Marinating 101

Marinades add big flavor and very few calories.
Marinating 101

Marinades, seasoned liquids that foods are soaked in to add flavor, are friends to the weight conscious, adding flavor without racking up calories. Because only a small amount of the marinade is actually absorbed (most of it remains in the container) marinating is a very smart way to make a healthy dinner.

Winning Combinations
Marinades are composed of three parts: an acidic liquid, oil (to help coat and keep things moist) and seasonings. The details are up to you: Pick a liquid—citrus or tropical fruit juice, tomato juice, soy sauce, vinegar, wine, buttermilk, yogurt—and use about 3/4 cup for 2 pounds of meat (but don't sweat the proportions—you can't ruin anything). Next, whisk in 2 teaspoons of oil. Finally, build flavor with herbs, spices, onions or garlic.

This is a great opportunity to use some of those dried spices on your spice rack, but remember that simple is often best. Choose one predominant flavor you want the food to taste like, such as lemon, soy sauce or jalapeños, and pair it with others that will complement, not compete with, it.

Tasty tip: A little honey, molasses or brown sugar will add sweetness and caramelize during cooking.

Think globally.
Need a few suggestions to get you going? When the Caribbean beckons, go for steak in mango nectar. Swordfish or tuna say Sicily: Try crushed tomatoes and black olives. Lamb kebobs, a Middle Eastern staple, call for plain yogurt with mint and cumin. Your trip to the French countryside is the spark for bathing chicken in a lemon-tarragon concoction. So spin the globe and marinate away!

Here are three marinade examples that we cooked up:

1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp molasses
1" piece ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp roasted peanut oil

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

3/4 cup lime juice
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded, chopped plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

How to Marinate
Put meat in a freezer bag or other airtight container and whisk marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Add marinade to meat. Seal the bag or container, pressing out all the air, and place on a plate on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator; turn occasionally. For even more flavor, bring marinade to a boil after removing meat, then use as a basting or dipping sauce. (Never re-use a meat marinade for any purpose without boiling first.)

Marinating Times
Seafood: 15 minutes to 1 hour
Chicken: 1 to 6 hours
Beef, lamb and pork: 4 to 24 hours
Vegetables, cheese and tofu: 30 minutes