A heartfelt meal for the harried

FASTLANE FEAST

February 13, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Do you know what your menu is?

OK. So you aren't as organized as you thought you would be when you pledged you would make a romantic Valentine meal for the man or woman of your dreams. Right now you wish you had made reservations instead of promises.

No need to panic. Forget a trip to the gourmet takeout on the way home from work. Just relax and change your thinking. A great meal for a special someone doesn't have to take a lot of time and effort. The right Rx is a Fast- lane Feast that is high on flavor and short on preparation in the kitchen so you can have plenty of time to share a good bottle of champagne and cuddle up by the fire.

The following menu is heartfelt in many ways. It is designed to be as low calorie and low fat as possible without sacrificing flavor. Not only is this a menu that can win your lover's heart, you could serve it to the Surgeon General without shame.

Start with the saffron rice. Then put the chicken under the broiler while you make the sauce and start the squash. Serve champagne with the meal and

finish with a bowl of mixed berries topped with low-fat yogurt.

Items you should have in your pantry include: spray olive oil, Pernod, garlic, green onions, salt and pepper, dried basil, olive oil, rice, yellow onion, margarine, chicken bouillon cubes and saffron.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

*4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

*2 large tomatoes

*1 bulb fresh fennel

*1 medium yellow squash

*1 medium zucchini

*berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

*1 container plain low-fat yogurt

# *1 bottle champagne

Chicken with tomato and fennel sauce Makes 4 servings.

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

spray olive oil

1 tablespoon Pernod

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

3 green onions, including tops, sliced fine

2 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 bulb fresh fennel, cut into julienne strips about 1 inch long

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Place rack about 4 inches from the broiler element. Broil chicken breasts until they are still juicy but no longer pink inside, about 6 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, spray non-stick pan with olive oil. Add Pernod and heat on high until bubbling. Turn down to medium high and saute the garlic and onion until soft. Add chopped tomatoes, fennel and seasonings and bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat, cover and allow to simmer until the chicken breasts are done.

Mediterranean squash Makes 4 servings.

1 medium yellow squash

1 medium zucchini

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

Put squash and zucchini in a food processor and chop fine.

Heat olive oil until smoking in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until essence is released, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add squash and seasonings and heat about 3 to 4 minutes.

Saffron rice Makes 4 servings.

1/3 cup chopped yellow onion

1 to 2 tablespoons margarine

1 cup white rice

2 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron

Saute onion in the margarine until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir, cooking just long enough to coat the rice. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, add the bouillon cubes and stir. Turn heat down to low. Remove about 1/4 cup of the liquid and add saffron, allowing to steep about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cover the pan and simmer, adding the saffron mixture when steeped.

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