Golden Door Cookbook: 200 Delicious and Healthful Recipes from the World's Most Luxurious Spa


A pioneer in the field of healthful cooking, Belgian-born Stroot brings classic French techniques and a European sensibility to America's freshest foods. His contemporary, health-conscious food changes the way many of the Door's guests eat forever. Now, home cooks everywhere can learn the secrets of Stroot's remarkable cuisine with the two hundred recipes in The Golden Door Cookbook. The recipes include light and healthful dishes for every course—hot and cold soups, crisp salads made with vegetable greens and ...
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A pioneer in the field of healthful cooking, Belgian-born Stroot brings classic French techniques and a European sensibility to America's freshest foods. His contemporary, health-conscious food changes the way many of the Door's guests eat forever. Now, home cooks everywhere can learn the secrets of Stroot's remarkable cuisine with the two hundred recipes in The Golden Door Cookbook. The recipes include light and healthful dishes for every course—hot and cold soups, crisp salads made with vegetable greens and grains, fresh fruit compotes, creative chicken and fish dishes, hearty breads, and refreshing, energy-boosting beverages. Every recipe includes a complete nutritional analysis, and each one derives less than 20 percent of its calories from fat.

Michael Stroot allows readers to bring the spa experience home.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Review of The Golden Door Cookbook

I love spa cookbooks because they are filled with inviting recipes that can entice high-powered clients to pay thousands of dollars to starve themselves. With books such as The Golden Door Cookbook, I can stay at home and prepare nutritious yet luxurious meals, and then cheat without anyone knowing. And think of all the money I save! Seriously, this is a very well thought-out low-fat cookbook from a chef who has had years of experience feeding demanding dieters. The recipes are so delicious, you don't realize that as you are eating well, you are also eating healthfully.

Judith Choate

Learning Low-Fat Tips from a Pro

Executive chef at a luxurious spa seems an odd career choice for Michel Stroot, considering that he comes from Belgium, a country whose cuisine is so rich that the dipping sauce of choice for french fries is homemade mayonnaise. But in 1974, the classically trained chef met Deborah Szekely, the founder of both the Golden Door and sister spa Rancho La Puerta, and his life changed forever.

Szekely taught Stroot how to cook with health in mind, and he's been hooked ever since. He came to De Gustibus at Macy's this fall to demonstrate recipes from his new book, The Golden Door Cookbook, and to share with the class his tips for creating dishes that are fresh, flavorful, and as good to eat as they are good for you.

About Michel Stroot and The Golden Door Cookbook

Charming, soft-spoken, and good-natured, Stroot is a walking advertisement for life at the Golden Door: He's trim, calm, and clearly loves what he does. Thirty-nine guests come to the Japanese-inspired spa each week of the year, spending thousands of dollars to be pampered, to contemplate their lives and stretch their physical limits, and to learn how to bring health and well-being back with them into their daily lives. Stroot says that many are shocked to find that the low-fat, healthy food they're served at the spa is complex and delicious, and far from unsatisfying.

To their delight, and to the delight of health-conscious food lovers everywhere, Stroot has finally published a collection of the recipes he prepares at the Golden Door in a beautifully designed cookbook. The common theme that links the recipes is a reliance on copious amounts of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. "I'm so inspired by my organic garden at the spa," Stroot says. More than 75 percent of the food served to the guests comes straight from that garden. From the breakfast treats like low-fat muffins and homemade muesli, to elegant appetizers, complex salads, smooth soups, vegetarian main courses, chicken and fish entrées, vegetable side dishes, breads, and tempting desserts, the recipes in The Golden Door Cookbook are flavorful, usually simple to prepare, and amazingly low in fat.

