The Gang's All Here Entertaining's more enjoyable when food is kept easy to fix and easy to serve

December 02, 1992|By Shirley King | Shirley King,Contributing Writer, United Feature Syndicate

There are five hectic weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year. At some point in this crowded time you would like to enjoy an uncomplicated, healthful meal with friends and relatives.

But have you the time to cook for them? Here are three distinctive yet simple main-course dishes for an informal interlude during the rush of the season.

The following recipes are meant to serve 8 to 12 people, and they can be doubled if needed. None of them take much planning. They are easy and require less than 45 minutes to prepare.

Where appropriate, I have made suggestions for accompaniments. It is best to keep them simple. Steamed new potatoes or a loaf of French bread and a green salad are all that is needed to complete a calm, enjoyable meal for a holiday crowd.

The mint chutney cuts the heat of these spicy brochettes. Serve with basmati rice and cold beer or cider.

Chicken brochettes

Serves 12.

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 teaspoons turmeric

4 teaspoons ground cumin

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 small onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

a large shallow bowl, mix together oil, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add chicken cubes and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using wooden skewers, put them in water to soak.

Heat the broiler. Alternate chicken cubes, peppers and onions on skewers. Lay the skewers on a broiler pan and broil for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. Serve the brochettes with the mint chutney.

Mint chutney

4 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves

4 cups loosely packed fresh parsley

2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped peeled gingerroot

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

In a food processor or blender, combine mint, parsley, jalapenos, ginger, garlic and salt; process until finely chopped. Add yogurt, lemon juice and honey and process until smooth. Place in serving bowl.

*

You are not locked into using cod in this casserole; other fish will Baked codfish casserole

Serves 12.

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

3 pounds cod fillets, skin removed

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, minced

6 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4 -inch slices

3 small zucchini, trimmed and sliced on a diagonal into 1/4 -incslices

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a shallow 3-quart baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil. With tweezers or needle-nose pliers, remove pin bones from the fish. Lay fillets in baking dish, with the thickest parts toward outside of the dish. Sprinkle with onions, 1 tablespoon of the basil and garlic. Alternate slices of tomato with zucchini over the fish. Brush remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the vegetables; season with salt and pepper. Bake about 20 minutes, or until the fish flesh is opaque. Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon basil or parsley and serve.

*

Flank steak is readily served at a buffet Carve the meat against the grain into very thin slices. Serve with zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and tomatoes.

Flank steak with chili-ginger sauce

Serves 8.

1 3/4 cups defatted, reduced-sodium chicken stock

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

2 teaspoons chili paste

3 tablespoons minced peeled gingerroot

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat and membrane

freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced for garnish

For the chili-ginger sauce, pour chicken stock into a small saucepan and boil about 10 to 15 minutes, or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili paste, ginger and garlic and stir.

To prevent the meat from curling as it cooks, make 6 shallow slashes on both sides of the steak in a crisscross fashion (three in each direction). Season with pepper.

In a large, heavy non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat. Cook the steak for 3 to 4 minutes a side, or until browned but still pink inside. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before carving. Slice across the grain and on a bias into 1/8 -inch-thick slices. Arrange on a platter and spoon a little of the sauce over top. Garnish with scallions and pass the remaining sauce separately.

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