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February menus: French farm breakfast, valentine dinner, cracked crab and soup.

Selective shopping keeps kitchen activities relaxed in February. This month's options include a simple breakfast with French origins, a valentine dinner children can engineer, and a calorie-light dinner with elegance.

Ready-to-use foods fit in well. For breakfast, buy bread and toppings and brew the beverage. For dinner, buy cooked meat and cheese to warm for the main dish. And for supper, buy cooked crab.

French farm breakfast

In the country, the French often start their day with tartine, thick slices of bread slathered with butter and cheese, jam, or honey, sometimes sprinkling bits of chocolate on top. With it they sip steaming cafe au lait--strong coffee and hot milk--from bowls or mugs, and finish with fresh fruit.

We propose the menu with a variation on hot chocolate: cafe au chocolat blanc, coffee with hot white chocolate. For children, you can substitute sweet ground chocolate for the coffee.

Tartine

Cafe au Chocolat Blanc

Ripe Pears Black or Red Grapes

Set out the makings for tartine: a loaf of sweet French bread to slice, and small pots of butter, honey, ricotta cheese, jam, and grated semisweet chocolate. Have a piece of ripe brie or camembert as well, and at least 1 piece of fruit for each person. A large slice of bread, 1 or 2 tablespoons of the toppings, and 1/4 cup of cheese will satisfy most individuals. Package any leftovers for another day. Cafe au Chocolat Blanc

Into each coffee cup or small bowl, pour equal amounts strong hot coffee (directions follow) and hot white chocolate (directions follow). Allow 1 cup total for each serving. For children, omit coffee and stir sweet ground chocolate to taste into each 1-cup serving of the hot white chocolate.

Hot strong Coffee. Make coffee using twice the amount of coffee grounds you normally would. Use at once.

Hot white chocolate. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, combine 1 quart milk, 4 ounces chopped white chocolate (sometimes called white pastel coating), and 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir frequently over medium heat until chocolate is melted and milk is steaming. If made ahead, let cool, cover, and chill up to 2 days, then reheat.

A valentine gift

Even children can deliver a valentine message with dinner by serving this easy-to-manage meal in a packet. Preparations can involve anyone old enough to cut a paper heart.

Big hearts, cut from baking parchment paper (sold in supermarkets), are folded around a sliced meat and cheese entree. The hearts are sealed and baked, then opened at the table. Embellish the entree with fancy-cut vegetables. From-the-Heart Valentines Carved Raw Vegetables Small Roasted Potatoes Painted Chocolate Hearts Ice Cream Cabernet Sauvignon Juice Spritzers

On Valentines' Day or the day before, prepare the main dish, using meat and chesse from a deli. Also cut vegetables and make chocolate hearts.

The paper hearts and small potatoes bake in the same oven, but the potatoes need a 25- to 35-minute head start. Scrub 1-1/2- to 2-inch-diameter thin-skinned potatoes and pierce with a fork; bake on the oven rack until the potatoes give when gently squeezed.

Cut radishes into roses, celery into brushes, carrots into curls or sticks; keep in ice water until ready to serve.

To make chocolate hearts, use a small brush or the back of a spoon to paint melted semisweet chocolate thickly in small hearts on a sheet of foil; chill until hard. Remove from refrigerator just before serving, then peel off foil. Serve like cookies or stick into scoops of ice cream.

To make spritzers, combine chilled Cabernet Sauvignon or other varietal grape juice with sparkling water. From-the-Heart Valentines Baking parchment paper 1/2 pound thinly sliced, cooked, boneless turkey breast 3/4 pound thinly sliced jack or fontina cheese 1/4 pound thinly sliced cooked ham 1 cup frozen peas or frozen Chinese pea pods, thawed Grond nutmeg Red food coloring and cotton swabs, optional

Tear or cut 4 pieces of parchment paper into 11- by 15-inch rectangles. Fold each piece so short sides meet; draw a half heart from the fold, using as much of the paper as possible, then cut out the heart.

Alternate turkey, cheese, and ham to make 4 equal stacks, ending with cheese on top. Open hearts and place a stack on each beside fold line, tucking edges of meat and cheese in so you have at least 1 inch margin of parchment on cut side of heart. Top stacks equally with peas; sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.

