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GOOD COOKING

It's Time for Romanoff

April 08, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Here's a spring menu for six that's sophisticated, seasonal and easy to prepare. Quail used to be thought of as exotic-unless you knew a hunter-but it's available fresh through specialty butchers, and frozen in fancy supermarkets.

To simplify the plate and preparation of the side dish, the vegetables are mixed with orzo, a versatile pasta base.

Dessert combines the best elements of that famous decadent dessert, strawberries Romanoff. Frozen strawberries are processed into a vibrant sherbet, then topped with a thick ice cream sauce and frozen. Orange, rum and Cointreau flavorings make this dessert delicious.

Broiled Spiced Quail Wrapped in Bacon

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Frozen quail are packaged without the backbone and ribs. Ask your butcher to remove them from fresh quail.

12 quail, rinsed, blotted dry with paper towels

2 tablespoons olive oil or olive oil spray

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

Dash cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

12 thin bacon slices

Mint and/or cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Mango chutney, for serving

Lightly coat the quail with oil. Combine the cumin, curry powder, sugar, allspice, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a small dish. Evenly sprinkle the seasonings over the quail on both sides. Wrap 1 bacon slice around each, securing it with a toothpick.

Arrange the quail with toothpick side down in a single layer on a broiler rack placed over a pan (for drippings). (This can be prepared to this point several hours ahead and refrigerated.)

To serve, broil the quail about 7 inches from the heat source until it is browned and crispy, about 6 minutes a side. Serve hot, garnished with herb sprigs. Pass chutney separately.

6 servings. Each serving: 991 calories; 1,062 mg sodium; 333 mg cholesterol; 68 grams fat; 19 grams saturated fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 89 grams protein; 0.26 gram fiber.

Spring Green Orzo With Cilantro and Mint

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

1 1/3 cups orzo

Coarse salt

2 cucumbers, peeled, split lengthwise, seeded and diced small

2 cups frozen petite peas

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup thinly sliced green onions

3 tablespoons minced mint leaves

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Freshly ground pepper

Cook the orzo in salted boiling water until it is almost tender, about 9 minutes. Add the cucumbers and peas to the pot. Return the orzo to a boil. Cook about 30 seconds more, then drain. The peas will be slightly undercooked.

Immediately transfer the mixture to a large nonstick skillet. Stir in the butter until it is melted. (This can be made several hours ahead to this point and kept at room temperature. To serve, gently reheat the orzo, stirring often, until hot, about 3 minutes.) Stir in the green onions, mint and cilantro. Taste; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

6 servings. Each serving: 131 calories; 226 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 4.30 grams fiber.

Strawberry Romanoff Sundaes

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 50 minutes plus 5 hours chilling

These sundaes require about 1 1/4 cup-capacity stemmed glasses, coffee cups or mugs. Let the sundaes stand for about 30 to 40 minutes at room temperature before serving as the sauce should be soft, the sherbet still rather firm.

STRAWBERRY SHERBET

2 pints strawberries, hulled, rinsed, blotted dry with paper towels

1/2 cup powdered sugar (less if berries are sweet)

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon dark rum

2 tablespoons strawberry or raspberry preserves

1/3 cup whipping cream

Quarter the strawberries, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them until they are almost solid, 20 to 30 minutes.

Place the berries in a food processor with the sugar and orange zest. Pulse to chop the fruit, then process continuously until the berries are pureed. Add the rum and preserves. Process briefly to mix. With the processor running, add the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process until just mixed. Transfer the mixture to a plastic container and freeze until it's firm enough to scoop, about 2 hours.

ROMANOFF SAUCE

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 cup rich vanilla ice cream

1 tablespoon dark rum

2 tablespoons Cointreau

Sliced strawberries tossed with sugar, Cointreau and rum, for serving, optional

Whip the cream and sugar until thick. Transfer it to a bowl. Whip the ice cream until it's thick and pourable. Fold it into the whipped cream along with the rum and Cointreau.

Use a 1/4-cup scoop for sherbet, putting 1 scoop in each of 6 stemmed glasses. Top each with 1/4 cup of sauce. Add another scoop of sherbet and then more sauce to cover. Place the sundaes in the freezer several hours or overnight, covered airtight.

To serve, let the sundaes rest at room temperature to soften slightly, 30 to 40 minutes. Top them with sliced strawberries, if using. Serve immediately.

6 servings. Each serving: 212 calories; 22 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 2.51 grams fiber.

*

Tablecloth, plate, silverware and glass from Smith & Hawken stores.

*

Mandel is a cookbook author.

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