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Simply good

With no more ingredients than you can count on one hand, the frazzled summertime cook can still make a meal with style and flavor.

Let's face it: It's just too hot to be creative in the kitchen. What you want is to be able to dig out a few ingredients and, with a minimum of fuss and muss, pull something together. The complication is, that something also has to taste good.

The key? Simplify. Here are four dishes that consist of only four ingredients each and come together in a snap. They can be made by anyone with the most basic cooking skills, yet they taste good enough to satisfy even the most demanding palate.

A caveat is in order: When we say four ingredients, we're talking about primary ingredients. Basic seasonings such as salt and pepper, garlic, olive oil and sugar are not included in the count. Also, we've counted a sub-recipe such as vinaigrette as one ingredient. A sub-recipe also has fewer than four ingredients.

The idea of restricting yourself to four ingredients may seem a bit like voluntarily slipping into a straitjacket, but when you stop to think about it, it's not that hard.

A lot of the best summer food could be titled one-ingredient cooking: boiled corn, steak on the barbecue, grilled eggplant. It's all a matter of starting with something good and then preparing it in the simplest way.

Drunken Cherries on Ice Cream

1{ cups red wine

} cup sugar

2 cloves

1{ pounds cherries, unpitted

1 pint vanilla ice cream

Bring wine, sugar and cloves to boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20 minutes from start. Add cherries and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Chill.

When ready to serve, scoop vanilla ice cream into bowls and ladle cherries and juice over top.

Makes 6 servings. Each serving: 282 calories, 47 mg sodium, 20 mg cholesterol, 5 gm fat, 50 gm, 3 gm protein, 0.23 gm fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes. Total preparation time: 25 minutes plus 1 hour chilling. Degree of difficulty: easy.

Tuna and Garbanzo Salad

Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

\ teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, minced

\ cup olive oil

Combine vinegar, salt and garlic in small jar and shake until combined. Add olive oil and shake again until thoroughly mixed.

Salad:

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans

1 9-ounce can solid white tuna in water

1 bunch radishes, sliced

Vinaigrette

Salt, pepper

Rinse beans in strainer under running water to remove excess liquid and salt. Combine in large mixing bowl with tuna and radishes. Add half of vinaigrette and stir to mix well. Slowly add enough remaining vinaigrette to lightly coat salad. Taste and correct seasonings.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving: 338 calories, 801 mg sodium, 11 mg cholesterol, 15 gm fat, 26 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm protein, 1.78 gm fiber.

Active work and total preparation time: 15 minutes. Degree of difficulty: easy.

Barbecued Chicken Sticks

1 pound chicken tenderloins

2 tablespoons garlic oil

{ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Soak 6 bamboo skewers in water 30 minutes.

In shallow dish, combine chicken tenderloins, garlic oil, salt and pepper. Turn chicken to coat evenly. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Remove skewers from water and thread with chicken.

Grill chicken on hot cast-iron grill pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or cook on outdoor grill, rotating until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings. Each serving: 102 calories, 233 mg sodium, 33 mg cholesterol, 5 gm fat, 0 carbohydrates, 13 gm protein, 0 fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes. Total preparation time: 40 minutes. Degree of difficulty: easy.

Note: These are delicious when served wrapped in a flour tortilla along with mint and Thai basil and Thai chile sauce. Top with a squeeze of lime.

Goat Cheese-stuffed Chilies

6 small poblano chilies

1 ear corn

Freshly ground pepper

{ pound goat cheese

Chopped tomato

Roast chilies and corn on rack over gas burner placed on stove top or under broiler until peppers are charred and corn is lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Put chilies in paper bag and close. Let chilies cool, 15-20 minutes, then remove from bag and peel. Make a slit on one side of each chilie and remove seeds. Pat dry. When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cob to make about 1 cup.

Crumble goat cheese into bowl. Stir in { cup of grilled corn and season to taste with pepper. Spoon cheese mixture into peppers. Place peppers in shallow glass baking dish seam side up and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is heated through, 10-15 minutes.

Place chilies on serving plates and sprinkle with tomatoes and remaining corn.

Makes 6 servings. Each serving: 164 calories, 196 mg sodium, 17 mg cholesterol, 10 gm fat, 13 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm protein, 3.95 gm fiber.

Active work time: 10 minutes. Total preparation time: 50 minutes.

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