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Good Cooking

The Grills of Autumn

September 18, 2002|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just because fall is coming doesn't mean the grill goes in the garage. Slightly cooler weather can make for better grilling (who wants to sweat over a hot fire?). And grilled food enlivens a fall menu.

For a change of pace, try Cornish hens. Their taste is mild and delicate enough to handle robust marinades. And their petite size lends them to more festive presentations.

Here, the hens are cloaked in an orange marinade and finished on the grill at the end of their cooking with an orange marmalade glaze. The glaze goes on at the last minute so it doesn't burn. The warm spinach salad is a perfect accompaniment to the hens, a fresh and vibrant mix. It's an easy way to get spinach on the table.

Cooler weather also offers a chance to serve heartier, seasonal side dishes, such as this wild rice with dried apricots, which can be made ahead. The tricky aspect is cooking the wild rice. Check the rice often after 30 minutes and turn off the heat while the rice is still a little chewy. Overcook it, and the grains will split open and turn too mushy for this salad.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 04, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 5 inches; 192 words Type of Material: Correction
Cornish hen recipe--In a recipe for grilled Cornish hens in the Food section Sept. 18, the nutritional information did not include the orange marmalade glaze. Here is the complete information, for each of six servings: 707 calories, 387 milligrams sodium, 297 milligrams cholesterol, 46 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 51 grams protein, 0.51 gram fiber.

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Grilled Cornish Hens

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus 4 hours marinating

Nonstick cooking spray

3 small Cornish hens, about 2 pounds each, thawed if frozen, split, backbone removed with kitchen shears

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

Salt

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup orange marmalade mixed with 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, for glaze

Orange slices, for serving

Spray a grill rack set 4 inches from the heat source with nonstick cooking spray. Heat the grill to medium.

Place the hens in a large plastic food bag. Combine the orange juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, rosemary, shallot, zest, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the marinade over the hens. Turn the bag around several times until the hens are evenly coated with the marinade. Marinate 4 to 6 hours, refrigerated, turning the bag occasionally. Bring the hens to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.

Remove the hens from the marinade; discard the marinade. Lightly sprinkle the hens with salt and pepper.

Place the hens skin side down on the rack. Grill, turning with tongs 3 to 4 times, until the meat is fully opaque (insert a knife in the joint between the breast and thigh to check; there should be no redness), and the skin is brown and crispy. This should take about 40 minutes. Brush each side of the hens with the glaze on the last turn.

Transfer them to a platter. Brush the tops with the glaze again. Arrange the Warm Spinach Salad on a platter. Place the hens attractively on top. Garnish the platter with the orange slices and rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately. Alternately, serve the hens and salad on separate platters; this way, the hens can be served warm or at room temperature.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings, Cornish hens only: 640 calories; 284 mg sodium; 297 mg cholesterol; 46 grams fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 51 grams protein; 0.43 grams fiber.

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Warm Spinach Salad

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

7 cups packed baby spinach leaves, crisped

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup minced red onion

Place the spinach in a large bowl; cover with a damp paper towel. (The spinach can be refrigerated several hours or overnight.) Combine the vinegar, water, oil, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook the bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel. Pour off the fat but do not clean or wipe the pan. Add the vinaigrette to pan. (This can be done several hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)

To serve, bring the vinaigrette to a boil; add the onion. Pour the hot vinaigrette over the spinach. Toss several times to coat the greens. Add freshly ground pepper and the bacon. Toss. Taste; adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately.

4 servings. Each serving: 109 calories; 228 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.34 grams fiber.

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Wild Rice With Apricots

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans beef broth

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1 1/4 cups wild rice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups diced peeled and seeded cucumber

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup small diced dried apricots (or tomatoes)

Place the broth, onion, celery and 1 cup of water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, submerge the rice in water for a few minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under running water; drain. Add the rice to the saucepan, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the rice is just tender but still chewy. Do not overcook. Check the texture often after 30 minutes; the rice will take about 45 minutes. Add more water if the mixture is dry. Place the rice in a strainer to drain off any liquid; transfer to a medium bowl.

While the rice is still warm, toss with the lemon juice and oil. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the cucumber, parsley, mint, poultry seasoning, red pepper flakes and pepper. Use a fork to toss. Taste; adjust seasoning. (This can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.)

To serve, toss in the apricots. Taste; adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

4 servings. Each serving: 215 calories; 1,311 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 4.66 grams fiber.

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