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The Best Light Recipe Hardcover – March 1, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Plated: Weeknight Dinners, Weekend Feasts, and Everything in Between by Elana Karp
"Plated" by Elana Karp
Recipes for food adventures, quick weeknight dinners, or reinventing leftovers for the home cook with a busy, modern lifestyle. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an ongoing effort to bring readers the flakiest pie crusts and the most tender of meat loafs, the mad scientists at Cook's Illustrated subject recipes to endless tests in order to find out exactly how much cream the perfect corn chowder requires or how much salt the perfect veal roast needs. In this cookbook, they turn their attention to light versions of their favorite recipes, using the same trial-and-error method to devise healthier finished products. The recipes in this book are middle-American classics such as Chicken Pot Pie, Crab Cakes and Spaghetti and Meatballs. For the most part, these dishes taste as luxurious as their full-fat siblings-the pot pie is tender and creamy, the crab cakes are dense with lump crabmeat and the spaghetti and meatballs are hard to stop eating. Even desserts are terrific, although the authors confess they found it impossible to come up with light versions of apple crisp or yellow cake that would meet Cook's Illustrated standards, so those recipes were omitted. Still, their efforts were well-rewarded with rich Peanut Butter Cookies and moist Chocolate Sheet Cake. They even worked their miracles on Cheesecake, testing 28 recipes before coming up with a silken, light version as addictive as the real thing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap

A light recipe you make only once isn’t very helpful. Tofu lasagna and brownies made with prune puree might sound interesting, but one taste and you’ll likely go back to your favorite high-fat recipe. Eating sensibly is a more reasonable plan. But night after night of plain broiled chicken breasts and steamed brown rice is not very appealing either. No wonder most cooks stick with the recipes they know—that work and taste great—fat and calories be damned. At America’s Test Kitchen, we think food should taste good. Otherwise, what’s the point? Before starting this book, our goal was simple: Develop lighter recipes that we’d actually want to serve in our homes. We readily admit that we are not experts on diet or health, but our test kitchen knows how to make good food. After testing thousands of recipes, here’s what we learned. A lot of "light" recipes are shockingly bad. Gimmicks (like cookies so small they’re gone in a single bite), odd ingredients (many nonfat dairy products are so awful they will ruin otherwise decent recipes), and flawed techniques (chicken sautéed in cooking spray scorches easily) are the rule, not the exception. In general, we found that successful light cooking often requires new cooking methods in order to produce workable recipes that anyone would want to make more than once. Do you like the flavor and crunch of fried foods, such as eggplant Parmesan and fried chicken, but not all the fat and calories? We came up with a novel method for putting a crisp coating on foods: First, toast the bread crumbs in a bit of oil in a hot skillet before using them to coat the food; second, bake the breaded food on a wire rack set over a baking sheet so that it becomes crisp all over. Using this technique, we removed half the fat from these recipes without compromising their crispy, crunchy appeal. How do restaurant chefs make sauces taste so good? Butter and cream are the easy answers. But we found that when napping a seared chicken cutlet in a sauce you can make something almost as good by replacing the butter with light cream cheese and the cream with milk. Sounds suspicious, but our tasters had a hard time telling the difference between the original and our lightened version. Desserts presented the biggest challenge for our test kitchen. We weren’t willing to settle for some facsimile of cheesecake or to forgo the richness of a traditional brownie or chocolate Bundt cake. For us to deem a recipe successful, it had to come close to the real deal. In fact, after developing many of these recipes, we organized a tasting in which we pitted our recipes against full-fat versions and other low-fat versions. The result? Some of our most experienced tasters thought our light versions were full fat. In our chocolate desserts, we found ways to cut the fat by replacing some of the chocolate with cocoa powder (which has very little fat) and then blooming the cocoa in hot water to release its full flavor. To make our creamy, silky New York cheesecake (pictured on the front cover), we used a combination of yogurt cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, and light cream cheese and fooled everyone on our tasting panel. But we did have some failures. Our attempts to remove substantial amounts of fat from pie crust failed. Sometimes there is just no substitute for butter. Rather than offering a disappointing light recipe for pie crust, we’ve simply left this recipe out of the book. In such cases, our philosophy is, make the real thing or do without. In The Best Light Recipe, you’ll be able to chart our progress, recipe by recipe, as we describe everything we tried and explain what worked and what didn’t. Core technique boxes such as "Sweat Vegetables and Slash Fat" and "Give It Some Juice, and Reduce" will give you ideas for cooking healthier for a lifetime, while no-nonsense ingredient boxes give you the lowdown on that confusing array of low-fat, no-fat, and "lite" products, from "reduced-fat" mayonnaise to "light" peanut butter to "fat-free" cheddar cheese. Best of all, this book gives you 300 foolproof light recipes that won’t let you down. Whether you want to eat light from time to time, or every day, you needn’t skimp on flavor ever again.

