Artful Ideas for Lighter, Brighter Summer Meals

Bright and light. That's the tone of these summer entrees shared by a quartet of Los Angeles chefs whose stars are on the rise. For all but one dish, you'll need a barbecue grill--a must for summer cooks, professional or otherwise. The use of fresh herbs and greens, which keep flavors distinct and clean, is another hallmark of these summery recipes. You'll find a good variety available at decent prices in most markets. Feel free to experiment with your own herb combinations. Chefs always do.

Chef Roy Yamaguchi, of 385 North in Los Angeles, is young, energetic and--in his cooking--experimental. He came up with an easygoing appetizer that epitomizes the artfulness of the Japanese-American-French cuisine that is his trademark: a salad of escarole, mache and radicchio with grilled prawns (baby prawns from San Diego waters or the more-accessible large ones) and feta cheese. The binding flavor is a sherry wine-olive oil dressing.

Joe Venezia, executive chef at the Bel-Air Hotel, uses fresh grilled tuna arranged over a pool of bright yellow-orange, tangerine-butter sauce. Basil, tarragon and fennel from the hotel's lush herb garden heighten and round out flavors of this summery dish.

Elke Gilmore of Camelion's in Santa Monica shares a dish as fresh as a summer bouquet--a vegetable plate of grilled Japanese eggplant, red and yellow roasted peppers, spiced walnuts and warmed, herbed goat cheese. Balsamic vinaigrette need not intimidate. (Lacking balsamic vinegar, use lemon juice or any rich red-wine vinegar.)

Patrick Healy, formerly executive chef at Le St. Germain and now at Colette in the Beverly Pavilion Hotel, introduces a fresh idea that uses jumbo sea scallops. He sandwiches slices of the scallops with a colorful array of match-stick vegetables, then wraps them in spinach leaves. The poached-scallop-sandwich bundles are arranged on a bed of saffron sauce. (Any sliced, firm-fleshed fish can be used in lieu of the scallop slices, and the vegetables, too, may vary.)

ROY YAMAGUCHI'S GRILLED-PRAWN SALAD

Olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped thyme 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 40 small prawns or 12 to 18 large prawns 2 cups white wine 2 ounces unsalted butter 2 ounces sugar 12 cloves garlic 1 head radicchio 1/2 head escarole 1 cup mache 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled 1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar Salt, pepper 16 Nicoise olives

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme and minced garlic in small bowl. Dip prawns in oil mixture to coat well. Grill prawns over hot coals just until seared. Combine white wine, butter and sugar with garlic cloves in saucepan. Reduce to syrup consistency. (Garlic will be candied.) Set aside.

Combine radicchio , escarole and mache in bowl. Toss greens with garlic syrup mixture (with candied garlic) and feta cheese. Add Sherry vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place greens on plate. Arrange prawns and olives over greens. Serves 6.

ELKE GILMORE'S GRILLED JAPANESE EGGPLANTS

1 clove garlic 2 tablespoons olive oil Salt, white pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil 16 Japanese eggplants, split 1 red pepper 1 green pepper or yellow pepper cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme) 8 1/2-inch thick medallions California or French goat cheese 1/2 cup walnut pieces 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon brown sugar Cayenne pepper Dressing

Combine garlic, olive oil, salt and white pepper to taste and basil in a shallow pan. Place eggplants split-side down on marinade. Turn several times to coat well. Let marinate 20 minutes. Grill eggplants, split side down on grill, over medium coals. Set aside.

Roast peppers on grill until charred. Place in plastic bag until cool enough to peel. Peel off charred portions of skin under cold running water. Cut peppers into eighths, discarding seeds. Set aside.

Press mixed herbs onto goat cheese medallions. Heat at 350 degrees 3 minutes until warmed.

Saute walnuts in butter. Toss with brown sugar, cayenne and dash of salt. Set aside.

For each plate, arrange 4 eggplant halves, cut lengthwise, on plates. Place 2 strips of red and 2 of green roast pepper between eggplant halves. Place 2 cheese medallions at edge of peppers. Sprinkle sauteed walnuts over top. Drizzle Dressing over salad. Serves 8.

Dressing

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice cup virgin olive oil Salt, pepper Combine vinegar, oil and salt and pepper. Shake.

JOE VENEZIA'S TUNA WITH TANGERINE-BUTTER SAUCE

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil 1 teaspoon chopped fennel leaves 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley cup olive oil 6 ounces fresh tuna 1/2 cup tangerine juice cup butter Whole basil, fennel, tarragon and parsley leaves 1 6-inch chives with blossom

Combine basil, fennel leaves, tarragon, parsley and olive oil in small bowl. Grill tuna over charcoal until brown outside and pink inside, basting often with herb-olive oil mixture.

Bring tangerine juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in butter, bit by bit, until sauce coats back of spoon. Arrange whole herb leaves in center of plate. Spoon sauce over herbs to cover entire plate. Place tuna over herbs. Garnish with chives stem. Makes 1 or 2 servings.

PATRICK HEALY'S STUFFED-SCALLOP SURPRISE WITH SAFFRON SAUCE

4 to 6 jumbo sea scallops, about 1 pound 2 bunches spinach, large leaves only Boiling salted water 1 carrot 1 turnip 1 yellow squash 1 zucchini 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Salt, pepper Saffron Sauce 1 ripe tomato, blanched, seeded and finely cubed 1 bunch chives, chopped

Clean scallops and remove muscles. Slice scallops horizontally to make three equal slices for each scallop. Clean and stem spinach. Blanch leaves 30 seconds in boiling salted water. Plunge into iced water. Peel and cut carrot and turnip into medium julienne strips. Cut skin only of yellow squash and zucchini into medium julienne strips.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat and add julienned vegetables. Cover and steam 1 minute. Drain in strainer. Set aside. Lightly season scallop slices with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 teaspoon julienned vegetable mixture on each of four scallop slices. Top with remaining scallop slices to make two-decker sandwich or top with another teaspoon julienned vegetables and close with remaining scallop slice for three-decker sandwich. Wrap each scallop sandwich in one or two blanched spinach leaves, keeping shiny side down. Melt remaining butter in skillet large enough to hold scallops. Add scallops, cover and steam-cook 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon Saffron Sauce to cover platter. Arrange scallop sandwiches down center of sauce. Sprinkle with finely chopped tomato cubes and chives. Garnish with any remaining vegetables, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Saffron Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter1 shallot, minced2 cups white wine1 teaspoon saffron threads1 1/2 cups whipping cream Salt, pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add shallot and cook until barely tender. Add wine and saffron and reduce liquid by one-third. Add whipping cream and cook over low heat 6 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in remaining butter just before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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