by Patty Seebeck

Americans rarely stop to wonder why they enjoy cr & egrave;me brulee or hot apple pie. A short tutorial with Chef Robert Lombardi, of the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy, reveals those well-established traditions.

"Each dessert created should be a combination of textures blended to excite the palette. Cold espresso ice cream placed in a crisp waffle cone and topped with fresh raspberries is designed very intentionally," says Chef Lombardi, revealing his craft secrets. "Cr & egrave;me brulee is stimulating to eat because of the cool custard's contrast to the burned caramelized top."

Chef Lombardi has been exciting diners' palates for more than 25 years. He landed his first job, at age 22, as executive chef of the Eugene Country Club in Oregon. "I've come a long way since then," he says, roaring in laughter. "One night, I had an order for a gluten-free dessert and proudly sent out rice cakes with fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar." He goes on to explain it promptly came back to the kitchen refused. Thus began Chef Lombardi's humbled search to delight diners with special needs.

Grant money I've received through the Heart Institute at Sacred Heart Medical Center has allowed Chef Lombardi and me to blend our areas of expertise and create desserts for the home chef that are exciting yet healthier. "The same principles and techniques can be applied to healthy cuisine" shares Chef Lombardi. "Warm apple crisp, served in individual ramekins, with a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt, can be just as rewarding at the end of a meal."

The following desserts are examples of our delicious healthier creations. See if you can identify the blends of textures that excite the palate.

Vanilla Pots de Cr & egrave;me Fresh Berries with Lemon Thyme Tuile

Vanilla Pots de Cr & egrave;me

4 large eggs

4 oz date sugar

4 oz dark rice syrup

1 tsp vanilla

24 oz skim milk

12 oz fresh berries

Combine eggs, sugar, syrup and vanilla. Scald milk in sauce pan and add to egg mixture. Place 2 oz of fresh berries in 6 oz custard cups, fill with custard mixture. Place custard cups in water bath and bake at 325 degrees until set, about 45 minutes. Cool under refrigeration. Yield: 6 (5 oz) portions

Lemon Thyme Tuile

1 oz butter

1 oz powdered sugar

1 oz egg white

1.5 oz cake flour

zest of 1 lemon

fresh thyme

Cream all ingredients together. Add lemon zest and fresh thyme to taste. Spread thin onto parchment paper, then bake at 350 degrees until light brown. Add 1 T whipped cream sweetened with date sugar to top of cooled custard and garnish with Tuile. Yield: 8

Nutrition Facts: 308 calories, 7g fat, 19 percent calories from fat

Caramelized Pineapple with

Beet Sorbet, Blackberry Sauce and Beet Syrup

16 oz fresh pineapple

12 oz orange juice

4 oz brown rice syrup

4 oz date sugar

Peel, quarter and core a fresh pineapple, cook to fork-tender in orange juice. With brush, apply a coating of brown rice syrup to all sides of the cooked pineapple. Roll a layer of date sugar onto the pineapple and bake to a golden color in a 350-degree oven, remove and cool.

Beet Sorbet

16 oz fresh beets

32 oz orange juice

Remove outer later of fresh beets. Cook to fork tender in orange juice; remove beets and cool. Reduce the beet and orange juice, cooking liquid to a syrup consistency. Puree the beets in a food processor. Place half the beet and orange syrup with the beets and churn-freeze in a professional ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Save half the beet syrup for dessert presentation. Yield: eight 2-oz servings

Blackberry Sauce

2 pints fresh blackberries

4 oz dark rice syrup

2 oz date sugar

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot, boil and strain out the seeds for plate presentation.

Yield: six 2-oz servings

Nutrition Facts: 342 calories, & lt;1g fat, 2 percent of calories from fat

Chefs who are trying to meet diners' dietary needs should never leave those diners feeling deprived. Even a simple bowl of fruit can have one twill cookie for the added crunch and height, then drizzled with a warm fruit flamb & eacute; for added color, flavor and warmth," says Chef Lombardi.

The notably fewer calories of each of these desserts also proves that desserts do not need to be high-calorie to be excellent.

Patty Seebeck is the nutrition services coordinator for the Heart Institute of Spokane.

Publication date: 06/02/05

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