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DINNER PLANS

Go Where Your Whimsy Takes You

November 07, 1996|JULIANNE TANTUM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This whimsical menu will help set the mood for a Saturday lunch or a casual weekend supper, and most of the food can be prepared ahead.

Start with a two-tone soup: yellow and red pepper purees in a yin-yang design. Roasting some of the peppers enhances their pure, sweet flavor, and they need no cream--the purees are their own thickener.

The smell of grilling hamburgers brings smiles to faces, and a hidden pocket of smoked mozzarella adds an element of surprise. For the pesto spread, you can either use prepared pesto sauce from the supermarket or make your own from fresh basil.

With cookie cutters, you can transform slices of cantaloupe and honeydew melon into stars, moons, hearts and diamonds. And for a few more weeks, you can add a colorful fall touch by sprinkling them with pomegranate seeds. Even the most robust appetites will appreciate a splash of color and a reminder of summer.

Menu

Yellow and Red Pepper Soup

Hamburgers with Pesto Spread

Green Salad

Star-Shaped Melons

STAPLES

Olive Oil

Butter

Chicken stock

Mayonnaise

Onion

Garlic

Salt

SHOPPING LIST

1 leek

4 yellow bell peppers

4 red bell peppers

1 Bartlett pear

1 bunch basil

2 small red onions

1 cantaloupe

1 small honeydew melon

1 pomegranate

1 tomato

1 (3-ounce) bag sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/3 pounds ground beef

1/4 pound smoked mozzarella

1 (7-ounce) container pesto sauce

4 sourdough rolls

Game Plan

Night before: Make yellow and red pepper soups; refrigerate separately. Prepare pesto sauce.

Morning of dinner: Cut melon shapes and remove pomegranate seeds.

30 minutes before: Prepare hamburger patties. Reheat soup. Make a salad.

Just before: Grill hamburgers.

YELLOW AND RED PEPPER SOUP

Prepare the bright yellow and reddish-orange purees in separate pans, then pour them side by side into the bowls. For additional patterns, you can dot or swirl light sour cream throughout the soup.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, white part only, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt

3 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and chopped

3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 quart chicken stock

1 roasted yellow bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over moderate heat. Heat remaining butter and oil in separate medium saucepan. Divide onion and leek between 2 saucepans and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide garlic between pans, season with salt and cook 1 more minute.

To 1 pan, add yellow peppers and pear. To other pan, add red peppers and tomato. Cook both mixtures until peppers are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. To yellow peppers, add 2 cups stock and roasted yellow pepper. To red peppers, add remaining 2 cups stock and roasted red pepper. Simmer both mixtures, covered loosely, for 25 minutes.

Puree yellow pepper mixture in food processor or blender and return to clean pan. Clean food processor or blender and repeat for red pepper mixture in its own clean pan. Adjust seasonings and reheat both purees gently. Pour each into pitcher or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. While hot, pour soups into individual bowls simultaneously, pouring yellow pepper soup from one side and red pepper soup from other. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

126 calories; 459 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.67 gram fiber.

HAMBURGERS WITH PESTO SPREAD

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons minced red onion

6 sun-dried tomatoes (either oil-packed or dry soaked in hot water to soften), chopped

1 1/3 pounds ground beef

1/4 pound smoked mozzarella, cut into 4 pieces

Oil or nonstick cooking spray

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons pesto sauce

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 sourdough rolls, ends cut diagonally, split

Combine basil, red onion and sun-dried tomatoes in medium bowl. Add ground beef and mix well. Divide meat into 4 balls. Press piece of smoked mozzarella into center of each ball, cover cheese with meat and shape into patty.

Heat stove-top grill over medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil. Cook hamburgers 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness, flipping once. Arrange red onion slices around the hamburgers and grill until onions are soft, 3 to 5 minutes. (Alternatively, hamburgers may be pan-fried and onions sauteed).

Mix pesto with mayonnaise in small bowl. Spread 1 tablespoon pesto spread inside each sourdough roll. On bottom half of each roll, layer burger patty, 1 more tablespoon of pesto spread and grilled onions. Cover with top of roll and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Each serving contains about:

672 calories; 680 mg sodium; 115 mg cholesterol; 44 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 0.25 gram fiber.

STAR-SHAPED MELONS

1 cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed

1 small honeydew melon, rind and seeds removed

1/2 pomegranate

Cut cantaloupe and honeydew lengthwise into wide slices. Use cookie cutters in shapes of stars, moons, hearts and diamonds to cut shapes from melons. Arrange melon shapes on plates and scatter pomegranate seeds over top.

Makes 4 servings

Each serving contains about:

119 calories; 30 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.54 grams fiber.

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