Old Standards Are Great Basics In Creative Dishes

Some dishes have a combination of ingredients that come together in a taste sensation that is so marvelous and universal that there’s no reason to limit the basic formula to that one dish.

For example, mushrooms sauteed with a little butter, cream and brandy make a delicious side dish, but you could serve them in a risotto, over spaghetti or as a soup if thinned with chicken stock.

Or, think how creative cooks have transformed the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich into salad, using the bread as croutons.

A standard recipe should be an inspiration, not necessarily the conclusion. Caesar salad, a summer staple of romaine lettuce, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, egg and croutons, isn’t as welcome midwinter. However, those same ingredients, heated up, can make a hearty and appealing January entree.

Of course, a few adaptations are necessary. Fettuccine takes the place of croutons. A sauce of soft-cooked egg, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and cheese tops the pasta. And yes, this version does have romaine lettuce. The leaves lose their crunch tossed in hot fettuccine, becoming sweet and tender instead.

Serve Caesar Salad Pasta with bread and fragrant Maple Syrup-Basted Baked Apples for dessert.

Caesar Salad Pasta

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 (2-ounce) can anchovies, drained

8 ounces fettuccine


2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

12 to 14 tender inner leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (2 to 2-1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

Fill small pan with water. Add egg and bring to boil. Boil 3 minutes. Drain. Fill pan with cold water and set egg aside in cold water.

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add garlic and saute over medium heat 5 minutes to flavor oil. If you really like anchovies, dice all and add to garlic and oil. If you prefer a light touch, use half the anchovies, refrigerating remainder for another recipe. Saute anchovies in oil 2 minutes. Set aside, but keep warm.

Cook fettuccine in plenty of salted boiling water until tender. Drain well. Spoon into large serving bowl.

Discard garlic in oil. Pour anchovies and oil onto pasta. Crack open egg and spoon out yolk into pasta. Sprinkle on cheese. Stir in lettuce and lemon juice. Toss gently but well. Season generously with pepper and lightly with salt. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings.

Maple Syrup-Basted Baked Apples

2 large Rome beauty apples

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon dark rum

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Hollow out apples, removing cores, but leaving bottoms intact. Place apples in small pie dish or shallow casserole just large enough to hold fruit.

Stir together cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts and raisins in small bowl. Pack apples with mixture.

Combine rum, butter and maple syrup in small bowl. Spoon over apples. Bake at 350 degrees, basting every 15 minutes, until very tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Yield: 2 servings.

MEMO: Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.

Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.

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