About the Menu

Stroot began the class with a delicious dip he calls eggplant caviar, flavored with cumin, capers, and balsamic vinegar. The eggplants were simply roasted in a hot oven until soft; the flesh was then scooped out and blended with the other ingredients. "Just blend it briefly—you still want some texture," Stroot admonished. He served the dip with crunchy pita chips sprinkled with sesame seeds. "How do we fry without frying at the Door? It's very easy," he said. Stroot separates whole-wheat pita loaves into two halves, cuts each half into wedges, brushes them with egg whites and sprinkles them with sesame seeds, then bakes them on a baking sheet sprayed with Pam for 10 minutes. ("Pam is a good friend," he says. "I use it all the time.")

He uses the same technique with other dishes, like wontons. Next came the surprisingly complex Split Pea and Fresh Pea Soup, topped with a bit of basil. "The secret is to blend the fresh peas in at the last second, and then they keep their fresh flavor and bright green color," Stroot says. Following the soup was a luxurious salad of Quinoa Tabouleh topped with crabmeat and Tofu Thousand Island Dressing. "Quinoa was a staple grain of the Incas, and it's got a wonderful light texture and nutty flavor," Stroot says. He blends it with lots of parsley, scallion greens, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and lemon juice, and the result sparkles with fresh flavors. The silken tofu was undetectable in the Thousand Island dressing, which was piquant with horseradish, chopped cornichons, and shallots. "We use tofu quite a bit at the Door, but we offer it—we don't push it down people's throats."

The elegant main course was a filet of salmon topped with shrimp, both marinated in soy and mirin (sweet sake), then wrapped in beautiful green leaves of savoy cabbage. The cabbage package was served atop an intensely flavored puree of lentils, inspired by the Indian dish called dhal, made with jalapeño peppers, curry spices, cumin, garlic, and ginger. The puree was napped with a complex, sweet-sour ginger sauce flavored with miso, garlic, lime juice, Vietnamese chili sauce, and honey. With each dish on the menu, we drank a refreshing, herbal Sauvignon Blanc from Fortant de France; the dry wine perfectly complemented the fresh and spicy flavors of Stroot's cooking.

The last dish served was dessert—the true test of the talents of any spa cook. Stroot's Apple Pizza passed with flying colors. Freshly made yeast pizza dough, sweetened with just a bit of sugar, was stretched extra-thin into a round, topped with thinly sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and baked until the dough was chewy and crisp and the apples caramelized. A simple apricot glaze brushed on before serving added sheen and sweetness.

