permission from Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-kissed Cooking from the French Riviera, published by Gibbs Smith. Photographs by Steven Rothfeld.
snapper Hua Hin Intercontinental

Photo: InterContinental Hua Hin Resort

Hua Hin Pan Seared Red Snapper with Capers

Makes one serving

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3/4 pound red snapper fillets, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 oz. or about 1/2 cup artichoke hearts in oil, drained and halved
  • 1 large potato, cut in wedges, parboiled but firm
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • White pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup of chopped white onions
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • 1/2 cup of milk, whipped until foamy
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup arugula

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick frying pan until it starts to shimmer. Place snapper fillets skin side down in pan. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Turn fish over with a spatula and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Press lightly to feel the fish is cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, over medium heat, add the parboiled potato wedges and artichoke hearts and capers. Cook until the potatoes have a slight golden color. Add salt and pepper. Toss in arugula.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the white wine cream sauce. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan. Saute onion to soften but not brown. Add wine and reduce by half. Add cream and reduce until the sauce begins to thicken. Add lemon juice. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.

To serve, garnish with milk foam which is created by whipping milk until frothy. This can be done using an espresso machine and creating milk foam like a cappuccino. This is optional.

Created by Chef Sayan, InterContinental Hua Hin Resort, Thailand.

More Recipes

To see more spa cuisine recipes, subscribe to Healthy Aging Magazine.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Subscribe to Healthy Aging® Magazine

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine for All Ages

Receive four digital issues delivered to your inbox. Just $24.95