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Timbales: vegetables molded in a pretty shape

''Timbales'' are sometimes called the even-tempered cousins of the more temperamental ''souffles.'' Unlike a souffle, a timbale will not be ruined by drafts or a delay in eating, and it will even submit to the indignity of reheating.

Both timbales and souffles offer an excellent way to glamorize leftover cooked foods, which seem to work best in this cookery, releasing less moisture into the mixture than do raw ones.

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Timbales can be made with a wide variety of vegetables, according to the season. They may be prepared with broccoli, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, or peas. Fresh, cooked vegetables are best to use, because they have more color and flavor than canned or frozen vegetables.

A timbale is often based on cream and eggs only, and the steaming, a distinctive process in making timbales, gives this custardlike dish much more stamina.

A timbale is made in a mold and can be reversed onto a warm plate or into a baked pastry shell. It looks especially attractive in a ring mold, napped with a sauce.

The literal translation of ''timbale,'' a French word, is ''kettledrum,'' and of course the timbale is baked in a small drum-shaped mold.

It is popular at the best restaurants in France this year to serve tiny vegetable timbales as an attractive accompaniment to main course entrees.

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