Impressive dishes, helpful tips from the Culinary Institute

BOOKMARK

October 06, 2004|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN FOOD EDITOR

If you would like to impress your friends with a four-star dinner but have the culinary skills of a short-order cook, the Culinary Institute of America has a cookbook for you.

One of the nation's premier cooking schools, the Hyde Park, N.Y., institution knows a thing or two about teaching people how to get around in the kitchen. In this book, The Culinary Institute of America: Gourmet Meals in Minutes (Lebhar-Friedman, 2004, $40), the emphasis is on making impressive dishes in less than an hour, usually with ingredients you can find in any grocery store.

The more than 200 recipes cover a wide variety of cuisines. The chapter on soup includes instructions for vichyssoise, egg drop, borscht and New England clam chowder. Dishes in the meat chapter range from a Reuben sandwich to Roasted Pork Loin With Apricot-Armagnac Compote. And for dessert, recipes include a fresh berry napoleon and bread pudding.

Because this is a book from a cooking school, there are sections on techniques and helpful tips accompanying many of the recipes. Color photography adds to the book's appeal.

Some recipes, such as a fruit galette that uses store-bought puff pastry, are so easy that it feels like cheating to call them "gourmet." But it is the combination of flavors, rather than ingredients or techniques, that lend a certain haute to this cuisine. Roasted beets are paired with oranges and goat cheese for a fall salad. A lemon butter sauce perks up a simple dish of steamed broccoli and peppers. Mint and cilantro flavor basmati rice.

All of the recipes I tried were successful, except the beet salad. The recipe called for roasting the beets in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender. After an hour, my beets were still crunchy.

A curried apple squash soup, however, was a bright start to a fall dinner menu.

Curried Apple Squash Soup

Makes 2 quarts or 8 servings

2 stalks celery, diced

2 leeks, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

9 cups vegetable broth (divided use)

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

18 ounces butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped

2 1/4 pounds apples, peeled, chopped

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

LIME GREMOLATA:

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 1/4 teaspoons lime zest

1/2 teaspoon thyme

In a soup pot, sweat the celery, leeks and garlic in a small amount of broth until the onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 7 cups of the broth along with the curry powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil.

Add the squash and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the apples and continue to simmer until all of the ingredients are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Puree the soup with a hand-held blender or in batches in a food processor or countertop blender. Add in just enough of the remaining approximate 2 cups of broth to thin the soup to the desired consistency, and season with salt to taste. Chill the finished soup thoroughly.

Combine the gremolata ingredients. Garnish each serving of soup with a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of the gremolata.

Per serving: 128 calories; 4 grams protein; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 30 grams carbohydrate; 4 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1,431 milligrams sodium

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