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Saucing It Down

January 05, 1995|MARY CARROLL

This is the time when most dessert lovers are party-weary, welcoming any change from the ever-present chocolate and cheesecake. Even if we still nibble richly, we really crave something simple and fresh.

When New Year's resolutions are still firm, many great chefs feature fruit sauces as the essential ingredient in desserts. A wonderful sauce that is rich-tasting and vivid dresses up simple angel food cake or pudding, and can dramatically frame whole poached fruit. And because fruit sauces are naturally flavorful, the whole dessert can be delicious without a hefty infusion of fat.

Fruit sauces are simple to make--usually a puree of fresh or frozen berries, plums, melon, peaches or citrus, with spices and sweetener with liqueur added for pizzazz. If the pureed sauce is too thin, it can easily be thickened by heating briefly with a bit of cornstarch or arrowroot thickener.

A fruit sauce is fine served warm or chilled and can be prepared in large quantities in advance. Enough to feed a crowd can be whipped up in 10 minutes, then frozen until party day. Any leftovers go great alongside grilled meats or vegetables or dolloped on hot cereal or frozen yogurt.

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Because of their simplicity, fruit sauces have become my insurance against unexpected--and often hungry--visitors. A spoonful centered on a small white dessert plate with a small piece of cake or thinly sliced pears to top it makes a speedy dessert you can present with a flourish.

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\o7 This raspberry sauce is my favorite, easy enough for anyone to make. It's stunning with angel food cake.

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WARM RASPBERRY SAUCE

2 cups frozen raspberries

1/2 cup maple syrup, brown sugar, packed, or honey, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Place raspberries, sweetener, nutmeg and lemon juice in blender container. Process on high speed until pureed. Strain out seeds and discard.

Place puree in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook, whisking frequently, until sauce thickens to consistency of whipping cream, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Makes 6 servings.

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\o7 A pool of citrus sauce makes a beautiful background for spice cake slices.

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TANGY CITRUS SAUCE

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

1 cup nonfat milk

1 cup fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Place brown sugar, maple syrup, cornstarch and milk in 2-quart saucepan. Stir thoroughly to combine. Place pan over medium-high heat and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to boil.

Reduce heat and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens to consistency of cream. Add orange juice and orange zest. Heat, whisking, until sauce thickens again. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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\o7 This pair of sauces requires two pans but looks stunning when a little of each is drizzled over peeled whole pears poached in apple juice or white wine.

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SAUCE DUO

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries

1 cup brown sugar, packed, or honey or maple syrup

2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

2 cups peeled and sliced kiwi

Combine strawberries with 1/2 cup sweetener and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in blender container. Puree until smooth. Transfer to 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until slightly thickened. Pour into bowl.

Press kiwi through strainer to remove seeds. Puree kiwi in blender with remaining 1/2 cup sweetener and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Transfer to 1-quart saucepan and cook, whisking, over medium-high heat until slightly thickened. Pour into second bowl.

Cover bowls with plastic wrap. Chill sauces 1 hour before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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\o7 Yogurt brings thickness and bite to this sweetened fruit sauce. Serve over steamed pudding.

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LEMON-YOGURT SAUCE

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup firm low-fat vanilla yogurt (pour off whey before using)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed, honey or maple syrup, or to taste

Dash ground nutmeg

Dash ground cardamom

Whisk together lemon juice, yogurt, lemon zest, sweetener, nutmeg and cardamom in bowl until very smooth. Chill to firm up before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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