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On Cuisine's Cutting Edge

May 11, 1986|ROSE DOSTI | Rose Dosti is a Times staff writer.

When a handful of young chefs swept onto the Los Angeles scene a few years ago, they brought a derring-do, anything-goes style that worked. Their imaginative--and often improvisational--cooking became a Los Angeles trademark, much imitated elsewhere in the country. Chefs such as Michael Roberts of Trumps, Ken Frank of La Toque, Roy Yamaguchi of 385 North, and Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of the Border Grill and the City restaurant, are the most daring of the crop. But it could be argued that no one's recipes say "Los Angeles" with more abandon than those of the dynamic pair pictured above.

Feniger and Milliken cook with individuality, originality and joy, and the results defy imitation. Who would think of melon with Thai marinade or pickled tongue with crayfish sauce and pear? Or Poona pancakes, a rice-and-yogurt pancake inspired by Indian cuisine. Or Thai red curry and lime with mussels as served at the two chefs' latest venture, City restaurant?

Theirs is an interpretive American cuisine filled with ethnic surprises. Feniger and Milliken are students of the world's cuisines. They haunt markets in Los Angeles and around the globe for ideas and inspiration--and get it. Yet, they do not try to set trends: "We just cook what we would like to eat ourselves," Feniger says. At the moment their taste is toward the strong and spicy flavors that seem to captivate today's diners. Their recipe for Chiles Rellenos with green and red salsas, from the Border Grill, is typical of their bold approach. CHILES RELLENOS BORDER GRILL 6 poblano chiles 1 cup grated Mexican cheese (anejo) 1/2 cup crumbled fresh Mexican cheese 1 cup flour 3 eggs, beaten cup butter Red Salsa Green Salsa Sour cream

Roast chiles on all sides until charred but not burned. Place immediately in plastic bag to steam until cooled. Peel carefully. Slit on one side (do not cut in half) and remove seeds. Rinse under cool water to remove excess skin or seeds. Combine cheeses and press into 6 oblong shapes large enough to fit into chiles. Wrap each chile around an oblong of cheese, being careful that seams are closed. Dredge each chile in flour, dusting off excess flour. Dip chiles into beaten eggs. Heat butter until hot but not browned. Add chiles, one at a time. Lightly brown on both sides. Serve on bed of Red and Green Salsas with dollop of sour cream. Makes 6 servings. Red Salsa 2 serrano chiles, stems removed 5 tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters 2 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon butter 1 onion, sliced Salt

Combine chiles, tomatoes and garlic in blender. Melt butter and add onion. Saute until tender. Add to tomato mixture. Blend until smooth. Strain into saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add salt. Use as much as is needed for recipe. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Remaining sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen up to 6 months. Makes about 1 quart. Green Salsa 5 or 6 tomatillos 1 tablespoon butter 1 onion 2 cloves garlic 1 bunch cilantro 2 cups water Salt

Remove core from tomatillos and cut into quarters. Melt butter in small skillet and add onion. Saute until onion is tender. Place tomatillos , garlic, cilantro, onion mixture and water in blender and puree. Strain into saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add salt to taste. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Remaining sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen up to 6 months. Makes about 3 cups. PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER FOOD STYLIST: JANET MILLER TABLEWARE FROM NANCY EPSTEIN GALLERY; HAND-PAINTED SURFACE BY KURT DE MUNBRUN

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