Tips From Michael Stroot

  • Put a filter over the top of your olive oil bottle, such as a small square of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, and you'll use less. "When you pour it, it comes out slowly—you'll use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon," Stroot says.
  • "When you multiply the quantities of recipes, it's easier to decrease the fat in your cooking," Stroot says. "You need a teaspoon or two to coat the pan you're cooking in, say to get the kind of sautéing action you want to caramelize onions a bit, but if you're cooking enough food for four or six people, it's negligible." So even if you're just cooking for two, consider making the recipe in its full quantity and saving the extra for leftovers.
  • A good vegetable stock is a great friend in the low-fat kitchen—Stroot counts on it to keep food moist that would otherwise dry out without added fat. "Most people have in the refrigerator all you need to make a vegetable stock—celery, an onion, a carrot, a parsnip or a turnip, a little parsley, a little basil or green onion—you can make a very quick and easy stock. My favorite thing to add is an onion studded with a few cloves—it adds depth and flavor. Simmer it together in water for an hour or so, strain, and that's it."
  • Experiment with revamping favorite recipes using low-fat techniques. "I don't admit this often, but my secret is that I am a great imitator," Stroot says. "I look at a classical recipe and figure out how to do it without the butter, without the fat, without deep frying, and how to do it with less salt, but still have flavor. So what's important? Spices, herbs, lemon juice, fruit juice, garlic, ginger—all that plays into it. The worst thing you can do in spa cooking is to have food turn out dry or flavorless."
  • Cook with the seasons. "You don't have to do much to perfectly fresh ingredients to make them taste great," Stroot says. "Right now, we have the most delicious, sweetest melons in our garden. They're so perfect that many people choose to just have a slice for dessert. It doesn't need anything added to be satisfying."
  • Don't forget, it's possible to eat both for pleasure and for health. "I cook for overall well-being," Stroot says. "I pay attention to nutritional studies, like the ones that show that in countries where a lot of tofu is consumed there's a lower incidence of breast cancer, so I do use more tofu now. But I never forget the flavor."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the renowned Golden Door spa of Escondido, Calif., opened its doors in 1958, its owners could not have anticipated the wide national swing towards low-fat healthy food that would soon be set in motion. So many of the Golden Door's techniques and its California culinary style have been copied over the years that some of the favorite recipes, such as California Rolls or Artichoke and Goat Cheese Pt, will seem familiar to many readers. Recognizable or not, the recipes here are clear, well-written guides to creating healthful, good-tasting and eye-appealing dishes. And Stroot does still have some surprises in store, including Spa Pesto (made with nonfat yogurt in place of oil) and Nonfat Pinto Bean-Oregano Dressing. Desserts are full of clever tricks as well: Spiced Apple Cake substitutes a banana for butter, and Yam-Banana Sorbet is intriguing. Among the stand-out vegetarian selections are Red Lentil and Seven-Grain Veggie Burgers with Grilled Onions, and Spinach-Zucchini-Asparagus Lasagne. Stroot even manages to be lavish with tofu in items like Apple-Lime Tofu Cheesecake. Signature concoctions like the spa's World-Famous Potassium Broth, with which guests refuel after exercise, are included. While the once-radical low-fat gospel of fish, fruit and seasonal produce has become almost an orthodoxy, it's nice to see that, at one of the pioneer venues of healthful cooking, chef Stroot is finding new ways of making good behavior taste delicious.
Library Journal
Recipes using fresh, whole foods are always in demand, and this cookbook offers some of the best from one of the first health spas. Executive chef Stroot presents the recipes in an organized manner with easy-to-follow directions. Though many of the recipes are quite simple to prepare, some fairly complex ones make the cookbook interesting for experienced cooks. Unlike Edward J. Safdie's New Spa Food (Clarkson Potter, 1990), this work includes a detailed nutritional analysis after each recipe. Since a desire for healthy, fresh food is not exclusive to the upscale spa set, this cookbook would be a good addition for any public library. Similar books such as the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites (Clarkson Potter, 1996) exist, but the reputation of The Golden Door and its impending 40th anniversary may create demand for this title. Highly recommended.
—Bonnie Poquette (Appleton Public Library, Wis.)
Buzz Magazine
Next to the daily massages, the best thing about the Golden Door may be the exotic and delicious low-fat food whipped up by Belgian chef Michel Stroot, whose specialties draw on ingredients from the spa's own organic vegetable and fruit gardens.
Gail Zweigenthal
Light and luxurious meet in a tranquil setting at the Golden Door, [including] the delicate and delicious spa cuisine of Chef Michel Stroot.
Gourmet magazine
In Style Magazine
If...the Golden Door is the mother of American luxury spas, its chef, Michel Stroot, must be spa cuisine's favorite son.
Isabel Forgang
Fudgy chocolate hearts, cheesecake with blueberry this spa dieting? It certainly is at the renowned Golden Door. The Door's dapper, Belgian-born executive chef Michel Stroot makes sure that his desserts not only satisfy flavor-wise, but that they limit fat categories.
New York Daily News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553061864
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • Publication date: 9/8/1997
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.33 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Michel Stroot is the executive chef at the Golden Door.  His food has been praised by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Gourmet, and Vogue.  Craig Claiborne, former food editor of the New York Times, has called Chef Stroot "a kitchen genius" and his creations "tantalizing and singularly inspiring." Stroot lives in San Diego, California.

The Golden Door, located in Escondido, California, was founded in 1958 by Deborah Szekely.  Alex Szekely, Deborah's son, is president of the Golden Door and Rancho La Puerta, sister spa to the Door and America's first fitness spa.

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Read an Excerpt

Welcome to the Golden Door.

As you prepare the recipes in this book, I hope you feel as though you have visited me in my kitchen and I have guided you every step of the way. I want you to enjoy preparing these dishes as much as I do. At the Golden Door, we are extremely proud of our food and believe it epitomizes the best of spa cuisine.

