Hundreds of recipes at her fingertips Cook: When bookstore owner Arlene Gillis wants to fix something new, she knows right where to turn.

Kitchen Encounter

August 21, 1996|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Arlene Gillis is on her second cooking life. With her two children grown and gone, she's become an "empty-nester" cook, she says. "My cooking has changed from being family-oriented, and constantly looking for something new, to being much more spur-of-the-moment."

When her children were at home, she said, "there never was a meal that didn't have meat -- a protein, a starch and a vegetable. Now we [she and husband Ed] think nothing of having a soup dinner, or a salad dinner."

Gillis, who owns Books for Cooks cookbook store in the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace, wasn't interested in cooking when she was growing up, but when she married, someone gave her a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and that was how she started. "I still do look at that book occasionally," she says. These days, however, she and Ed "are always in the kitchen cooking together."

Their culinary piece de resistance was created some years ago for a fund-raiser for the Columbia Festival of the Arts. "We made a gumbo from Gourmet magazine. It took us a week -- every step was another whole cooking process. It was divine."

Is Gillis tempted to read all the cookbooks in her store -- about 4,000 of them? "I do look through lots of them," she says, and she does take some home. "I try to limit it to books I don't have, in terms of category, or to books with recipes -- more than two -- I will really use."

Here's one of Gillis' favorite recipes. She suggests serving it with crusty peasant bread and a light white wine such as pinot grigio.

Greek salad supper

Serves 2 to 3

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 large red tomato, cut into wedges

1/2 medium green pepper, seeded, cut into thin strips

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into thin slices

3 or 4 large radishes, sliced

6-8 Greek or Italian olives

vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below)

2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into eighths

6 ounces good-quality feta cheese

4-6 pepperoncini, for garnish

Lightly toss lettuce, tomato, green pepper, cucumber, radishes and olives in a large salad bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of dressing, and toss until ingredients are coated. Add hard-boiled eggs, toss lightly. Crumble feta over salad, toss again. Drizzle with 1 to 2 more tablespoons of dressing, to taste; garnish with pepperoncini. Serve at once on lightly chilled plates.

Red wine vinaigrette

Makes about 8 tablespoons

3 tablespoons salad oil

2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, finely crushed

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients until well-blended.

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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