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The Virtue of Simplicity

August 26, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Culinary fads come and go, but the straightforward appeal of home-cooked food that shows off the prime ingredients of the region goes on forever.

Michael Foley, a third-generation Chicago restaurateur, understands this. Foley, who opened Printers' Row restaurant in 1981, has been at the forefront of featuring the very best Midwestern ingredients.

In his yellow pepper soup, for example, a light vegetable broth lets the flavor of the roasted peppers shine through. His slowly cooked puree of onions is a sweet background to delicate fresh trout accented by a tangy mustard marinade. Finally, a moist, earthy cornmeal cake is the perfect complement to a compote of tart plums.



4 large shallots

6 sweet yellow peppers

1 sweet red pepper

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup low-fat yogurt or light sour cream


Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

Wrap each shallot in foil and roast at 400 degrees 30 minutes.

Stand red and yellow peppers on cutting board and slice off sides into 4 sections. Arrange skin-side-up on baking sheet lined with foil. Broil 6 inches from heat until skin blackens. Transfer to paper bag and seal tightly. Slip off skin when cool enough to handle.

Puree red pepper in food processor or blender and set aside. Puree yellow peppers with roasted shallots. Bring vegetable broth to boil in 2-quart pot. Add peppers and shallots. Heat through. Can be made 2 days ahead up to this point and refrigerated.

Reheat until very hot. Stir in yogurt. Do not let boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be served immediately or chilled. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with small dollop of red pepper puree and julienned basil. Makes 5 cups or 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

91 calories; 1,021 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.78 gram fiber.



2 medium onions, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar



Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup dried mustard

2 (1/2 pound) trout, heads removed

2 teaspoons olive oil

Minced fresh chives, tarragon or marjoram

To make onion puree, place onions, butter, sugar and 1/2 cup water in 10-inch skillet. Simmer until onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree in processor or blender until smooth. Season to taste with pepper. Can be made day ahead to this point and refrigerated. Gently reheat before serving.

To make mustard glaze, combine sugar, mustard and 1/4 cup water in small bowl. Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes before using.

Heat non-stick 10-inch skillet until medium hot. Season inside of fish with salt and pepper to taste. Brush surface of trout with oil. Brown lightly on both sides in skillet, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to baking pan and generously brush top of fish with mustard glaze. Bake at 350 degrees until just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

To serve, divide warmed onion puree between 2 heated serving plates. Place trout on top. Brush with little more glaze. Garnish with chives. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

921 calories; 842 mg sodium; 229 mg cholesterol; 69 grams fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 45 grams protein; 2.17 grams fiber.



1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 cup yellow cornmeal, finely ground in processor or coffee grinder

2 cups bread flour, sifted

4 large red-skinned plums, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Zest 1 lemon

Mascarpone Cream

Mint leaves

To make cake, in mixer, cream butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add whole eggs and yolks, 1 at time, beating well after each addition. (Save 2 remaining egg whites for another use.) Fold in cornmeal and flour. Transfer batter to greased and floured 10-inch springform pan. Spread surface smooth. Lightly bang pan on counter to distribute batter.

Bake at 325 degrees until golden and wood pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool completely.

To make plum compote, combine plums, 1/2 cup sugar, water and lemon zest in non-aluminum saucepan. Simmer, covered, until plums are softened into marmalade, about 30 minutes, stirring and adding water as necessary. Remove lemon zest. Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Gently reheat before spreading on cake.

Remove cake from pan. Invert cake on large serving plate so flat side is up. Spread warm plum compote over top and sides of cake. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, cut cake into thin slices. Top each slice with dollop of Mascarpone Cream or vanilla ice cream, thin plum slices and mint leaf. Makes 16 servings.

Each serving contains about:

494 calories; 81 mg sodium; 152 mg cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.20 gram fiber.


Mascarpone Cream

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 cup chilled whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine cheese, whipping cream and sugar in small mixing bowl. Stir together until smooth. Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight.

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