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Healthy Eating: Shrimp toasts get 'fried' crunch without fat

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In this image taken on January 14, 2013, baked sesame shrimp toasts are shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Chinese New Year is the sort of new year celebration I love.

Because, unlike the Western tradition of big blowout parties, Chinese New Year is a time to get together with family, to give thanks for what you have, to retire your grudges and to look forward to a year of peace and happiness. In that way, I think of it much as I do Thanksgiving.

It's in the spirit of Chinese New Year (which this year starts Feb. 10) that I've reconfigured one of my favorite dim sum dishes — shrimp toasts. Not familiar with dim sum? Think of it as Chinese tapas, or small plates of food. Traditionally, shrimp toasts are made of chopped or ground shrimp seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions and rice wine. This mixture then is mounded onto little toasts and deep-fried. The result is creamy on top, crispy on the bottom, and richly flavorful through and through.

Like everyone else on the planet, if it's fried, I love it. In this case, though, I was hoping to get the crunch of frying without the fat.

I did a bunch of research and discovered that while the toast in this dish usually is made of plain, old white bread, sometimes it's swapped out for a slice of baguette. Eureka! Since baguettes become wonderfully crunchy when baked, I figured that that was how — without frying — I could conjure the crunchiness necessary for this recipe.

But then I worried that the shrimp mixture would dry out during baking. It needed protection, or some sort of coating. That's when I reached for one of my favorite stealth ingredients — mayonnaise. It makes a terrific glaze. I spiked low-fat mayo with some sesame oil and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and, sure enough, it did the trick. The shrimp topping stayed creamy.

Chef Sara Moulton is a contributing writer to the Associated Press.

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Baked Sesame Shrimp Toasts

Start to finish: 40 minutes (20 minutes active)

32 diagonally sliced 12-inch-thick baguette slices

Nonstick cooking spray

12 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 large egg white

2 12 teaspoons sake, Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 12 teaspoons hot sauce

1 12 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided

Heaping 14 teaspoon kosher salt

14 teaspoon sugar

1 can (4 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped (about 14 cup)

14 cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Spritz the bread slices on both sides with cooking spray. Bake them on the oven's middle shelf for 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven, turn over each slice, then set aside. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the shrimp, egg white, sake, ginger, garlic, hot sauce, 12 teaspoon sesame oil, salt and sugar. Puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the water chestnuts and green onions.

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Mound a rounded tablespoon of the shrimp mixture on top of each toast and spread it evenly over the toast. Brush the top of each mound with some of the mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake on the oven's middle shelf for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the shrimp mixture is just cooked through. Serve hot.

Makes 32 toasts.

Nutrition information per toast: 120 calories (20 calories from fat), 2 grams fat (0 saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 260 milligrams sodium

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