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GOURMANDISE

NEW FLAVOR

From the spice rack

If you ever needed proof that Americans are becoming daring in the kitchen, take a look at the McCormick Spice Company's new line. Among the new entries: chipotle chili pepper, lemon grass, wasabi powder, crushed rosemary and red curry powder. There are also spice blends like garam masala and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

"More and more consumers are enjoying ethnic dishes with great flavors at restaurants," says Laurie Harrsen, the company's director of consumer affairs. "That curiosity for new flavors has inspired cooks to recreate these tastes at home."

GIRL SCOUT COOKIES

Ole! Two new kinds

And the big news is two brand-new cookies have joined the Girl Scout lineup this year. Ole Oles are little cookies that resemble Mexican Wedding Cakes and are made from pecan chips and coconut and covered with powdered sugar. And get this -- they're reduced fat.

And then there are All Abouts, shortbread cookies with a fudge coating at the bottom and a series of Girl Scout messages embossed on top. They are meant to celebrate the 90th anniversary of scouting.

They join up with six other kinds of cookies, of which Thin Mints rank as the hands-down favorite. The annual cookie sale begins Oct. 6.

VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK

From greens to grains

This is the best time of year to eat vegetarian, what with all sorts of tempting harvest vittles coming to market. So you might want to take a look at a new book "The Best Vegetarian Recipes" by Martha Rose Schulman (William Morrow, $25.)

Most of the suggestions are simple ones and they run the gamut from spreads, dips and condiments, through salad, eggs and cheese, grains and beans and finally to desserts. A whole chapter is devoted to tofu.

Here's one recipe that sounds especially tempting:

GRILLED PEPPER AND TOMATO SALAD

4 large red or yellow bell peppers

1pound ripe tomatoes

Salt to taste

1teaspoon cumin seeds

2garlic cloves, pounded to a puree with a little salt

2tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
Prepare a medium fire in a gas or charcoal grill or preheat the broiler. Grill or broil the peppers, turning every 3 minutes or so, until uniformly charred. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Cover tightly and let sit for 30 minutes or longer. Peel, seed and finely chop.

Grill or broil the tomatoes for a couple of minutes on each side until blackened. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, peel and chop.

Combine the peppers, tomatoes and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium high heat and add the cumin seeds. Shake the pan and toast the seeds; they should begin to smell fragrant and darken slightly. Once you see the color change, remove from the pan immediately and grind in a mortar and pestle or spice mill. Add to the peppers and tomatoes. Stir in the garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes or longer for the flavors to ripen. Makes six servings. The salad keeps for several days in the refrigerator.

Quotable

"I think butter and apples have a great affinity. As you gather, I'm a pretty buttery boy." -- the late American cooking authority James Beard.