Spa cuisine is about fresh, wonderful flavors and foods that are cooked carefully, but simply--never manipulated beyond recognition or drenched in obliterating sauces. It's about selecting the freshest and best fruits and vegetables you can, cooking ocean-fresh fish and free-range poultry. It's also about eating sensibly and healthfully in keeping with the Golden Door philosophy of balance in all things. It's about the pure enjoyment of life.

When guests gather for a revitalizing week of healthful living at our spa, enjoying the food prepared in our kitchen is only one of many pleasures. They also hike, exercise, meditate, relax with daily massages and facials, and socialize in a stress-free environment, surrounded by serene Japanese gardens, gently flowing waterfalls, and quiet ponds. The food, however, is always a highlight as guests look forward to their meals, juice breaks, and snacks. Because so many guests have asked for recipes to take home, I have compiled notebooks full of typewritten versions for copying, but until now have not codified them in a book. The more than two hundred recipes included here do not represent every dish ever served at the Door--but they are some of the best and certainly speak of the overall spirit of the food.

The Spa Kitchen

Many first-time guests are surprisedwhen they encounter my airy, bright kitchen. There are no shelves bulging with bottles of oils, boxes of spices, or packages of pasta and rice. Instead, there are bowls and small bins of grains, potatoes, and legumes on the countertops, and recently picked fruit, squash, and tomatoes from our gardens line the windowsills. A large walk-in refrigerator is piled with baskets of greens, mushrooms, beans, and berries. Because I cook food at its freshest, I do not stockpile large amounts. I rarely rely on packaged food.

A short walk from the kitchen door is an expansive organic garden, with the fruit orchards just beyond. It's not unusual to find me or one of my assistants stooped in the garden a few hours before dinner picking herbs, edible flowers, and lettuces to use that evening. Without question, my kitchen and gardens are a chef's dream of culinary heaven, and I am well aware of how fortunate I am to work in such ideal surroundings. But this does not mean you cannot create your own spa kitchen--on a smaller, more practical scale. And I've tried, with some of my recipes, to give an alternative to a fresh ingredient if you live where the winters are long.

Begin by reading through the recipes, the advice boxes, and the recipe notes. Do not be put off by the long lists of ingredients in some recipes. Each touch of spice and sprig of herb adds immensely to the flavor of the food, so I have not simplified these recipes at all. On the contrary, I have included every ingredient I use at the Golden Door. Do, however, rely on your common sense. If you cannot find a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme, prepare the dish anyway. The same is true of techniques. If you choose not to fire up the grill to make grill marks on a chicken breast or tuna steak, omit the step, but do not omit the recipe from your repertoire.

Stock your pantry with a good variety of spices, vinegars, vegetable oil sprays, olive oils, chili sauces, dried beans, dried fruits, grains, and pastas, and, very soon, the more complex recipes will seem far less overwhelming. Additionally, shop seasonally and buy the freshest food you can find, and you will be well on your way to successful spa cooking. Get into the habit of making stock whenever you have a spare hour or two (vegetable stock in particular) and freeze it in small quantities so that you always have it on hand. It's essential to spa cooking.

Black Bean Dip with Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips

Black beans are the traditional bean to use in this type of dip, but other dried beans, such as pinto or Anasazi, work well too. If you prefer, or if you are serving someone with a wheat intolerance, substitute high-quality corn tortillas for the wheat tortillas.


1/2 cup dried black beans, rinsed, or one 15-ounce can low-sodium black beans, drained and liquid reserved
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash of hot chili sauce
(see page 22), or to taste

Tortilla chips

Four 10-inch whole wheat tortillas (61/2 ounces)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

To make the dip, put the beans in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Set aside for at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Change the water once or twice during soaking. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans in a medium-sized saucepan and add 3 cups of water and the pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender and the water just barely covers the beans. (Add more water if necessary while cooking the beans.) Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside to cool.

