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GOOD COOKING

Brunch: Something Sweet, Something Savory

September 09, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Sunday brunches are always easier to pull off than dinner parties. The cooking is usually simpler--and since there's normally less food to prepare, you end up spending a lot less money.

These brunch recipes from executive chef George Mahaffey of the Little Nell in Aspen, Colo., are distinctive, the sort of dishes that impress guests but are not too difficult.

Lemon souffle pancakes are the easiest of the group and rank as some of the best pancakes I've tasted. Serve them with applewood-smoked bacon, fresh raspberries and raspberry syrup.

A more savory option is the grilled chicken tortilla salad with avocados, tomatoes, aged Jack cheese and mole vinaigrette; it's a substantial and refreshing salad.

The mixed berry-and-banana brulee in macadamia shortbread with homemade vanilla bean yogurt is an appetizer at the Little Nell. At home, you might want to serve it as a morning dessert. The warm, caramelized, sweet bananas on the chilled mix of berries and yogurt is a terrific contrast in flavors.

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The pancakes, light and creamy, are made with cottage cheese and ricotta cheese, which are impossible to detect once they are pureed in the blender or processor. At the Little Nell, the pancakes are topped with fresh raspberries and served with raspberry syrup and applewood-smoked bacon on the side.

LEMON SOUFFLE PANCAKES

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash salt

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Butter

Fresh raspberries, optional

Raspberry syrup, optional

Applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp, optional

Place egg yolks, flour, cottage and ricotta cheeses, unsalted butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest in blender or food processor container fitted with metal blade. Process until very smooth. Transfer to 1-quart mixing bowl.

Whip egg whites in mixer until they hold shape but are still moist. Fold into batter.

Heat buttered griddle until hot. When sizzling, spoon batter by heaping tablespoons on griddle. Spread batter with back of spoon to about 3 inches in diameter. Cook pancakes slowly over medium heat, about 2 minutes on first side, about 1 minute on other side.

Keep cooked pancakes warm at 200 degrees while cooking remaining batches. Serve topped with raspberries and raspberry syrup, with bacon on side. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

277 calories; 204 mg sodium; 206 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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This salad involves many steps, but its texture, flavor and the outright pleasure of eating it make it worth the time. Several components can be done ahead. The roasted sweet red peppers, mole sauce and lemon vinaigrette can be made at least a day ahead; the fried tortilla strips and salad assembly (except for the avocado) can be done a few hours in advance. Grilling the chicken and tossing the salad in the vinaigrette are done at the last minute but are not at all difficult. I've also made the salad with grilled shrimp, marinated in the mole. Aged Jack cheese is deeply flavored, but Monterey Jack can be substituted. The salad works well for supper and lunch, as well as brunch.

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GRILLED CHICKEN-TORTILLA SALAD WITH TOMATOES, JACK CHEESE AND MOLE VINAIGRETTE

3 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

2 1/4 cups Mole Vinaigrette

1/2 cup julienned sweet onion

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1/2 cup diced red and gold tomatoes

1/2 cup diced roasted and peeled sweet red pepper

1/2 cup grilled corn kernels

1/2 cup shredded aged Jack cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 1/4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage

1 1/4 cups mixed baby greens, chilled

Salt, pepper

1 avocado, cut up

1 cup julienned corn tortilla strips, fried crisp in peanut oil, drained

1/2 cup Lemon Vinaigrette, plus more to taste

Place chicken in bowl and marinate in 1 3/4 cups Mole Vinaigrette overnight in refrigerator.

Next day, combine onion with cilantro. Combine tomatoes, sweet red pepper, onion-cilantro mixture, corn, cheese, sesame seeds, cabbage and greens in large bowl. Chill 40 minutes or up to few hours, covered airtight.

Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade. Grill chicken over hot coals until just cooked, about 4 to 8 minutes, depending on grill heat, turning twice and brushing with reserved marinade. Season chicken to taste with salt and pepper. Cut into strips.

Add warm chicken to chilled salad along with avocado and tortilla strips. Toss with 1/2 cup Lemon Vinaigrette. Add more vinaigrette according to taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Spoon 2 tablespoons unused Mole Vinaigrette around inside rim of each of 4 chilled dinner plates. Mound salad in center of each plate. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

238 calories; 757 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 1.58 grams fiber.

Mole Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/4 cup sliced onion

1 small celery stalk, sliced

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