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Simple, Scrumptious and Satisfying

September 29, 1985|BETSY BALSLEY

The glowing golds of fall flowers and foliage (yes, you'll see them even in Southern California). An occasional nip in the air. Your alma mater making mincemeat of its arch-rival at football--c'mon now, how many more reasons do you need to toss the first party of the fall season? Quit waiting for someone else to make the first move--get in gear and set the date.

And this time make it a real party. No more of summer's informal, everybody-pitches-in potlucks. This is your party. One at which you do everything yourself. (Well, almost everything. No one will quibble if you pick up an elegant pastry for dessert.) When designing your menu, forget the current food fads and go for the simple elegance of old favorites. With drinks, serve an easy tapenade , a delicious tuna-and-olive dip, on a beautifully designed platter of chilled vegetables. Follow this with a butterflied leg of lamb, grilled to a tender pink, and served with an absolutely smashing orange-mustard sauce. A colorful, herb-flavored pilaf and palate-pleasing chilled green beans that have been marinated in a tangy vinaigrette make excellent accompaniments for the lamb. For dessert, if pastry is not for you, settle for a platter of fresh fruit and cheese.

See how easy it all can be? PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER / PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD RUTHSATZ / FOOD STYLIST: LORRAINE TRIOLO TAPENADE 1 cup Italian or Greek olives, seeded 14 to 16 anchovy fillets 1 7-ounce can tuna, drained cup capers cup minced parsley 3 tablespoons brandy 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise Baby carrots Yellow squash Green onions Chinese snow peas Red pepper rings Cherry tomatoes

Chop olives, anchovies, tuna, capers and parsley very fine or combine in food processor or blender and chop fine. (Do not puree. Mixture should have some texture.) Mix brandy and mustard until smooth, then fold into mayonnaise. Fold into olive mixture.

Cover and chill several hours to blend flavors. Serve as dip for carrots, yellow squash, green onions, snow peas, red pepper and tomatoes. Makes 12 to 16 appetizer servings. GRILLED LEG OF LAMB WITH MUSTARD -ORANGE SAUCE 1 6 - to 7-pound full - cut leg of lamb, trimmed and butterflied Oil 1 teaspoon rosemary Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup butter or margarine Zest and juice of 2 oranges 3 to 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Rub lamb all over with oil and sprinkle with rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place lamb on grill over coals or on oven broiler pan, skin side away from heat source. Broil 6 inches from heat source 20 minutes. Turn lamb over and broil about 15 minutes longer. Lamb will be pink but not rare inside.

While lamb is broiling, melt butter in small saucepan and stir in orange zest and juice and mustard. Simmer a few minutes, until mixture is slightly thickened.

When lamb is done, remove immediately to platter and pour sauce over. Let stand in warm spot 10 minutes before carving. Spoon sauce that accumulates in bottom of platter over meat several times during standing period. To serve, cut in thin slices and spoon some of the sauce over each serving. Makes about 12 servings. PILAF WITH ALMONDS 3 cups rice 1 teaspoon thyme 1 bay leaf 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 2 small cloves garlic, crushed 6 cups boiling chicken broth Salt 6 green onions, minced 1 large green or red pepper, minced cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Combine rice, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and garlic in large oven-proof casserole. Stir in broth and season to taste with salt. Cover and bake at 400 degrees 35 to 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaf and garlic. Saute onions and green pepper in butter just until tender. Toss butter mixture and almonds lightly with rice. Makes 10 to 12 servings. HARICOTS VERTS A LA GREQUE 2 1/2 pounds haricots verts or tender green beans 1 cup olive oil cup white wine vinegar cup dry white wine 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 bay leaf 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced Dash hot pepper sauce 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon, oregano or basil leaves Water

Rinse beans and snap off ends. If using green beans, string them if necessary, and cut into 2- to 3-inch julienne. Combine oil, vinegar, wine, salt, pepper, bay leaf, garlic, hot pepper sauce and tarragon in large saucepan. Add beans and water barely to cover. Bring to boil very slowly, reduce heat and cook, covered, until beans are tender-crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate beans in liquid. To serve, discard bay leaf, drain beans and arrange on platter or in large serving bowl. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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