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A Party for All Seasons

TIMES FOOD STYLIST

Let the rest of the country bundle up for fall. Here in Southern California, the first days of autumn may be cool, even chilly, but as any native knows, the weather can heat up in an instant. And when hot temperatures hit on an early-fall weekend, back-yard entertainers may congratulate themselves for living in a land where there is at least the illusion that summer never ends.

What follows are simple party recipes that are naturals for outdoor or casual indoor entertaining: endive stuffed with garlicky goat cheese, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes; a mushroom-y pasta salad; asparagus, lima beans, leeks and fennel tossed in an all-green salad; a grilled vegetable sandwich; a fig upside-down cake, and, of course, brownies.

Much of the preparation for these recipes can be done a day ahead--the baking of the cake and brownies, the making of the cheese filling for the endive.

Other party ideas require no cooking. Smoked fish--trout, chub or sturgeon, for instance--may be purchased at a market and simply arranged on a platter of greens with lemon slices and fresh dill. If you’re planning a cheese and seasonal fruit tray, let the cheeses stand at room temperature an hour or so before serving to enhance their flavor.

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This is an easy party appetizer. And the cheese filling for these appetizers may be prepared ahead if you keep it covered and refrigerated. Just before serving, sprinkle with pine nuts.

GOAT CHEESE AND ENDIVE APPETIZER 3 heads Belgian endive 1 (6-ounce) package goat cheese 3/4 cup half and half 2 cloves garlic, minced 0 sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), minced 8 basil leaves, minced Salt, pepper 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Carefully separate 24 endive leaves. Set aside.

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Beat goat cheese and half and half together until smooth. Stir in garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using pastry bag, pipe cheese mixture onto each endive leaf. Garnish with remaining pine nuts. Makes 24 appetizers.

Each serving contains about:

59 calories; 62 mg sodium; 5 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.6 gram fiber.

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Wide noodles are the base for this pasta salad. Fresh mushrooms along with crunchy peas and toasted Brazil nuts are added to the salad, then tossed with an Asian-style dressing. We serve it on a large platter over shredded napa cabbage.

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FALL MUSHROOM PASTA SALAD 1/2 pound lasagna noodles 3 tablespoons oil 1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/2 pound sugar peas, cut into julienne strips 1 bunch green onions, diagonally sliced 1 cup Brazil nuts, toasted 1/2 cup oyster sauce 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed Salt 1/2 small head napa cabbage, shredded 1/2 cup cilantro leaves

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Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well and cut into quarters. Set aside.

Heat oil in skillet and saute brown and shiitake mushrooms until tender. Stir into noodles along with peas, onions and nuts.

Combine oyster sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil and peppercorns. Pour over noodles tossing to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt. Chill until serving time.

To serve, make bed of cabbage on platter and top with noodles. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Makes 8 servings.

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Each serving contains about:

305 calories; 678 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 1.71 grams fiber.

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This is a delicately flavored salad in which various shades of green combine to make a pretty party dish. It can be assembled several hours before serving--just be sure to keep it covered and chilled until ready to eat.

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SHADES OF GREEN SALAD 1 bunch asparagus 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 leeks, sliced 2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced 2 (17-ounce cans) lima beans, drained 2 heads Belgian endive, sliced Chive Vinaigrette Salt, pepper Boston lettuce

Trim asparagus. Cut 4 stalks asparagus in half lengthwise and set aside for garnish. Cut remaining asparagus into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat oil in skillet and saute leeks and fennel quickly over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add cut-up asparagus and cook additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

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When cool, toss with lima beans, endive and Chive Vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until serving time. Serve on bed of Boston lettuce. Garnish with asparagus spear halves. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

344 calories; 525 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 3.29 grams fiber.

Chive Vinaigrette 1/4 cup white wine vinegar 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped chives Salt, pepper

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Stir together white wine vinegar and Sherry vinegar in bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive and vegetable oils while whisking until all oil is blended. Stir in chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.

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Italian bread rubbed with garlic and a fresh , very ripe tomato before grilling is the base for this party sandwich, which can be cut into small squares for easy serving. The fresh tomato adds a subtle sweetness to the grilled bread. The vegetables and the bread may be grilled ahead, so the sandwich can be assembled at the last minute.

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GRILLED VEGETABLE SANDWICH 1 crusty loaf Italian flat bread, such as ciabatta 1 large clove garlic, cut in half 1 very ripe tomato, cut in half 4 Japanese eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices 3 green zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices 3 yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices 2 sweet red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and quartered 2 yellow peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and quartered *

Herb Marinade 1 cup crumbled feta cheese 1 bunch watercress

Cut bread in half horizontally. Rub inside of each half with garlic and ripe tomato. Grill until bread is toasted. Set aside.

Grill eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red and yellow peppers, brushing with Herb Marinade. Brush remaining marinade over cut surfaces of grilled bread.

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To assemble sandwich, layer grilled vegetables atop bottom slice of bread. Sprinkle over feta cheese. Arrange sprigs of watercress atop cheese. Cover with top half of bread. Slice into servings. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

276 calories; 364 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.75 gram fiber.

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Herb Marinade 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 1 clove garlic, minced Salt, pepper

Whisk together oil, vinegar, rosemary and garlic in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3/4 cup.

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Sliced fresh figs and brown sugar are covered with a rich pine nut-butter cake batter, then baked. Served warm with goat’s cheese and red wine, this makes an easy and elegant dessert. If you bake the cake a day ahead, warm it in an oven or microwave before serving it.

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FRESH FIG UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE 1/3 cup melted butter 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed 5 to 6 ripe figs, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts 1 1/3 cups flour 1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup softened butter 2/3 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1 egg Goat cheese, optional

Pour melted butter into bottom of 8-inch-square baking pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bottom of pan. Arrange fig slices in single layer over bottom of pan. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons pine nuts into spaces around figs pressing into brown sugar. Set aside.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl. Add softened butter, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and egg. Beat on medium speed about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl. Stir in remaining pine nuts. Pour over figs in baking pan.

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Bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes or until cake tests done in center. Cool in pan about 5 minutes. Loosen cake around edges of pan. Place serving platter over cake and turn over. Shake gently, then remove pan. Serve warm with slices of goat cheese. Makes 9 servings.

Each serving, without goat cheese, contains about:

376 calories; 419 mg sodium; 71 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 47 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.56 gram fiber.

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Most people love chocolate brownies. These moist double chocolate bars will be among your favorites. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are easily eaten out of hand.

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DOUBLE CHOCOLATE-NUT BROWNIES 3 ounces semisweet chocolate 1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla 3/4 cup chocolate chips 1/2 cup chopped walnuts Powdered sugar

In top of double boiler, melt chocolate and butter. By hand, mix in sugar, flour and baking powder. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

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Pour into greased and floured 8x8-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes or until center tests done. Let cool to warm. Cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 16 brownies.

Each serving contains about:

202 calories; 104 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.24 gram fiber.


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