Help for Feeding a Crowd Inexpensively

Times Staff Writer

Question: I’ve recently taken on the responsibility for catering the monthly get-together of an organization I belong to which as many as 40 to 50 persons attend. Everything must be prepared in advance and transferred to the party. Each members pays only $3, so cost is a factor. My repertoire of recipes for this large a group is limited and I would be grateful for some help.

Answer: A Recipe Adjuster might be one solution. The wheel adjusts recipes to serve from one to 100. The manufacturer does caution: “When increasing a recipe to a large quantity, taste before adding all the seasonings. Recipes for baked goods often require modification of the amount of leavening, pan size, baking time and temperature when the quantity is changed.” The device may be ordered from Recipe-Ralph, 470 Nevada Ave., Palo Alto, Calif. 94301. Cost is $4.45 each or three for $11.50 (price includes sales tax, handling and first class mail).

Q: On visits to Minnesota to see family, I discovered walleyed pike, a delicious fish considered a local delicacy. I’ve been unsuccessful finding it in Southern California either fresh or frozen. Do you know any seafood market that sells it or where the fish can be ordered?

A: Walleyed pike is actually the largest member of the perch family--not a pike at all. The fish is found all across northern Canada and the northern United States as far west as Montana, sometimes being called pickerel or pike-perch.


Gary Smolka, a fisherman from Sheffield Lake, Ohio, fishes regularly for walleye in Lake Erie and explains the lake’s sand and gravel bottom is the ideal environment for this fish.

Walleye has a mild flavor and adapts well to a variety of cooking methods; it is equally flavorful grilled or broiled, sauteed and served with sauce, or battered and deep-fried. Ohio has restrictions on the amount of fish that can be caught by sportsmen and doesn’t permit commercial fishing of walleye, but the fish is marketed by other states and Canada.

Shipments of the fresh fish arrive in Southern California regularly from Chicago. Much of the walleye is sold to restaurants. However, the following companies are willing to take special orders: Gelson’s Markets, Fish King Seafood and Poultry in Glendale and Seafood Emporium of Tarzana.

Q: Can you tell me anything about the fruit I recently tasted called sapodilla or sapota? It looks like an apple or round pear but is soft inside. How do you use the fruit and where can it be purchased?


A: The sapodilla and sapote (sometimes spelled sapota) are actually two different fruits. Frieda’s Finest Produce Specialties Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles, provided a fact sheet on the sapodilla, a round fruit that is flat in appearance with a thin brown leathery skin. The inside of the fruit ranges in color from honey-blond to deep reddish brown. The thin, black seeds are inedible. Flavor of the sopodilla is similiar to maple sugar. It’s a favorite fruit of Central America, eaten out-of-hand and incorporated into frozen ices and fruit salads.

Elizabeth Schneider, in her book “Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables--A Common Sense Guide” (Harper & Row: $25, 1986), explains there are a number of fruits called simply sapote. That may be because they originated in places where the ancient word tzapotl ( zapote in modern Mexican) means simply soft fruit. Although a number of strains have been grown in California since the early 1800s, only recently have growers been able to produce fruit that bears predictably and can be marketed.

One such strain, the white sapote has very thin bright green to canary yellow skin. The soft, pale cream flesh is responsible for the fruit sometimes being called “custard apple.” There are two to five seeds embedded in the flesh. Schneider suggests scooping the pulp from the skin and enjoying it plain or with a few drops of lime or lemon juice. It may also be topped with cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche. Pureed, the white sapote makes a fluffy fruit sauce.

Usually labeled simply sapote, the white sapote can be found in Gelson’s Markets, Irvine Ranch Markets and selected Ralphs Supermarkets. Sapodilla seems to be more available in markets catering to the Latin population.