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Sweet, colorful clementines used in nouvelle dishes

Tiny, red-orange clementines have arrived from Morocco. They are delicious and easy to peel, and they're more plentiful in the Eastern United States and Canada this year than ever before. Morocco now exports about 180,000 tons of clementines annually, worldwide.

Paula Wolfert, who lived and studied cooking in Morocco, came to Boston to tell about this small tangerine fruit, which is actually a hybrid from the mandarin and the Seville orange.

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The name comes from a Moroccan priest, Pere Clement, who was responsible for the sharp strain with its extra edge of flavor and sweetness.

They are so sweet, Paula says, that you must cut down on sugar if using clementines in many citrus recipes. But they add both flavor and character to almost any recipe that calls for citrus fruit.

Although she has written a book on Moroccan food, ''Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco'' (Harper & Row, $10.95), her newest book, to be published next fall by Dial Press, is ''The Cooking of Southwest France, A Collection of Traditional and New Recipes.''

Paula has devised special recipes for the Maroc clementines such as desserts and ices, as well as combinations with meat, fish, and poultry.

But she admits to liking them out of hand, like candy, since they're so easy to peel and divide so well into sections.

Here are some points to consider when shopping for clementines.

Look for deep rich color with a bright luster. Don't worry about small green areas, especially around the stem.

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Fruit should be heavy for its size. A slightly puffy appearance is natural because the skin is loose, but too much puffiness may indicate overripe fruit.

Skin with very soft spots or mold should be avoided.

Here is one of Paula's recipes created especially for this fruit. It's especially typical of her style, with her ''stratified'' sauce made with the technique of reducing liquids.

This is a fairly expensive recipe, but the sauce is beautiful, smooth, satiny , and unusual if you want to serve your clementines in a ''nouvelle'' manner. Scallops Pere Clement 16 sea scallops, of equal size, about 1 1/2 pounds 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon freshly chopped celery leaves 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley Pinch of thyme Salt and pepper 1 1/2 cups clementine juice 1 cup clam juice 1 cup unsalted, degreased chicken stock 1/3 cup heavy cream

Combine oil with herbs, salt, and pepper. Toss with scallops and marinate in refrigerator.

In a noncorrodable pan, boil down clementine juice until reduced to 1/3 cup.

Separately boil down clam juice with chicken stock until reduced to 1/3 cup and it gets syrupy.

Combine both reductions and bring to boil, then add cream.

Boil down this mixture until there are large bubbles on the surface and the sauce is silky and coats the back of a spoon.

Adjust seasonings with pepper and lemon juice. The sauce should have a combination of sweet, sour, and peppery tastes but not too much of any one.

Broil scallops to desired doneness. Spoon clementine sauce onto warm individual plates, then place 4 scallops in a line on each. Serve at once.

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