Food writer and cookbook author Laurie Burrows Grad has our number. We'll watch the fat and count the calories until we have company. Then all of those fat-laden, high-calorie recipes come out because we have a "special occasion," "an event" or even "a celebration."
So, the woman who brought us "Make It Easy, Make It Light" some 10 years ago has been busy writing "Entertaining Light & Easy: Lower-Fat Recipes for Festive Meals" (Simon & Schuster, $25).The cookbook contains more than 175 recipes for dishes from appetizers to desserts that really shout celebration while minimizing the fat-marbled meat and cream-laden desserts.
Many of Grad's recipes are healthier versions of some favored dish. English Devonshire cream, for example, is countered with Light English Creamy Topping - 16 ounces of low-fat sour cream mixed with 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar and 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
A good many of the recipes are of the California-cuisine kind, using fruits and vegetables to add spark to meats, fish and stews.
Throughout the cookbook she offers notes on the ingredients, possible variations and preparations that can be done ahead.
Grad also offers a section of menus for such special occasions as holiday celebrations, elegant parties and casual feasts.
And at the back is a source guide for mail ordering equipment and food.
Grad lives in Los Angeles where she is a restaurant columnist for Buzz magazine. She worked for Los Angeles Magazine as food editor for 17 years and her articles and recipes have appeared in Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Woman's Day and Food & Wine.
Somehow, for me, Rock Cornish game hens are among the most elegant fowl one can serve for a special occasion. These plump little birds weigh in at 1 to 2 pounds dressed. The 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound bird makes a perfect meal for one.
Any occasion, even a Sunday dinner, is a good excuse for these nice roast birds with their sauce redolent of orange juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
ROCK CORNISH GAME HENS
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup seedless, juice-sweetened raspberry preserves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange or tangerine juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grainy-style Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced orange peel or orange zest
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 1- to 11/2-pound Rock Cornish game hens
Yield: 4 generous servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes on counter, 4 hours in refrigerator
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Combine all ingredients except hens in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the raspberry preserves have dissolved. Allow the marinade to cool slightly.
Wash and dry the hens, turn them backbone up and cut through the backbones only. Flatten out the birds with the palm of your hand and sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
Place the hens in a shallow nonreactive dish and pour the marinade over, coating on all sides. Allow the hens to marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly coat the bottom of a roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Remove the hens from the marinade and place them in the prepared pan skin side down. Spread the hens liberally with the marinade and roast for 15 minutes. Turn and baste the hens with the remaining marinade, and continue to roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until well-browned and cooked through.
Remove the cooked hens to a warm platter, strain the sauce into a pitcher and remove any accumulated fat. Serve the hens hot with the sauce on the side.
Garnish with sprigs of thyme, raspberries and orange slices.
Variations: Substitute 1/3 cup red wine or raspberry vinegar for the balsamic vinegar. Substitute strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, apricot or peach preserves for the raspberry.