Transfer the beans and half the cooking liquid (or half the liquid from the can) to a food processor. Add the garlic, cumin, and chili sauce. Process until coarsely blended. Add more of the bean liquid if necessary to thin the dip. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

To make the chips, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and brush them on both sides with the egg whites. Cut the tortillas into 10 to 12 triangles each and lay the triangles on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the triangles with the sesame seeds. Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Use a metal spatula to loosen any chips that have stuck to the sheet, turn the chips over, and bake for a few more minutes, until golden brown. Lift from the baking sheet and serve warm or at room temperature with the dip.

Per serving:

86 calories
1 g total fat (13% of calories)
0 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
4 g protein (19% of calories)
15 g carbohydrates (69% of calories)
1 g fiber
153 mg sodium

Makes 8 servings

Butternut Squash Soup

This lovely autumnal soup is flavored with orange and garnished with apple slices.

2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups 1-inch slices leeks (white part only; 2 leeks)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onions (2 ounces)
2 carrots, sliced (8 ounces)
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch wedges (4 ounces)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks (2 pounds)
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 cups Vegetable Broth or Chicken Stock, plus more if necessary
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
8 teaspoons nonfat plain yogurt
1 green or red apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (4 ounces)
8 sprigs fresh chervil

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, carrots, apple wedges, squash, thyme, bay leaf, allspice, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the thyme sprig and bay leaf and let the soup cool for 15 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process the soup to a smooth consistency. (This may have to be done in batches.) Return to the pot, stir in the orange juice concentrate, and reheat gently, adjusting the consistency by adding more broth if necessary.

Ladle the soup into heated soup bowls and garnish each with a teaspoon of yogurt, a couple of apple slices, and a sprig of chervil.

Per serving:

141 calories
2 g total fat (10% of calories)
0 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
2 g protein (7% of calories)
29 g carbohydrates
(83% of calories)
3 g fiber
611 mg sodium

Makes 8 servings

Chicken Breasts with Peanut-Ginger-Honey Sauce

Nothing could be easier than these chicken breasts served with an addictive peanut sauce that gives the simple chicken an Asian flair. When making the sauce, double the recipe so you can serve it with cold seafood or chicken salad--but be careful not to eat much more than recommended, as the calories add up quickly.

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cracked Szechwan peppercorns or Thai or Vietnamese chili paste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, fat trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (14 ounces)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips (2 ounces)
5 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced (4 ounces)
1/4 cup Vegetable Broth or water
1 cup broccoli florets (3 ounces)
16 snow peas (2 ounces)
8 baby carrots (4 ounces)
11/2 cups hot cooked brown rice
Peanut-Ginger-Honey Dressing or Sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a small glass or ceramic bowl, whisk together the ginger, oil, tamari, lime juice, and peppercorns. Add the chicken, toss, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no longer than 8 hours.

In a large saucepan or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and any marinade and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until just slightly underdone. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms and stir-fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and scrape up any browned bits sticking to the pan.

Meanwhile, in a steaming basket set over boiling water, steam the broccoli, snow peas, and carrots just until fork-tender.

Spoon the rice onto warmed plates. Spoon the chicken and stir-fried vegetables over the rice and ladle 2 tablespoons of the sauce over each serving. Garnish with the steamed vegetables and cilantro.

Per serving (not including Peanut-Ginger-Honey Dressing or Sauce):

323 calories
7 g total fat (20% of calories)
1 g saturated fat
67 mg cholesterol
30 g protein (37% of calories)
35 g carbohydrates (43% of calories)
2 g fiber
220 mg sodium

Makes 4 servings

Green Apple-Lime-Candied Ginger Sorbet

The candied ginger gives this pretty pale green sorbet an elegant kick of flavor.

4 tart green apples (16 ounces)
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced candied ginger
4 sprigs fresh mint

Peel, core, and thinly slice 3 of the apples. Set the other aside to use as garnish.

In a blender or food processor, combine the apples, apple juice, and lime juice and process until smooth. Add the ginger and pulse just to mix.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.

