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Cold-Weather Cooking . . . With Fruit? : When Winter Blankets the Garden, Sweetness Is at Hand

February 08, 1996|MICHAEL ROBERTS | Roberts is the author of "What's for Dinner?" and "Make-Ahead Gourmet" (William Morrow)

From late spring to early autumn, I remember fruits and vegetables, looking like sections of an orchestra, stacked in the open-air stands lining lower Manhattan's First Avenue. Berries, followed by cherries, followed by apricots, peaches and nectarines, plums and then watermelons.

Then Labor Day and school. "An apple a day . . ." packed in the lunch box, practical, modest. And pears. Then winter, and the citrus harvest--oranges and grapefruit. Breakfast fare.

Fall and winter fruits are stern stuff. But cooks do not give themselves over to winter despondency. To tame the grapefruit, to coax the sweetness, we reduce it to juice. To corrupt the apple, we bathe it in butter. To sweeten the lemon, we cook it with some salt. Ah, and the pear. Disguise it like the queen of Mardi Gras in a creamy "cheesy" outfit.

SAUTEED CATFISH WITH GRAPEFRUIT AND GREEN PEPPERCORNS

2 grapefruits

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon green peppercorns in brine, drained

6 tablespoons butter

4 (6- to 8-ounce) catfish filets

Flour

3 tablespoons oil

Grate peel of grapefruit without removing any white pith and place in saucepan. Remove and discard white pith from grapefruit. Section grapefruit and reserve sections on plate, adding any juice from fruit to saucepan.

Add 1 cup grapefruit juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, reducing liquid by about 2/3 or until thick. Remove from heat. Add green peppercorns. Whisk in butter. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, pat catfish filets with paper towels. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and dust with flour, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in 2 (12-inch) saute pans or skillets over medium heat. Add catfish and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until nicely golden. Transfer fish to platter. Spoon grapefruit butter over top and garnish with grapefruit sections. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

444 calories; 852 mg sodium; 125 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 0.12 gram fiber.

SCALLOPS WITH SAUTERNES, APPLES AND TARRAGON

1 tablespoon oil

1 1/2 to 2 pounds small (dime-size) bay scallops or large sea scallops, halved crosswise (size of a half-dollar)

1 teaspoon minced shallots

1/2 cup Sauternes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

6 tablespoons butter

1 green Pippin apple, unpeeled, cut in sticks

Salt, pepper

Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. When almost smoking, toss in scallops and cook 30 seconds without stirring. Then stir with wooden spoon and cook 1 minute. With slotted spoon, remove scallops to plate (they should be only partially cooked). Discard fat from skillet.

Return skillet to high heat. Add shallots and Sauternes. If using dried tarragon, add it now and cook until Sauternes reduces by half. Meantime, scallops will have released a certain amount of liquid. Pour this into pan and cook until reduced almost dry.

Return scallops to pan and set over low heat. Whisk in butter. Add apple and, if using, fresh tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

341 calories; 471 mg sodium; 91 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.18 gram fiber.

LEMON AND ROSEMARY STUFFED CHICKEN

6 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 1/2 cups diced French bread

2 lemons

2 eggs

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cook until onion softens, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to work bowl. Mix in rosemary and bread. Grate peel of lemons into bread mixture, avoiding any white pith.

Break eggs into small work bowl. Add lemon juice from 2 lemons and beat until blended. Pour over bread mixture and mix well.

Rinse and dry chicken and lightly salt cavity. Stuff chicken with bread mixture and tie legs together. Rub surface of chicken with olive oil, then lightly salt and pepper bird. Place in roasting pan.

Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast 20 minutes per pound, basting bird with any pan drippings. Remove from oven. Untie legs and serve immediately.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

827 calories; 728 mg sodium; 306 mg cholesterol; 55 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 46 grams protein; 0.39 gram fiber.

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