04_05_FCI_Healthy_Cooking.jpgThe French Culinary Institute's Salute to Healthy Cookingby Alain Sailhac, Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner, and Jacques Torres (Rodale, 1998)

Gothamist knows all about the "French paradox" and that "French women don't get fat." But what we did not know was that New York City's French Culinary Institute has done a "healthy cooking" cookbook that takes traditional high-fat, calorically dense French fare and tweaked it to cut excess fat and calories (while supposedly leaving the flavor intact). Written by four French chefs affiliated with the FCI (including NYC chocolatier Jacques Torres), the book covers various seasonal recipes after providing an initial "Mastering the Basics" introduction.

Gothamist chose the tuna tapenade recipe from the "Menus for Easy Entertaining" section because it sounded so, well, easy. And fast. The hardest part was getting to the store to purchase the couple ingredients we didn't already have on hand (watercress and fresh mint). We did substitutions on a few of the other ingredients (low-fat plain yogurt for non-fat mayo, low-fat cream cheese for non-fat cream cheese) and the dish turned out beautifully.

The brightness of flavor brought about by the lemon juice, capers, and mint complemented the creamy texture of the cheese and tuna. Our friends were very impressed with our creation and hadn't a clue as to how easy it was to whip up.

So next time you're entertaining at home and want to give your guests a dip besides hummus or guacamole, give this tapenade a try.

04_05_tuna_tapenade.jpgTUNA TAPENADE

1 can (3 1/2 oz.) tuna packed in water, well-drained
1/4 cup nonfat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons nonfat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
freshly ground white pepper
1 cup watercress leaves
1/2 cup chopped scallions, including the green parts
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, well-drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the tuna, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and pepper. Process until well-blended. Add the watercress, scallions, capers, and mint. Pulse until well-blended.

Serve with crackers, celery sticks, toasted pita triangles, or any cocktail tidbit you like.