Founded in 1980, Cook’s Illustrated magazine is renowned for its near-obsessive dedication to finding the best methods of American home cooking. The editors of Cook’s Illustrated are also the authors of a best-selling series of cookbooks (The Best Recipe series) and a series of companion books to the America’s Test Kitchen public television show (which reaches 2.9 million viewers per episode). Filmed in America’s Test Kitchen (a 2,500-square-foot test kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts), the show features editors, test cooks, equipment testers, science experts, and food tasters from the magazine’s staff.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cook's Illustrated; 1st edition (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936184973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936184975
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Renee Gleason on April 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book isn't quite 4 stars, in my opinion, but alas, no fractions...

Let me start by saying I'm a HUGE fan of Cook's Illustrated. I subscribe to their magazines and their website, I watch their PBS show "America's Test Kitchen" and I own several of their books. What I love about CI is their scientific and educational approach to cooking and baking. They never throw a recipe at you and expect you to go at it blindly. All their recipes are prefaced with a detailed write-up of their test kitchen trials and tribulations...they painstakingly test every single recipe and they take you along for the ride. What you get in the process is not just a "recipe", but a deep understanding of why a recipe works, and with it a better understanding of cooking and/or baking in general. You will definitely improve your skills in the kitchen if you are exposed to CI.

With all that being said, it is no surprise that I eagerly anticipated the release of this book. It didn't take long, however, for my enthusiasm to wane. My biggest problem with this book is its one-dimensional approach to "lighten" recipes. By that I mean CI's main focus in this venture was on lowering fat and/or calories, but does not pay enough attention to other problem diet busters, like sugar and bad carbohydrates. I am not proposing that CI should have made this book "low carb", but a marriage of low fat/good carbohydrates would have been a more practical approach, especially given what we have learned about nutrition in the past few years. The inclusion of more whole grains would have been a much healthier approach. There are so many tasty whole grain alternatives these days to choose from, like brown basmati rice instead of white, or whole wheat pita bread in place of white.
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Format: Hardcover
Recently, I found myself in a quandry.

I found I couldn't cook worth a damn. I mean, up-in-smoke not-even-the-dog-would-touch-it bad. Bad, bad, bad.

I naturally blame my husband for this problem, because I had been a really great cook when I met him. But through the years of his working for restuarants (at night, of course) and having kids, I got out of the habit. So when he finally started showing up at the dinnertable, the fare had become dramatically worse. Actually, aside from macaroni and cheese, it seriously stank.

Enter my need to re-educate myself. That's when I bought my copy of the Best New Recipe. I had known, from a newlywed subscription of Cook's Illustrated that Christopher Kimball and his team left no asparagus unturned when it came to cooking. I remembered an article on how to steam broccoli. Seriously--they tried every single way up to and including any ridiculous folk tale to find out the best way to steam broccoli. These were the people I needed. Not to mention they covered the consumer end of it too--rating everything from apples to bacon and every concievable kitchen gadget known to man. Their contribution to the frugal at heart is immeasurable when it comes to what the best buy is for your money. Really, they are the Scrubbing Bubbles of cookbook writers: do the work so you don't have to.

The Cook's Illustrated people being who they are, let me tell you, they don't care about anything but taste. And when I started losing weight, the New Best Recipe was, basically, unusable for me except for techniques. That's when I discovered that they had finally caved in and wrote a low-fat tome. I immediately went out and got it. And I like it tremendously.
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Format: Hardcover
Determined to create a lower fat cookbook which puts taste first, America's Test Kitchen, in conjunction with Cook's Illustrated magazine, assigned two dozen cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware specialists to the task. Creating a play-by-play diary for each recipe, the Test Kitchen describes the low-fat ingredients and combinations of ingredients they tried for each recipe, their experiments with cooking methods, and their results, including the reasons for rejecting all but the final recipe.

The end results are sensational. Here you can indulge in lower-fat macaroni and cheese, cheesy chicken enchiladas, guacamole, eggplant parmesan, and fudgy brownies. In fact, if they hadn't shown the fat content and calories for a standard recipe beside the content of their improved, low-fat version, you would not be able to tell by taste that most of these recipes reduce the amount of fat by about 65%. The creamy macaroni and cheese reduces the fat by an amazing 78%.

The centerpiece of the cookbook is the cheesecake, which appears on the cover. It does require steps--easy ones--taken in advance, but none of these steps are time-consuming, and the end results are worth it. Since the Test Kitchen made 28 cheesecakes before developing the final recipe, I followed the instructions exactly when I made it this week for Easter. The directions said to bake for one and a half hours, "or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the cheesecake reads 150 degrees," a specific instruction that I've never seen for a cheesecake before, but it worked, with one of our guests declaring the results to be the best cheesecake she's ever eaten (and I agree).
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