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Concerns about fat complicate cooking

Really good cooking used to be so easy. You stuck a beef roast in the oven while you made potato something and a green vegetable, or you fried chicken, then made cream gravy for the rice or mashed potatoes and tossed a salad.

Seldom did you need more than salt, pepper, butter or lard or salad dressing, plus the principal ingredient, to make any of these simple dishes taste good.

You can't cook that way anymore, not if you're cutting down on dietary fat. Not only is fat a major component in yesterday's straightforward cooking, it's also a flavor enhancer and flavor carrier. Cut it out or cut it down in recipes, and you need more, not fewer, ingredients to compensate for the flavor lost with the fat.

That's why I'm disturbed by a trend that equates short ingredient lists with fast and easy cooking. Just a few ingredients don't necessarily add up to fast and easy cooking any more than a long list always takes a long time. To get a handle on your real time involvement, look at the method, not the number of ingredients.

The recipe for Sweet Potato Rolls, for example, calls for only seven ingredients, including salt, yet takes up to five hours from start to finish. Most of that time, however, is for the yeast dough to rise. Active cooking is limited to 30 minutes for mixing and shaping the dough. Cool and freeze leftovers for reheating.

Curried Split Pea and Cauliflower Soup has a long list of ingredients yet takes only 15 minutes of hands-on time.

This low-fat combination is a flavorsome, filling autumn dinner for anyone.

Frances Price is a dietitian and chef who writes and cooks in Baltimore. She welcomes your letters and questions on nutrition and cooking and recipes for one. If you wish a reply, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Frances Price, Cooking For One, c/o Food Section, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Sweet Potato Rolls

1 (10-ounce) sweet potato, microwaved or baked, cooled

1 cup 1 percent milk

\ cup melted butter, divided

\ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 package (\ ounce) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, divided

Peel, mash and measure sweet potato; you should have one cup, packed; set aside. Combine milk with 2 tablespoons melted butter and heat to very warm (110-115 degrees). Pour into mixing bowl, stir in sugar and yeast to dissolve, then stir in 1 cup flour to make a smooth paste. Let stand until foamy throughout.

Stir in remaining 2 cups flour, sweet potato and salt; knead on low speed of mixer with dough hook or by hand until dough is smooth, elastic and pulls away from bowl. Cover with damp towel and proof until doubled.

Punch dough down and roll to \-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut in rounds with 2-inch biscuit cutter; fold over to make half-circles, arrange {-inch apart on greased baking sheet, brush with remaining melted butter. Proof, covered with damp towel, until doubled. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 10-12 minutes or until browned and done. Makes 24 rolls.

Hands-on time: 30 minutes. Proofing time: 2-4 hours. Baking time: 10-12 minutes.

Nutrients per roll: 97 calories, 2.1 gm. total fat, 1.3 gm. saturated fat, 6 mg. cholesterol, 115 mg. sodium, 17.2 gm. total carbohydrate, 2.4 gm. protein, 0.9 gm. dietary fiber. Exchanges: 1 bread, { fat.

Curried Split Pea Soup with Cauliflower

5{ cups water

} cup dried yellow split peas, washed, drained

1 small onion, chopped

1 small carrot, cut in \-inch dice

1 small (3-4 ounce) potato, cut in {-inch cubes

1 small rib celery, chopped

1-2 tablespoons minced ginger root

2-3 teaspoons curry powder

{ teaspoon salt

{ small head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

{ cup frozen green peas (optional)

In 3-quart saucepan, combine water with split peas, onion, carrot, potato, celery, ginger root, curry powder and salt. Bring to a boil over fairly high heat, turn heat to low and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Add cauliflower and cook 15-20 minutes longer or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in green peas and serve.

Hands on time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 1{ hours.

Nutrients: 215 calories, 1.0 gm. total fat, 0.1 gm. saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 330 mg. sodium, 41.5 g. total carbohydrate, 13.0 gm. protein, 4.8 gm. dietary fiber. Exchanges: 1{ vegetable, 2 bread, { meat.