Spicing up meals and love life

BOOKMARK

September 29, 2004|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Philippa Sklaar's Hot Cuisine: Recipes to Excite (NDE Publishing, $24.95, 2003) is not just a cookbook. It's a bodice-ripper.

The twice-divorced Los Angeles-based caterer sprinkles her book liberally with romantic adventures and misadventures, starring men with aliases like "Butterscotch," "Tabasco" and "Better Than Chocolate." Think recipe titles like Broccoli Has Its Way With Walnuts; and I Love You, I Want You Walnut Bread.

"As my romances came and went, the only steady passion in my life was cooking," Sklaar writes. "My experience is that men speak only one language coherently, and that's the language of food."

If you can get through Sklaar's entertaining but frequently purple prose, you will indeed find some good food here.

I decided to try Smooching Streusel Banana Muffins, partly because they came with quite a story. Sklaar made them for Butterscotch, a high-school date with whom she passionately reunited 20 years later.

"Every time I think of bananas or muffins, my heart catches in my throat, my pulse races ... and my lips turn up into a huge smile," Sklaar writes. "I hope these muffins have the same effect on you."

Well. I can't say it was that good for me, but these muffins were tasty. (I left the called-for coconut out of the streusel topping, because I thought the muffins might have been too sweet with it.) They froze well, too.

Sweetness also detracted from Carmelized Butternut Squash, but that was partly my fault: Because Sklaar tells you to sprinkle brown sugar on the squash without saying how much, I may have been a bit heavy-handed. But that's the case in a number of her recipes. If you like to experiment - in love and in the kitchen - you'll feel at home.

Divine Grilled Fish Teriyaki, billed as "a heavenly experience when shared with lovers and friends," lived up to its name. We used cod, which held up well under the broiler.

Sklaar suggests making a tower of sauteed spinach, mashed potatoes, fish and cellophane noodles, then drizzling the sauce over the whole thing. Maybe it's because I've been married five years, but just the fish, the sauce, some spinach on the side and a familiar darling of a dinner companion were exciting enough for me.

Divine Grilled Fish Teriyaki

Serves 4

4 pieces any firm whitefish

juice of 1 lemon

salt, black pepper, paprika (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)

seafood seasoning or Accent (I used about 2 teaspoons)

unseasoned bread crumbs (I used about 1/2 cup)

butter or olive oil for grilling (I used about a tablespoon)

TERIYAKI SAUCE:

4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup water

just under 1/2 cup sugar

minced garlic to taste

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 to 2 teaspoons potato flour or cornstarch mixed to a paste with a little water

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat broiler. Place fish on baking sheet. Squeeze a little lemon juice over fish and season. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Dot with knobs of butter or drizzle with oil. Place in oven right under grill. When bread crumbs have turned golden-brown, turn fish over and repeat seasoning procedure and grill.

To make the sauce, place all ingredients except the cilantro in a saucepan and simmer until it thickens slightly. Add cilantro. Serve over fish.

Per serving: 461 calories; 42 grams protein; 15 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 39 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 126 milligrams cholesterol; 1,972 milligrams sodium

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