April 21, 1997 12:00 PM

SUZANNE SOMERS

a great cook, step by step

For Suzanne Somers, the call of the kitchen came early. “The first children’s book I ever had was called Susie’s Cookbook, and I thought it was written about me,” recalls the star of ABC’s Step by Step. “At night my mother would read me recipes.” By age 5, Somers was baking cakes in a kid’s electric stove. At 9, she says, “I made beef Stroganoff and a spice cake with cream-cheese frosting for my family, and everybody freaked over it. Then I started doing the cooking.”

Today, Somers, 50, shares kitchen responsibilities with her manager and husband of 20 years, Alan Hamel, 60. “I’m her cook slave,” he says. “I follow her around, doing the chopping, cutting and cleaning up.” The airy kitchen of their oceanfront Los Angeles home features a six-burner stove with a griddle and built-in grill, and two dishwashers. Somers uses the state-of-the-art equipment to fashion low-fat meals that include lots of fresh vegetables and pasta and very little red meat. Chef Suzanne, who has compiled her favorite recipes in her new cookbook Eat Great, Lose Weight, impresses her friends. Says Barry Manilow: “We sit in the kitchen and watch her play around. It’s like she’s not doing anything, and suddenly it turns into dinner and it’s good.”

SUZANNE SOMERS

Chicken Piccata

serves 2

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil¼ cup white wine

2 tbsp. capers juice from 1 lemon

1 tbsp. butter

Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry. Place each breast flat on a chopping block. With your knife parallel to the chopping block, slice the breast in half through the middle to make it half as thick. Place each slice between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until¼-inch thick. Season each breast with salt and pepper.

To a skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and as many of the chicken breasts as will fit in the pan without overlapping. Brown for 2 minutes on each side, then set aside in a warm oven.

To make the sauce, reheat the skillet over medium heat. Add the wine and reduce for 2 minutes or so, stirring constantly to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the capers and the lemon juice. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve. Great with steamed broccoli.

MALIK YOBA

feeding the family

When a recent script for Fox’s New York Undercover called for Malik Yoba’s character to microwave a frozen meal for his son, the actor insisted it be changed. “I made them get pasta for me to make him,” says Yoba, 29. “It’s important to show that fathers do cook for their children. Mine sure did.”

In fact, Yoba credits his radiologist dad, the late Abdullah Yoba, with bringing his entire family into the kitchen. “His father was a good cook,” agrees Malik’s mother and manager, Mahmoudah Young. “He taught me to cook and later taught Malik.” After Abdullah and Mahmoudah separated in 1977, Malik and his five siblings remained with their father and alternated kitchen duties. “His whole attitude was, you have to learn to take care of each other,” says Yoba, who is single.

The lessons stuck. Last fall, Yoba became a partner in a Manhattan restaurant, Soul Cafe, and, with his mom’s help, he’s now remodeling his apartment’s small kitchen. “Check me in five years,” Yoba says. “I’ll have a cookbook written.”

MALIK YOBA

Seafood Gumbo

serves 4

2 tbsp. canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped green pepper

½ cup chopped celery

3 tbsp. minced garlic

1½ cups seeded and chopped plum tomatoes

½-¾ tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

3 bay leaves

6 cups fish stock

2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

1½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen okra

2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. gumbo filé

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled

½ lb. monkfish fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ lb. jumbo lump crabmeat

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

4 cups cooked long-grain rice

In a large pot, heat oil over moderate heat. Add onion, green pepper and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomatoes, cayenne, Old Bay seasoning and bay leaves and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in fish stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in okra and cook 10 minutes longer.

Stir in oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle file into the gumbo and stir. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook 1 minute. Add monkfish and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in crabmeat and basil and cook just until heated through. Serve in bowls over rice.

KATE MULGREW

a captain in the galley

Kate Mulgrew wishes she had a bone to pick with the producers of her UPN series Star Trek:Voyager, but in the mess hall of her TV starship, there’s not much meat on the menu. “I guess in the 24th century we all end up as vegetarians,” she says.

Not so in Mulgrew’s Brentwood, Calif., kitchen, where the actress is both cook and carnivore, with specialties such as lamb osso buco. “Cooking is great therapy,” she says. “I get out of my head completely when I’m cooking.”

Mulgrew, 41, who is divorced from stage director Robert Egan, says she honed her cooking skills to nurture her relationship with sons Ian, 13, and Alec, 12, and despite her grueling Trek schedule, she makes it a point to be home for dinner with them at least two evenings a week. “It’s good for the family,” she says. Among her friends she is famed for her dinner parties. “I love her Mexican dishes,” says Trek executive producer Rick Berman. But there is one culinary line Mulgrew won’t cross: desserts. After an attempt at making cheesecakes ended in disaster, she recalls, “my kids threw them like Frisbees around the house.”

KATE MULGREW

Penne with Vodka & Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce

serves 4

¼ A cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves minced garlic

½ tsp. crushed red-pepper flakes

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

¾ tsp. fine sea salt

1 lb. penne

2 tbsp. vodka

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 Italian sausages (optional)

In a large skillet, heat oil over moderate heat. If using sausage, remove casing and add meat to pan. Cook, breaking up the meat, until brown. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring until garlic is golden. Add tomatoes and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook penne until just done. Drain. Return pasta to the hot pot.

Add vodka and cream to sauce and bring to a boil. Stir sauce into pasta and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Stir in parsley and serve.

REED DIAMOND

natural-born griller

When Reed Diamond moved into his rented Baltimore house last fall, one of his first purchases was a top-of-the-line Weber gas grill. “It was one of the most male experiences I ever had,” he says. But the actor, who plays Det. Mike Kellerman on NBC’s Homicide, didn’t do it for the testosterone rush. “I love grilled meat,” he says. “I grilled nonstop until it was so bitterly cold I was forced indoors.”