Thinly slice the remaining apple. Spoon the sorbet into chilled bowls and garnish with the apple slices and mint sprigs.

Per serving:

45 calories
0 g total fat (5% of calories)
0 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
0 g protein (2% of calories)
10 g carbohydrates
(93% of calories)
1 g fiber
5 mg sodium

Makes 8 servings

Note: The sorbet can be kept in the freezer for several days. Let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour (depending on its hardness) before serving. It should be pleasingly soft but not watery.
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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, October 8, welcomed Michel Stroot, author of The Golden Door Cookbook.

Moderator: Chef Michel Stroot is joining us live tonight in the BN Lounge. Chef Stroot is speaking from his home in California. Welcome, Chef Stroot! We're glad you could join us here in the BN Lounge. What are you planning for dinner tonight?

Michel Stroot: A good question. We are doing variation of the same thing. Some chicken breasts with parsnips, some garlic mashed potatoes, and some baby vegetables. To start, a baby-green salad. To drink, because the weather is warm, a drink with pineapple and ice -- a mocktail, we call it.

Katherine from Australia: We have a good supply of fish where I live. What is the best way to cook it? I usually buy fillets and prefer to grill them; can you suggest other ways of cooking that are relatively fat-free?

Michel Stroot: Yes -- it depends on the fish. I love to grill myself. I love to wrap salmon in rice paper with lime and cilantro and poach it for a few minutes in a fish broth. I don't like to poach fish, but I like to bake it whole and then peel off the skin. My book has a lot of different fish recipes fish in a broth, seared scallops.... I love a paella. Here we have all the fresh grains and vegetables. In Australia, a bouillabaisse would be lovely because of the great variety of seafood. Of course, you'll need some saffron for that.

Anne from Maryland: Hi, Michel. Have you eliminated olive oil from your recipes? Is it really that bad for you?

Michel Stroot: No, I would never eliminate olive oil. The amount is so small, I don't have to. I would only recommend eliminating animal fats, like cream and butter. Unless you are really watching your diet, I would add more oil than the recipe calls for -- it's good for you. The fat content in my recipes is low because I need to stay below 20 fat grams.

Lewis from Tex-Ar-Kana: What is The Golden Door known for? Are there certain recipes that are typical of your restaurant? Thanks for taking my question, Michel.

Michel Stroot: Well, The Golden Door has a Japanese theme. We have Japanese gardens and architecture. The Golden Door is known for its organic garden -- I am inspired by what's in the garden. Also, The Golden Door is known for its superlative service -- we have over 140 staff members taking care of 40 guests.

Lysha from I'm assuming you attended culinary school -- where did you go? Also, have you studied the work of any other chefs, or are most of your recipes original?

Michel Stroot: I graduated from the hotel school in Brussels called Ceria, in 1957. And, of course, I had classical French- and Belgian-cooking instruction. I have worked in the kitchen for 45 years, and so have gathered a vast knowledge of international cuisine.

Sujal from Rochester, NY: Why is your restaurant called The Golden Door? Is there any special significance?

Michel Stroot: It's not a restaurant, it's a health resort. The founder of The Golden Door Spa also owns a spa in Mexico. When she came across the border to found The Golden Door, the name seemed to fit because she wanted the best of everything. Believe me, she is very demanding!

Part-Nr from AOL: Help! I have a butternut squash and I don't know what to do with it. Is there anything I can make besides a soup with apples in it? Any suggestions?

Michel Stroot: Yes, of course. Today we are making from the cookbook a butternut-squash flan. It can also be cut in rounds, sprayed lightly, spiced with cinnamon, and baked. Very good for you -- high in beta carotine.

Daryl Hopper from San Francisco: Of all your meals, which is the best low-fat entree that can be prepared for a party of about five in a relatively short time period. Your help is greatly appreciated!

