Anything goes when entertaining just remember to have a plan

May 11, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff Writer

An incorrect date was given in yesterday's A La Carte section for a book signing by cookbook author Marlene Sorosky. She will be at Books for Cooks at Harborplace from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Does the thought of "entertaining" make you want to lie down in a dark room with a cool cloth on your head? Marlene Sorosky understands. What's more, she's figured out what to do about it.

"When people think of entertaining they think of the Saturday night dinner party with all the trimmings," she says. "They think that unless they kill themselves" with preparations, "they're not entertaining." As a result, she says, some people shun the whole idea -- and then feel bad about that.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"I think we need to change our definitions so people don't feel guilty all the time," says the California-based cooking teacher and cookbook author, whose most recent book -- just published but already into its second printing -- is "Entertaining on the Run" (William Morrow and Co., May 1994, $25). "We have to realize that in the '90s, things are a lot more casual and a lot more laid-back."

"Entertaining" can mean inviting friends over to watch a big game on television, having friends or family over to watch a hot new video, having the neighbors over for a Sunday brunch -- or a sit-down dinner for 20 of your spouse's closest colleagues and clients.

And you should make no mistake: There is an element of work to every such moment.

"It's wrong to tell people they can be a guest at their own party," Ms. Sorosky says. "If you're a hostess, that's not going to happen. You're still going to work."

L But she has plenty of ways to make the work more manageable.

First, she says, people need to realize they must plan. The most common mistake is picking a few dishes that sound good, and ending up with three things that have to be cooked in the oven at the last minute at three different temperatures. "They don't bother to think how they're going to make them." Instead, she suggests, when people sit down to plan a party, they should consider several factors: the theme, the menu and the decorations.

Some parties have natural themes -- the holiday-based ones, for instance. But others can benefit from having an overall structure: brunch on the Mediterranean, chic candlelight chicken, top your own pizza, and a Southwestern Fourth of July are just a few of the themes in "Entertaining on the Run."

In her book, she suggests how to produce a "well-thought-out" menu: Dishes should have complementary colors and textures and be nutritionally balanced; they should appeal to the eye; they should be prepared in stages and if there is just one cook, no more than one should be done at the last minute. They should also be able to fit into your refrigerator, stove, oven, freezer, and should be easy to pull out and reheat.

All recipes have prep times, cook times and tips on advance preparation, and each idea comes with a "game plan" for getting it all together. And, she notes, "I really tried to cut back on fat. My main concern is that it taste great, but I did try to keep the fat content lower."

She also gives tips on those touches that turn a meal into a celebration: flowers, centerpieces, name tags, and music.

Ms. Sorosky, who lived in Baltimore from the late '80s until recently, contributed free-lance entertaining articles to The Sun. She will be back in town this weekend for two book-signings and demonstrations, one from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Fields of Pikesville, another from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Books for Cooks in the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace.

On Monday, Ms. Sorosky teams up with Celebrations Unlimited event-planners and Executive Chef Guy Reinbold for a luncheon, cooking demonstration and signing at Stouffers' Inner Harbor Hotel. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and benefits the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Tickets are $75 and include a copy of her book. For reservations, call (410) 955-8767.

*

4 Here's a sample recipe from Ms. Sorosky's book.

Corn custard strata

Serves 12

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

1 cup plus 1/2 cup regular, low-fat or non-fat milk, divided use

3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/2 cup Gorgonzola or blue cheese, frozen and crumbled (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in buttermilk, eggs and 1 cup of the milk until blended. Stir in corn. Put butter or margarine in 9-inch square baking dish. Place in center of oven and heat until melted and sizzling, about 3 minutes. Remove and swirl to coat bottom and sides. Pour excess butter into batter and stir to combine. Immediately pour batter into pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup milk over the top.

Bake 20 minutes. If desired, sprinkle top with cheese. Bake for 6 to 8 more minutes, or until the sides and top are brown and crusty, but the center still jiggles when the pan is shaken. Cut into squares to serve.

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