'Rocco's Dinner Party' Recap: Perfect Summer Parties Done Light

Julie Ryan Evans

Rocco's Dinner PartyBesides being one big plug for one of Rocco DiSpirito's cookbooks, Rocco’s Dinner Party tonight was both entertaining and full of useful tips when it comes to cooking low-fat, low-calorie fare. The theme was “the perfect summer party,” and each of the contestants had to prepare three courses that each contained no more than 350 calories and 10 grams of fat.

While I'm pretty consistent about watching fat and calories in the daily meals I prepare for my family, when it comes to entertaining, I usually throw all restraint out the window ... and all sorts of butter in. So it was nice to see dinner parties done light and done well.

The final two competing chefs -- Jen and Ryan -- were as different as they could be. Ryan was a seasoned professional who didn't break a sweat cooking his dishes. Jen was a jittery mess of nerves -- dropping things, yelling at waiters, and frankly just being pretty annoying. But they both cooked up some impressive dishes that no one would have suspected were low in fat or calories.

Among the guests that arrived was comedian Jeff Ross who provided some laughs as well as headaches for the chefs. At the last minute he told them he didn't like what they were cooking and needed something else (in so many words). So the chefs scrambled to do even more cooking. Incidentally, the two dishes they made to accommodate him were among the favorites of the night -- a chicken salad using no mayonnaise but low-fat yogurt as a dressing instead from Ryan, and a matzo brie (kind of like a frittata using matzo bread) from Jen that wowed the crowd, especially Ross.

Ryan's dinner flowed seamlessly, and he served mostly seafood -- seared sea scallops with tomato and watermelon salad, poached cod, and a strawberry balsamic parfait for dessert. Then came Jen in like a tornado, tearing through the kitchen, but got the job done and the food on the table -- shrimp (as a last-minute substitute for her scallops she said tasted "like shoe leather"), BBQ pork tenderloin with rice and beans, and a trifle made with passion fruit mousse.

In the end, Rocco toasted Jen as the winner, which surprised no one more than Jen herself. As much as she made me nervous and I wouldn't want to cook anywhere near her, I would have rather been at her party, so she seemed like the just winner -- and at last, the first female to win on the show.

Dishes I'd most like to replicate from this show: the chicken salad with yogurt dressing, and the rice and beans Jen made using low-fat chicken sausage for flavor. As always, I'm ravenous after this show, and would like to go make them right now.

Do you attempt to limit calories and fat in your cooking?

Image via bravotv.com

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