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TV food can pass the taste test Reality bite: Though recipes prepared in minutes on television may take longer to prepare in real life, they can be worth the extra time.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

To the viewer's eyes, a television cook appears to be working in a fully equipped kitchen, but this is pure illusion. Except for programs dedicated solely to cooking and some national shows, the "kitchen" is just a set in the corner of the newsroom or studio -- there's nothing behind the oven door, and the only running water is in the ladies' room. Preparing for these appearances is like packing for a wilderness expedition.

The following recipes come from some of my recent cooking demonstrations and television appearances. Enjoy the recipes in a real kitchen and don't be surprised if they take slightly more than four minutes to prepare.

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Chef Jimmy Schmidt, owner of Detroit's Rattlesnake Club, has a talent for creating food that is packed with flavor yet low in fat. This is his fresh tuna recipe.

Tuna with ginger, papaya and red-pepper salsa

Serves 4

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1/2 cup rice-wine vinegar or white-wine vinegar

2 to 4 tablespoons honey

2 ripe papayas, peeled, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced, or one 7 1/2 -ounce jar roasted peppers, drained and diced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound tuna steak, about 1 inch thick, cut into 4 portions

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Prepare a grill or heat the broiler. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and red-pepper flakes and saute until the garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the honey and half the papaya; cook until the papaya starts to fall apart and thicken the sauce, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the remaining papaya and roasted red pepper and cook until the salsa is just warmed through. (Do not overcook; you want to preserve the diced raw papaya texture.) Season with lime juice, salt, black pepper and additional honey, if desired. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Rub tuna steaks lightly with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and season with salt and black pepper. Grill or broil the tuna just until the interior is opaque, about 3 minutes per side.

Return the sauce to a burner and heat just until warm. Spoon the salsa onto the center of warm plates. With a spatula, transfer the tuna steaks onto the salsa. Sprinkle the cilantro around the fish. Serve immediately.

230 calories per serving; 28 grams protein; 4 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrate; 53 milligrams sodium; 51 milligrams cholesterol

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For a series on ABC's "Good Morning America," I was asked to do an Eating Well Rx of the hosts' favorite recipes. One of Charles Gibson's favorites is a hearty chili-taco casserole, which weighed in at 36 grams of fat per serving; now it contains less than half that.

Chili-taco casserole

Serves 6

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

12 corn tortillas (8-9 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can chili with meat and beans

1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (1 1/4 cups)

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (no salt added)

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

1/2 cup nonfat sour cream

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets and a shallow 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Brush oil lightly over one side of each tortilla. Sprinkle with salt. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking. Let cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together chili, pinto beans, enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, onions and 3/4 cup of the cheese. Add 4 cups of the tortilla crisps and stir to coat them with sauce. Turn into the prepared baking dish and bake until bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes.

Mix together sour cream and yogurt and spread over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 2 cups tortilla crisps. Bake for 5 minutes longer.

365 calories per serving; 18 grams protein; 15 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrate; 1,186 milligrams sodium; 32 milligrams cholesterol

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Joan Lunden's potato salad was a perfect candidate for a make-over. I was able to reduce the fat significantly by making the dressing with nonfat yogurt and reduced-fat mayonnaise; roasted garlic adds a rich dimension.

Potato salad

Serves 10

2 large heads garlic

3 pounds red potatoes (12 to 14 medium potatoes), scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces

salt to taste

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

1 cup chopped celery (3-4 stalks)

1 4-ounce jar sliced pimientos, drained and rinsed

1 3-ounce can pitted black olives ( 1/2 cup), drained, rinsed and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or scallion greens

paprika and chives or parsley sprigs for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rub off excess papery skin from garlic heads without separating cloves. Slice the tips off each head, exposing the cloves. Place the garlic on a square of aluminum foil, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and pinch edges foil together to make a package. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the garlic flesh is very soft. Unwrap the garlic and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain well, then place them in a large bowl. Toss gently with vinegar and let cool.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the pulp into a food processor or blender. Add mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard; blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the dressing to the potatoes and toss to coat. Finely chop 3 hard-cooked eggs and add to the potatoes, along with celery, pimientos, olives, parsley and chopped chives or scallion greens. Stir gently to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with paprika. Slice the remaining egg and arrange the slices decoratively on top. Garnish with chives or parsley sprigs.

195 calories per serving; 6 grams protein; 4 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrate; 176 milligrams sodium; 85 milligrams cholesterol

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