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Lyn Nichols column: New kitchen offers chance to test recipes

I am finally cooking in my new "What's Cookin' " kitchen. I cannot tell you how exciting this week has been -- with all the new appliances that I had never used before, such as the halogen-microwave, the conventional-convection oven, the warming ...

I am finally cooking in my new "What's Cookin' " kitchen.

I cannot tell you how exciting this week has been -- with all the new appliances that I had never used before, such as the halogen-microwave, the conventional-convection oven, the warming drawer and the glass cook top with seven cooking elements.

I hope you will join me this week for What's Cookin' when we will be making a full dinner in the new kitchen -- Salsa Chicken, Black Bean Salad, Savory Rice with Diced Peppers, Berries in a Bowl and a Chocolate Coffee Slush. All the recipes are reduced fat, but the flavor in each is definitely increased.

What's Cookin' is seen Monday through Friday on WDAY 6 News at Five and heard on WDAY AM 970 during the 5 p.m. newscast.

In the meantime, here are friends' recipes that I've tested in my new kitchen.

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A gourmet cook, Caryl Lee, received this dessert recipe from a family friend, Harriet Johnson. Caryl shared it with us because it is "one-of-a-kind delicious".

"This is truly a beautiful dessert, and worth the work to make it," Caryl says. "It is fabulous served slightly warm, but it holds up well in the refrigerator if there is any leftover!"

Harriet's Rhubarb Torte

Crust:

1½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

¾ cup margarine (or butter)

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Stir flour, salt and sugar together in a medium bowl. Pre-cut cold margarine into small pieces, then cut the pieces into the flour mixture until it's crumbly. Pat the crust into a 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake the crust at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until set and golden.

Custard:

1 whole egg

5 egg yolks

2½ cups sugar

4 tablespoons flour

Xc cup half-and-half cream

5 cups diced rhubarb

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Beat egg yolks and whole egg together until slightly foamy. Combine eggs in saucepan with sugar, flour and cream, then add rhubarb and stir together. Once combined, cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and rhubarb is tender (takes about 15 minutes and is easy to do while the crust is baking). Pour the custard over the baked crust.

Topping:

5 egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

10 tablespoons sugar

Beat the egg whites until they're foamy, then add the cream of tartar.

Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time to the egg white mixture, beating rapidly until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Spread the meringue over the custard and then bake the torte at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes (until the meringue is browned to your liking).

Speaking of tortes, June Tweten loves to cook and she is known for this sweet and tangy meringue torte. When I sampled a piece at a Sunday dinner, I immediately asked her for the recipe. She graciously shared it.

Lemon Meringue Torte

½ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

6 tablespoons milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Filling:

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup cold water

2 egg yolks, beaten

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Topping:

6 egg whites

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup slivered almonds

1. Make crust: In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Beat in egg yolks and milk. Combine flour and baking powder and whisk to blend. Add it to the creamed mixture and mix well. Spread into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

2. Make filling: In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, while stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of the mixture into the egg yolks. Return all to pan. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, lemon juice and peel, and set aside.

3. Make topping: In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in cinnamon. Fold in almonds.

4. Spread hot filling over the crust. Spread the topping over filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.

Lin Smithwick is another gourmet cook and enjoys cooking for friends. She prepared these pickles for a recent dinner party and everyone was begging for more and they were pleading for the recipe.

Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups thinly sliced cucumbers

1 cup thinly sliced onions

2 cups sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Slice cucumbers and onions; place in large container. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Wait about 24 hours before serving.

Another one of Lin's recipes that received rave reviews was her grilled asparagus. If you try this recipe, be prepared for the asparagus spears to disappear quickly.

Grilled Asparagus

Zc cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1½ pounds asparagus spears, tough ends removed

1. Combine butter ingredients; stir with a fork to mix well. In a small sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of butter.

2. Brush melted butter over asparagus spears. Grill over direct medium heat until spears are marked and tender -- six to eight minutes depending on thickness, turning once halfway through grilling time.

3. Transfer asparagus to serving dish with the reserved butter mixture. Toss the spears to melt and evenly distribute the butter. Serve warm.

Lyn Nichols hosts "What's Cookin'?" weekdays on WDAY-TV. Her column appears Sundays and alternate Wednesdays in The Forum. She can be reached at PO Box 2466, Fargo, ND 58108, or e-mail, lyn@i29.net

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