Michel Stroot: If you need to do things in a short time a salad with the balsamic vinaigrette, a lime-ginger dressing, or peanut-ginger-honey dressing. I would cook the grain quinoa -- it takes about 20 minutes -- and I would grill swordfish or salmon or halibut and make a salad of papaya diced up with kiwi, chili, and cilantro. For dessert, if time is really of the element -- why not just a baked apple with some cinnimon and raisins inside and a sauce of mango and lime?

Dr. Rey from Chicago: I am a vegetarian but find that I often have low energy. Can you recommend a low-fat energy booster, or some good alternatives to meat?

Michel Stroot: I believe in combining beans and legumes -- some good chili beans with some rice on the side, maybe some sweet corn and diced carrots, or, if I were looking for some protein I would use tofu or tempe well-marinated in ginger and garlic with balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce. And a crisp vegetable -- maybe some snow peas or asparagus. Radish sprouts or buckwheat sprouts would round it out pretty good.

Shanna from Hot Springs, AK: What inspires you to create new recipes? The seasons? A new spice? How do you keep your recipes healthy and tasty?

Michel Stroot: A broad question.... The first inspiration is curiosity. Pick up the paper when the food section comes out, look at what other chefs do, look into your background. Most of my recipes are inspired by what used to be heavy sauces and creams, but now I've reduced that. Now I use vegetable spray and bake vegetables. I make my sauces not with cream and butter but based on vegetables. Then I can make grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms with garlic and onions, a roasted-pepper sauce, a black-bean sauce, and reductions.

Chana from NYC: Hi, Michel. I'm eager to start cooking with your recipes. What do you think of diets that exclude fats and bulk up on carbos?

Michel Stroot: Well, I don't believe in cutting fat out all together -- oils are a necessary lubricant for your body. Better to use a vegetable oil than an animal source.

Molly from Brooklyn: Chef Stroot, of all your recipes, which is your absolute favorite? I've got your book here, and I'm about to start cooking dinner! Thanks!

Michel Stroot: A good question. The favorites of the guests are the papaya with Maine lobster; a turkey patty with grilled onions; it might sound mundane, but the twice-baked potatoes (and I recommend you make several and wrap them in Saran Wrap or plastic and freeze them); the salmon paupiettes with ginger sauce. As dessert, apple pizza is always popular.

Rory from Florida: Michel, two questionsBefore you put the recipes in this book, did you try out each one?What was your most favorite recipe to create? Thanks again.

Michel Stroot: Yes, we tried each one and we tried every one on the guests -- the guests have tried them all! My favorite recipe must be anything with seafood. Grilled prawns or a bouillabasse, or a great curry. For dessert -- an oatmeal cookie!

Arnie from Glen Ridge, NJ: How much input do you have in planning the garden that's outside The Golden Door? And what can I do with my Hubbard squash this fall?

Michel Stroot: I go over with the head gardener three times a year the seeds that are being planted. As far as the Hubbard squash Stuff it with bulgar wheat, apples, allspice, and apple juice, and bake it whole.

Wendy from Montana: Hello, Michel. What particular challenges did you face in creating a restaurant specializing in spa food? Why did you decide to make spa food your specialty?

Michel Stroot: Well, everything is spa food since I work in a health resort. I've done it for 23 years now, and it's benefited my health and my stamina. One of the key things in spa cooking is to reduce the protein, increase carbohydrates, use a lot of fresh vegetables, and reduce fat in your cooking, using little or no animal fat. Also, reduce the sodium in your cooking.

Eva from Pelham, NY: My son is interested in becoming a chef. What should he do?

Michel Stroot: Well, he should do what I did -- experiment at home first. Try four or six basic recipes first, then read magazines every month and see what sparks your interest.

Mary Ann Carputo from Boston: Any tips for a single woman cooking for herself? I almost feel sometimes it's not worth the bother, but I like to eat healthfully. Thanks for taking my question.

Michel Stroot: I get this often. What you have to do is make some things ahead of time. If you are cooking brown rice, make a lot and freeze it. Lentil soup may also be frozen; when you thaw it, add some freshness, like fresh carrots or tomatoes. When it comes to meat or fish, you just have to buy meticulously. Many people buy too much fresh fruit. Make it a task to make fruit salad -- it will be consumed much faster.

