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GOOD COOKING

Getting Off to a Light Start

October 13, 1994|ABBY MANDEL

These days, people are satisfied cooking much more simply. They no longer feel they must try to re-create restaurant dishes for their guests.

That's the good news. The bad news is we're still stuck with making hors d'oeuvres. You do need something light to nibble on with drinks before dinner. Something light-- heavy hors d'oeuvres can throw a meal off kilter.

Things like cured olives, raw vegetables served with a full-flavored dip and fresh salted nuts are easy options. You might also consider the following suggestions, which are easily prepared and will tempt guests without interfering with their appetites--all at under five grams of fat per serving.

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You can reduce the fat content in these spiced nuts by combining a little oil with egg whites, which also makes them very crisp. Be sure to taste a nut before making the recipe; make sure they are not rancid or stale-tasting. You can substitute an equal quantity of walnuts if you want.

HERBED SPICED PECANS

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup light corn syrup

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

Dash cayenne pepper

1 pound large pecan halves

Whisk egg whites and oil together in 1 1/2-quart bowl until frothy. Add corn syrup, rosemary, chili powder, thyme, cumin, salt and cayenne. Mix well. Add pecans. Toss until evenly coated.

Spread pecans in single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake on center oven rack at 325 degrees until deeply browned, 25 to 27 minutes, stirring midway during baking so nuts brown evenly. Watch carefully to prevent burning.

Transfer hot nuts to piece of clean foil, separating any that stick together. Allow to cool thoroughly. Nuts can be kept in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or frozen as long as 2 months. If nuts lose crispness, spread single layer on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. Makes 1 quart.

Each 1/4-cup serving contains about:

220 calories; 160 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 4 gram protein; 0.64 gram fiber.

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Delicious plain, these potato skins are even better sprinkled with grated imported Parmesan cheese. I tested this recipe with baking potatoes and small red potatoes; the latter have a more appealing texture.

CRISP GARLIC POTATO SKINS

6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed

1 egg white

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons shredded imported Parmesan cheese

Bake potatoes on baking sheet on center oven rack at 450 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes. Cool until easy to handle. Can be baked 1 day ahead and refrigerated after completely cooled.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out center with small melon baller, leaving 1/8-inch thick shell. (Use reserved scooped potato in soups or fried potatoes.)

Whisk together egg white, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in small bowl until very frothy. Brush inside of skins with mixture. Place in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees until crisp and only lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Lightly brush skins with mixture again. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, pressing lightly into place with back of spoon.

Bake until cheese is melted and skins are deeply browned on edges. Serve hot. Makes about 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

72 calories; 226 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.

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The mild flavor of the cabbage is perfectly complemented by a sauce that is traditionally served with egg rolls.

FALL CABBAGE STRUDEL

1 egg white

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon ground oregano

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 sheets filo, thawed (if frozen)

Cabbage Filling

Mustard Dipping Sauce

Whisk egg white, 1 tablespoon olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in small bowl until frothy.

Spread lightly dampened kitchen towel on work surface. Place 1 filo sheet on towel with long edge facing you. Keep other filo sheets covered with separate damp towel so they don't dry out and crack. Lightly brush filo with egg white mixture. Cover with second filo sheet, brush with egg white mixture and continue layering with remaining sheets and mixture until all 4 sheets are used.

Arrange Cabbage Filling in 2-inch-wide strip across length of filo, leaving 1-inch border at ends and edge nearest you. Lifting end of towel nearest you, start rolling strudel as for burrito. After 2 or 3 turns, tuck ends under, straighten roll and finish rolling strudel into compact cylinder. Cut in half.

Transfer to greased baking sheet, seam-side down. Can be baked immediately or frozen up to 2 months (freeze on baking sheet, then wrap airtight). Do not thaw frozen strudel before baking. Brush top with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

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