Light foods are fit for company dinner, and new cookbook provides the recipes

February 09, 1992|By Gerald Etter | Gerald Etter,Knight-Ridder News Service

Healthful eating and entertaining are compatible, as aptly proved by Martha Rose Shulman in "Entertaining Light: Healthy Company Menus With Great Style" (Bantam, $25).

When it comes to preparing light menus, Ms. Shulman is no lightweight. She is the award-winning author of "Mediterranean Light" (Bantam) and a number of cookbooks dealing with ways to prepare fine dishes without indulging in calorie-laden foods.

In her new book, she points the way to low-fat entertaining. In throwing a party, she writes, why not treat your guests to dishes that are both delicious and low-fat? Dishes that everybody can enjoy?

And when Ms. Shulman says low-fat, she does not mean frilly food without substance. "Everyone always leaves my dinner parties sated," she says. "But nobody wakes up with a food hangover."

4( Here are some recipes from the book:

Potato gratin with rosemary

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 large garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise

1 teaspoon unsalted butter or olive oil

3 to 3 1/2 pounds small russet potatoes, skins left on or peeled, sliced about 1/4 -inch thick

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 1/2 to 4 cups skim milk (enough to cover potatoes)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rub the inside of a large oval gratin dish all over with the cut side of the garlic, and brush with the butter or olive oil. Rub again with the garlic, and slice the garlic thin.

Toss potatoes with garlic and rosemary. Place in an even layer in the gratin dish. Beat together eggs and milk; add salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Pour over potatoes.

Place in the middle of the heated oven, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Every 20 minutes or so, remove the casserole from the oven, and break up the top layer of potatoes that is getting dry and crusty, using a wooden spoon or a knife. Give the potatoes a stir, and return to the oven.

When the potatoes are tender and the gratin is beginning to color, sprinkle on the Parmesan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until a golden-brown crust has formed on the top. Remove from oven, and serve.

Roast chicken with rosemary and morels

Makes 4 servings.

1 ounce (1 cup) dried morels

1 free-range roasting chicken, about 3 pounds

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a small amount for the baking dish

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 fresh rosemary sprigs

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Place the morels in a bowl, and pour on boiling water to cover. Let sit for 20 minutes, until softened. Drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer, and reserve the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms thoroughly under cold water, and squeeze dry.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rub the chicken with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms and the sprigs of rosemary into the cavity, and truss.

Lightly oil a flameproof baking dish that isn't much bigger than the chicken, and place the chicken on its side in the dish. Bake for 20 minutes, turn onto its other side, and bake for 20 minutes more. Finish cooking the chicken on its back, about 20 minutes longer, or until the juice runs clear when pierced with a knife. Baste every 10 or 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Pour off and discard all the fat from the baking dish. Add the butter and 2/3 cup of the strained soaking liquid from the mushrooms. Heat over high heat, and stir, using a whisk or a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up the bits adhering to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce by about half, and add salt and pepper to taste; transfer to a gravy boat. Remove morels and rosemary from the chicken. Discard the rosemary. Carve chicken (remove the skin first, if you wish), garnish with morels, and serve with gravy on the side.

Pear and red wine sorbet

Makes 6 servings.

2 pounds firm ripe or nearly ripe pears

1 bottle deep-hued red wine, such as a cabernet or merlot

1/3 cup mild-flavored honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon or more to taste

2 tablespoons pear brandy or more to taste

fresh mint leaves for garnish

Halve or quarter the pears, peel and core them, and place into a large non-reactive saucepan. Cover with the wine (add only enough to cover), add the honey and vanilla, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until softened, about 15 to 20 minutes for nearly ripe pears, longer for hard pears. Add the pepper. Remove the pears from the wine, and puree in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the lemon juice and pear brandy.

Meanwhile, bring wine to a boil, and reduce by half, until the mixture has the consistency of a thin syrup. Stir into pears, and add any wine remaining in the bottle (there may be none, which is all right). Allow to cool. Taste, and add more lemon juice or pear brandy, if desired.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Or place into ice-cube trays, a bowl or a cake pan. Freeze until just about frozen through, and then break up by blending until smooth in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

Transfer to individual serving dishes or a bowl, cover and freeze. Because of the alcohol in the wine, this sorbet will not freeze solid. Serve garnished with mint leaves.

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