Hana Greenbriar from Bloomfield: What have you found to be the best replacement for butter?

Michel Stroot: Actually, you have to learn to do away with it. High flavor in your foods helps -- fresh herbs, garlic, ginger. I would do entirely without it -- you won't miss it. In soup, many people add butter, but if you have enough fibers blended with broth, you are able to enhance the broth with basil or parsley or chives. It's just as good!

Elke from New York City: What exactly is potassium broth?

Michel Stroot: It's a pick-me-up for the morning. The way I describe the potassium broth is like a fortified V8 juice. Just use leftover vegetables -- a tomato, parsley, mushrooms, carrots, everything left over -- in a pot with water and tomato juice. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for about 40 minutes, and strain it. A great substitute for coffee!

Barry from the stacks: As a chef, you must be inspired by the importance of food and great meals in stories. Do you have any favorite books or literary episodes involving food?

Michel Stroot: I love Thai food -- Daniel Boulud I admire greatly. Also, pan-Asian cooking -- A TASTE OF HAWAII is great.

Billklein from New Jersey: You must have a weakness for some indulgent food -- is there anything you just cannot resist?

Michel Stroot: A good Belgian beer! I consider Belgian beer some of the best in the world.

Mitchell from Columbus: Can you share some anecdotes from your experience with celebrity guests at The Golden Door? Thanks, Michel.

Michel Stroot: Well, we don't name people here. But without naming the person, one guest with a voracious appetite kept leaving The Golden Door in the same direction every day. One day I followed him in the car and caught him at the store eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich!

Stephanie G. from at home in the kitchen: I am trying earnestly to substitute my fatty recipes with low-fat ingredients but have found no good alternative to my mother's hollandaise -- can you help?

Michel Stroot: Yes, my book will help, but here are some hints Use a pan or skillet just large enough to contain what you're cooking, nonstick preferably. Also, always have broth on hand, and when you have sauteed something and you want to keep it moist, keep the lid on and add some vegetables -- that will add moisture to whatever you're cooking. Another rule is to time yourself. The worst thing you can do is bring out dry food!

Moderator: Thanks for feeding us so much appetizing information here tonight. Best wishes for continued success, and goodnight!

Michel Stroot: Thank you! Goodnight and bon appetit -- I have to run back to my kitchen to feed my hungry guests!

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A Recipe from The Golden Door Cookbook

Eggplant Caviar with Pita Chips

This flavorful spread is elegant when served with crisp crudités.

Eggplant caviar

1 large eggplant (1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pita chips

Two 6-inch whole wheat pita breads
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

To prepare the eggplant, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pierce the eggplant in several places with a fork and place in a shallow baking dish. Roast, uncovered, for about 1 hour, or until very soft. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise and, when cool enough to handle, scrape out the pulp. (Leave the oven on.)

In a blender or food processor, pulse the eggplant pulp with the parsley, capers, vinegar, oil, garlic, shallot, cumin, and pepper until just chopped. Transfer to a serving bowl.

To make the pita chips, lightly spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut around the edges of the pita breads and gently separate each one into two rounds. Brush both sides of the pita rounds with the egg whites and cut each round into 10 or 12 triangles. Place on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Bake for 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula, loosen any chips that are sticking to the baking sheet, turn the chips over, and bake for about 5 minutes longer, or until the chips are crisp and golden.

Arrange the chips around the eggplant caviar and serve.

Per serving:
72 calories
2 g total fat (26% of calories)
0 g saturated fat
0 mg cholesterol
3 g protein (18% of calories)
10 g carbohydrates (57% of calories)
1 g fiber
91 mg sodium

Makes 8 servings

Note: You can bake the pita chips 1 to 2 hours before serving, but be sure to store them in a dry place.

Excerpted from The Golden Door Cookbook, by Michel Stroot, copyright © 1997 by Golden Door. Excerpted by permission.

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