A native of New York City, Diamond, 29, attributes his kitchen talents to his astrologer mom, Allison, and dad, Bob, a stage manager with the Metropolitan Opera, both of whom are avid cooks. “There were great pastas, and we were into Mexican very early,” he says. Now Bob admires his son’s efforts: “His cooking is creative and experimental. He likes good food and good flavor.” Not that it’s always appreciated. When he entered a chili-cooking contest on the set last season, Diamond, who is separated from wife Frederika Kesten, felt sure his hearty recipe would take home the prize. Instead, “some bland thing won,” he complains. “I learned you have to know your audience. My poor chili—it was like casting pearls before swine.”

REED DIAMOND

Teriyaki Tuna

serves 4

½ cup dark soy sauce

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup of mirin (Japanese rice wine)

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tuna steaks (about 6 ounces each)

In a shallow dish, combine soy sauce, olive oil, mirin and garlic. Add the tuna steaks and marinate in the refrigerator, turning once or twice, for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Heat a stove-top grill. Drain the tuna and pat dry with paper towels. Cook the tuna until rare, about 2 minutes per side. Cook the tuna longer on each side if you’d like it medium or well-done.

JULIE WHITE

down-home eats go Hollywood

As a child in Austin, Texas, Julie White remembers sitting down to Sunday suppers of fried catfish, chicken and dumplings, and lots of casseroles. “Mushroom soup is the glue that holds Southern civilization together,” says the actress, who plays Brett Butler’s best friend Nadine on ABC’s Grace Under Fire.

White now whips up many of those same childhood classics with her own daughter Alexandra, 10, in their three-bedroom Studio City, Calif., home. “My mom was always real big on cooking as sort of a group activity,” says White, 35, who is divorced from Alexandra’s dad, Carl Pan-del, a restaurateur. “We all cooked together—my two sisters, my mom, my grandma and even some cousins.”

White, who describes herself as “an improvisational Southern cook who can also cook pretty good Italian,” isn’t big on elaborate culinary tools. (“I do everything in the blender,” she says. “You can do pancake batter, and it makes a hell of a margarita.”) And she has little patience for food snobs. “Jell-O has sort of a questionable station among the gourmands of America,” she says. “But you call it aspic, and they’ll accept it at the Waldorf.”

All of which suits frequent guests like Frasier actor Dan Butler just fine. “This is our link back to our midwestern and southern roots,” says the Indiana native. Besides, “Julie’s such a great conversationalist, she gets you going on the talking and it’s like ‘What is it that I just ate?’ ”

JULIE WHITE

Chicken and Dumplings

serves 4

1 3 to 4 pound chicken or 4 breasts on the bone

2 large celery stalks, cut into thirds

2 large carrots, cut into thirds

1 onion, cut into quarters

4 cloves garlic, peeled

6 cups water

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1½ cups Bisquick

½ cup milk

Put chicken in a large pot. Add celery, carrots, onion, garlic, water, salt and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until chicken is just done, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken and let cool. Reserve the vegetables and cooking liquid. When chicken is cool, pull the meat from bones and place in a large skillet. Discard bones.

In a blender, puree vegetables with 2 cups of cooking liquid. Add vegetable puree to chicken with an additional 1½ cups of liquid. Bring to a boil.

Put Bisquick in a medium bowl. With a fork, stir in milk until just combined. When the chicken mixture is boiling, drop 8 spoonfuls of dumpling batter onto the boiling liquid. Cover and cook without removing the lid for 20 minutes. If dumplings are not light and fluffy after 20 minutes, cover and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve chicken topped with dumplings.

Green Bean Casserole

serves 6

2 cans cut green beans

1 can golden mushroom soup

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 can fried onions

Heat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, stir together beans, soup, half a can of water and cheese. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with fried onions. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes longer.

Congealed Salad

serves 6

1 6-oz. pkg. raspberry-flavored Jell-O

1 14-16 ounce can black cherries, drained well

1 14-to 16-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained well

1 cup chopped pecans Lettuce leaves, for serving

Make Jell-O according to package instructions. Stir in cherries, pineapple and pecans. Transfer to a glass bowl or Jell-O mold. Chill until firm (at least 4 hours). Spread lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Unmold Jell-O onto platter and serve with a dollop of mayonnaise or crème fraîche.

JOEY SLOTNICK

no-frills food and fun

Some people will spend all day enduring the heat of a kitchen to create the perfect meal. Joey Slotnick isn’t one of them. “Martha Stewart needs to get a life,” says Slotnick, 28, who plays Jonathan Silverman’s friend Sam on NBC’sThe Single Guy. “I mean, if you have time to do all of that, wonderful, but people don’t have the time.” Instead, Slotnick is more likely to make a childhood favorite like chili—using the directions straight off the French’s Chili-O seasoning packet. “It takes like 20 minutes, it’s cheap, and you can freeze it,” says Slotnick, who stores the leftovers in freezer bags for quick reheating.

His single guy skills don’t stop Slotnick from inviting pals like Friends’ David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston over for dinner at the one-bedroom L.A. bungalow he shares with girlfriend Kristin Hahn, a writer-filmmaker. “It’s definitely more of a party atmosphere,” says Schwimmer. “Music, a couple of beers and just laughing, making fun of each other’s cooking.”

JOEY SLOTNICK

French’s Original Chili-O

serves 4

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 packet Chili-O or other hili seasoning mix

1 can whole tomatoes in their liquid, chopped

1 can kidney beans, drained

In a large skillet, heat oil over moderately high heat. Add beef and cook, breaking up the meat until brown (about 5 minutes). Add chili seasoning mix and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes with their liquid and beans. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with chopped onion, grated cheddar cheese and Tabasco sauce.

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