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Taking It Easy for New Year's Eve : A Pair of Peppery Recipes Delivers Hot and Crispy Treats

December 27, 1987|KAREN GILLINGHAM | Gillingham is a Los Angeles-based food writer. and

New Year's Eve may be anxiously awaited as the biggest party night of the year by most, but I like a quiet evening in the sanity and safety of my own home.

I don't need midnight kisses from a crowd of merrymakers to either ring out the old or ring in the new, and I certainly don't want to reveal to other revelers the few resolutions I may have privately promised myself.

This may be a sign of maturity. It may just be that I've become an old biddy who has lost the spunk that used to keep me out until dawn.

Just last year, that spunk provided the energy to invite a table of friends over for a seven-course New Year's Eve dinner that kept them eating until the magical midnight moment. Forget it in '88.

Champagne Adjunct

This New Year is going to come in easy. If friends drop by, I'll fix a quick nip just to help a flute or two of icy Champagne go down. Something hot and crispy, salt-and-peppery--and easy.

Here are two ideas (even though I've resolved to only make one of them). The first is Hot and Crispy Garbanzos. Drained garbanzo beans are deep fried until crisp, then perked up for the party with salt, pepper, hot red pepper flakes and parsley. A one-pound can of beans makes enough to serve four but, like peanuts or popcorn, no one can stop at a handful.

The other idea is Peppered Pita Points. Just cut pita breads into wedges, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with pepper, fennel seeds and coarse salt. These go down well with just Champagne, too.

But if a more elaborate party is planned--i.e., a dinner--serve three or four of these spicy little toasts to each diner alongside their salad, but don't make it one of seven courses that finally end at midnight and make the cook feel like an old biddy before the New Year has even begun.

HOT AND CRISPY GARBANZOS

Oil for deep frying

1 (16-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Dried red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

Heat oil to 375 degrees in deep-fat fryer or large saucepan. Meanwhile, rinse beans. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Fry beans, about 1/3 at time, in hot oil until crisp, 30 to 40 seconds, skimming off and discarding any skins that may rise to surface of oil.

Drain beans on paper towels. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Add parsley and toss to mix. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

PEPPERED PITA POINTS

6 small pita breads

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) melted butter

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

Coarse salt

Cut pita breads into 6 to 8 wedges each, then split each wedge in two by cutting at rounded edge. Place wedges, insides up, in single layer on baking sheets. Brush with melted butter then sprinkle with pepper, fennel seeds and salt to taste. Run under hot broiler, about 4 inches from heat source, until crispy, about 30 seconds, watching carefully to prevent burning. Makes about 12 servings.

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