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Where There's Smoke There's Flavor

By David Mendosa

Last Update: March 5, 2001

If you need to watch what you eat, pretty soon it can become the same ol' same ol', as my mother-in-law always says. Maybe that's why more than one-third of all the people in this country with diabetes report that they aren't following any diet.

‘Food boredom is my enemy. Smoking is like having a whole other cabinet of spices.’
  Deborah Chud in The Boston Globe, Sept. 29, 1999.

Strange, isn't it? Diabetes is after all, as the government says, "a disorder of metabolism—the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy."

Could it be that one-third of us are bored with a good diet? Actually, I would guess that the proportion is even larger.

It is difficult to keep your recipes interesting, especially if you are cutting way back on saturated fat. Starting with the freshest ingredients, like those you find in your local farmers market, will make your work a lot easier. The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps the master list of farmers markets online at

Spices certainly go a long way toward keeping your food interesting. Penzeys Spices, a retail chain and mail-order house in the Midwest that has successfully converted to the Web (at Penzeys Spices), offers the biggest and best selection I've found anywhere.

How to Win the Flavor War
But without special equipment you aren't going to win the flavor war. For example, there's nothing like the flavor and texture of salmon, which is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, when it is cooked on a Chinook Plank. If cooking on a piece of wood in your oven sounds unlikely but interesting, see .

The special equipment that I turn to the most is a Camerons stovetop smoker, the one most widely available. While homemade smokers also work, they may severely blacken the inside and outside of the pot you use.

Deborah Chud was the one who turned me on to the Camerons stovetop smoker. She is the author of The Gourmet Prescription: High Flavor Recipes for Lower Carbohydrate Diets, which I previously reviewed for DiabetesWebSite, which is no longer on-line. However, you can now find the article at .

"The stovetop smoker has revolutionized my cooking, and I cannot imagine life without it," Deborah writes in her book. "I consider it the most efficient low-fat, flavor-enhancing device in the world. With the stovetop smoker I have revitalized classic recipes that I had set aside out of boredom or concerns about excess fat."

I've been testing the stovetop smoker for several months. Using recipes in Deborah's book and others included with the smoker, I've put it through its paces, testing vegetables from green peppers and tomatoes and meat from fish to chicken.

The Tastiest Chana Dal Recipe
Deborah's recipe for "Chana Dal with Smoked Tomatoes and Cauliflower" is the tastiest recipe I know of for that wonderful bean. It does have 13 ingredients, making it "full of ingredients," as Lucy would say.

Most other smoking recipes have far fewer ingredients. The recipe for smoked bell peppers, for example, has just one ingredient.

My favorite stovetop smoker recipe is one I devised. It has only three ingredients:

Thaw 7 skinless, boneless chicken thigh fillets (purchased frozen from Costco), squeeze fresh lemon over each and season with rosemary. Using 1 tablespoon of cherry wood chips, cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. The result is incredibly juicy, tender, and flavorful.

The original stovetop smokers weren't large enough to hold more than one trout and were made of galvanized metal, says Chris Malone, the owner and founder of Camerons Professional Smoking Products in Colorado Springs. He developed the modern smoker and converted it to stainless steel.

The current model, released late last year, is 3 1/2 inches high, 11 inches wide, and 15 inches long. It is made with heavier gauge stainless steel, making it less likely to move when hot. The bottom is also now corrugated, giving it several advantages over earlier models, including a reduction of any tendency of the base to distort.

The price has also been reduced and is now $49.50. You can order one by calling toll-free (888) 766-9974.

Deborah tells me that her next book will be about stovetop smoking. Considering how good that anyone can make food taste with one of these cookers and how great her first book was, the new book is bound to be a winner. I'll let you know here when it's available. 

Recipe Link
Chana Dal with Smoked Tomatoes and Cauliflower,

This article appeared originally on the, which is no longer on-line.

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