By Dr. Kevin Derus Special to Published Jul 11, 2007 at 6:46 PM

It’s typically an oxymoron to mention the words "healthy" and "buffet" in the same sentence. The lone exception to this rule may be the vegetarian buffet at Casablanca, 728 E. Brady St.

After several visits and an interview with the chef, I truly believe you can enjoy a great buffet at a reasonable price with very few calories. It definitely adheres to the Mediterranean diet.

The fat content of the various foods is quite low and the fats used are typically poly and monounsaturated with large amounts of omega 3’s.  The challenge, as it is at most buffets, is to only go through the line once. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds since the majority of us love a great deal, and have that inert “urge to splurge” for a mere $6.95.

The buffet starts with a homemade hot sauce followed by olives, pickles and turnips. The hot sauce came in handy by spicing up a few of the dishes, especially the lentil soup. Next were a variety of salads.

The Jerusalem salad was particularly tasty. It consisted of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, mint leaves, green pepper, garlic and a small amount of olive oil.  An excellent combination of healthy flavors.

Another standout was the tebulah salad. The main ingredient in this salad is bulgar. Bulgar a wheat grain extremely high in fiber, protein, omega 3’s and low in calories. The Tebulah starts by soaking the bulgar overnight, then combining it with olives, green pepper, parsley, lemon and olive oil. Slightly tart but tasty.

Next was a cucumber yogurt salad, which combined cucumbers, green peppers, olive oil and homemade yogurt. The lentil soup mentioned earlier was outstanding and quite healthy. It starts with lentils in vegetable broth to which is added cumin, curry, allspice, and nutmeg. The soup was delicious as is, but the flavor was enhanced (as was the temperature in my mouth) by adding the homemade hot sauce. A real Mediterranean treat.

Next was the babaghnnoj. It consisted of baked eggplant, to which is added garlic, green  pepper, lemon, salt and tahini sauce (tahini is the oil extract from sesame seeds). This was an excellent combination of flavors and made a great entrée. Also in the buffet was mehluhah.  (basmati rice, carrots, cauliflower, water -- boiled to remove chlorine -- and vegetable oil). This one has a few extras calories with the rice so eat only a small portion. Another entrée was the sweet carrots. This one had carrots, garlic, honey, various spices baked in vegetable butter. Green tea is a great accompayment to a very healthy meal. One could also take the meal to the next Mediterranean level by having a glass of Cuvee du President Vin D’Algerie. A full-bodied red wine full heart healthy of antioxidants.

Chef Jesse Musa is a delightful gentleman who is clearly passionate about his food. He frequently changes items on the buffet to keep it interesting. To repeat, the challenge is to not overindulge and limit yourself to one trip through the line. Bon apetite!!!!

Health tip: Make hummus a part of your daily diet. It’s made of ground chickpeas with spices and olive oil. Great for a mid-morning snack. Skip the candy bar or potato chips and dip fresh carrots or yellow bell peppers into a spicy 3-pepper hummus. Your heart and bathroom scale will appreciate it … 

Dr. Kevin Derus Special to

Dr. Kevin Derus is a Board Certified Emergency Physician staffing the new Aurora Urgent Care Center at 946 N Van Buren St. in downtown Milwaukee. He is also an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. He completed his undergraduate training at UW Eau Claire, and then attended Medical School at the Medical College of WI in Milwaukee. He completed his specialty training in Emergency Medicine in Akron OH.

Born and raised in Madison, he now resides in Hartland with his wife, Vicki and two sons, Nate and Nick. His interests include dining, exercise, snow skiing, water-skiing, fishing, Packers and Badgers Football, scuba diving, golf, travel and music. He is a singer/songwriter and does the lead singing in Madison's classic rock band Axle Grease.

Dr. Derus has been a confirmed foodie since 1985, always looking for new and interesting cuisines. As a partner in the Aurora Health and Wellness Initiative, he now works out five days a week and seeks great food that is delicious, as well as nutritious. What could be better than eating scrumptious food, while keeping an eye on one's cholesterol and waistline?