Double-duty recipes ease holiday crunch Entertaining: Creative use of leftovers frees the cook from the kitchen to spend more time with the guests.

December 13, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Several months ago, I turned in the manuscript for a cookbook titled "Weekend With Friends." As I worked with my editors on this collection of simple recipes to use when entertaining weekend house guests, we all agreed that several dishes should have more than a single use.

For example, pork tenderloins could be roasted for supper one night and leftovers used for pita sandwiches the next day. Grilled flank steaks could be the anchor of an evening dinner and be combined with cooked potatoes and blue cheese for a luncheon salad later.

I liked this idea of a recipe having many facets so much that I've continued to think of ways to use leftovers creatively. This past week, I had an opportunity to put my philosophy to use. For a dinner party, I made a quick pesto dip by combining good-quality purchased pesto with low-fat cream cheese. The dip, which took only minutes to blend in a food processor, was served with toasted baguette slices and with crudites, which included red peppers, fennel and green onions.

A few mornings later, I stirred little bits of the spread into beaten eggs before scrambling them. The eggs were delicious mounded on slices of toasted peasant bread.

For a quick lunch, I made grilled pesto cheese sandwiches with slices of roast chicken (turkey would work well, too) and tomatoes. Although I don't have enough of this flavorful spread left, I know I could stir it into hot cooked fettuccine along with thin strips of prosciutto and shaved Parmesan cheese, and I would have yet another creation.

During the next few weeks, when there will be plenty of out-of-town company at our house for the holidays, I'm planning to make this dip again along with many variations.

Pesto Dip with Toasted Baguette Slices and Crudites

Serves 8 to 10

DIP:

8 ounces reduced-fat (not nonfat, which lacks flavor) cream cheese, slightly softened

4 ounces (1/2 cup) best-quality prepared pesto (see note)

GARNISHES:

4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread, preferably cut on diagonal from loaf 2 1/2 inches in diameter

1 large fennel bulb

1 large red pepper

1 bunch green onions

To prepare dip, process cream cheese and pesto in food processor several seconds until well blended. Alternatively, combine ingredients by hand with rubber spatula in mixing bowl. (Dip can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)

To prepare garnishes, place olive oil in small bowl and brush both sides of bread slices lightly with oil. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake on center rack at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Turn slices and bake until just golden and crisp, about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven. (Toasted bread slices can be prepared two hours ahead and kept loosely covered with foil at cool room temperature.)

Cut off and discard lacy stalks from fennel bulb, then halve lengthwise and remove and discard tough inner cores. Cut fennel lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide julienne slices.

Remove stem end from pepper, then open up and discard seeds and membranes. Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide julienne strips. Trim root ends and all but 2 inches of green stems from green onions.

To serve, place pesto dip in small serving bowl and arrange on serving platter. Surround with toasted baguette slices, fennel, red pepper and green onions.

Note: Buy best-quality prepared pesto, preferably one made with basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and/or walnuts.

Pub Date: 12/13/98

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