Refold hearts, aligning cut edges, to cover filling. Starting at the inside curve of the heart, roll and crimp edges together; twist tip to hold folds shut. Place packets slightly apart on a 10- by 15-inch pan.

Dip a cotton swab in red food coloring and write your message on the packet, retracting letters firmly until dark. If made ahead, chill as long as overnight.

Bake, uncovered, in a 400 [deg.] oven until cheese is completely melted, about 7 minutes (or about 10 minutes if chilled); open 1 packet slightly to check. Serve packets closed so message is delivered, then unfold or individual plates. Makes 4 servings.

Gone crabbing

It's the nature of these foods, plus simple preparation, that keeps this meal low in calories. Cold cracked crab is enhanced by a soy- and vinegar-based sauce. The leanness of the potato chips and soup comes from dry roasting in the oven. Roasted Eggplant Soup Marinated Cracked Crab with Salad Greens Dry-roasted Apples with Yogurt Dry Sauvignon Blanc or Limeade

The potato chips bake for about 2 hours and take a lot of space; if you don't have two ovens, you can bake them in sequence. Roast soup vegetables before or after the chips.

Use some of the crab marinade at the table to dress salad greens. Roasted Eggplant Soup 1 large eggplant (about 1-1/i lb.), rinsed and pierced in several places with a fork 1 small onion 3 cups regular-strength chicken broth 2 tablespoons lemon juice Salt and pepper 8 or 12 thin red bell pepper slices Finely chopped parsley

Put eggplant and unpeeled onion in an 8- or 9-inch round or square pan. Bake in a 400 [deg.] oven until vegetables are very soft when squeezed, about 1-1/4 hours. Let cool (vegetables can be chilled, covered, overnight), then peel. Puree vegetables in a food processor or blender. Blen puree with broth in a 2- to 3-quart pan. Bring to a boil, uncovered; add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into individual bowls and serve garnished with bell pepper and parsley. Make 4 servings. Marinated Cracked Crab with Salad Greens 2/3 cup white wine vinegar 1/2 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion 1 teaspoon each minced fresh ginger and fresh or picled jalapeno chili 2 large cooked Dungeness crabs (about 2 lb. each), cleaned and cracked; reserve back shells 6 cups butter lettuce leaves, washed and crisped

In a bowl, mix together vinegar, soy sauce, onion, ginger, and chili. Gently mix crab pieces into marinade. Cover and chill 10 minutes or as long as a half hour. Arrange greens on one side of a platter. Lift crab from bowl and reassemble next to greens; top crab with the back shells. Pour marinade into a small dish to serve with crab and greens. Serve 4. Dry-roasted Potato Chips 1 pound thin-skinned potatoes Water Nonstick baking spray Salt (optional)

Scrub potatoes. With the slicing blade on an Oriental shredder or a food processor, evenly cut potatoes into paper-thin slices. Drop 1/3 of the potato slices into a 3- to 4-quart pan filled 3/4 full with boiling water; boil, uncovered, until potatoes are slightly translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Lift potatoes from water with a slotted spoon; set aside to drain. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Place wire cooling racks on 10- by 15-inch baking sheets; you'll need about 4 pans, or use them in sequence. Coat racks with nonstick baking spray.

Arrange potato slices on racks in a single layer without overlapping. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake, uncovered, in a 200 [Deg.] over until chips are dry and crisp, 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Carefully lift from racks and serve hot or cool. If made ahead, cool and store airtight at room temperature up to 1 month. Makes about 1 quart, or 4 servings. Cider-poached Apples with Yogurt 1 quart apple cider or juice 4 medium-size McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples 1/2 to 3/4 cup unflavored or berry-flavored yogurt 1-i cup chopped pecans

In a 2- to 3-quart pan, boil apple cider, uncovered, until reduced to 1 cup.

Core whole apples and add to cider. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until apples are tender when pierced, 8 to 15 minutes. Serve apples and sauce in individual bowls; spoon yogurt and nuts onto fruit. Makes 4 servings.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Words:1473
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