Although coffee usually accompanies or follows a meal, it has long been a useful ingredient in cooking and can be found in recipes as disparate as chocolate mousse and red-eye gravy. Paradoxically, one preparation in which it plays no part is "coffee" cake.

Here are some ideas for using coffee that may come as a surprise, plus a recipe for one of the coffee drink classics, cafe brulot.

WESTERN STYLE HAMBURGERS

(6 servings) 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 large purple onion, peeled and finely minced 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced 1 cup chili sauce 1 tablespoon jalapeno relish 1/2 cup prepared coffee 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, shaped into 6 thick patties 3 hamburger buns, halved and toasted 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet. Saute onion and garlic over low heat until soft but not brown. Add chili sauce and jalapeno relish. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in coffee. Keep on low heat 5 minutes. Stir in coffee. Keep on low heat 5 to 10 minutes, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Keep warm. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Brown hamburgers over high heat, turn and lower heat. Cook 5 to 10 minutes. Place on toasted buns. Cover with hot sauce and top with grated cheese. From "Ceil Dyer's Coffee Cookery"

VENETIAN VEAL

(6 servings) 2 pounds veal shoulder or stew meat, cubed 1/2 cup brandy 1/2 cup raisins 1 onion, chopped 1/4 cup flour 1 cup strong black coffee 1/2 cup beef broth Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup sour cream (at room temperature) 2 teaspoons crushed tarragon

Plump raisins in 1/4 cup of the brandy and set aside. Brown cubed veal in a large pan in butter, a few pieces at a time, and set to the side. Heat and ignite the remaining brandy, pour over the meat. In the same pan melt additional butter and lightly saute the onion. Blend the flour, coffee and beef broth together, add to the onions. Drain raisins and add brandy to the simmering sauce. Return meat to pan and add raisins. Simmer gently for 1 hour. Salt and pepper to taste. Combine sour cream and crushed tarragon. Carefully and slowly blend into the sauce, stirring continuously. Do not allow the sauce to boil once the sour cream has been added. Serve at once with mashed potatoes. From "Coffee Cuisine" by Diane DeLorme

NORTH CAROLINA'S BEST MUFFINS

(Makes 12) 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons instant nonfat dry milk powder 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup prepared hot coffee 2 tablespoons butter or margarine (at room temperature) 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal 1 egg 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degress. Coat 12 muffin cups with vegetable shortening; set aside. Sift together flour, dry milk powder, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt; set aside. Pour hot coffee over butter or margarine. Stir in oatmeal. Don't overmix. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in egg and sugar. Add sifted flour mixture; stir just enough to blend. Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes. -From "Cecil Dyer's Coffee Cookery"

CAFE BRULOT

Makes 8 servings) 1 quart strong, black coffee 1 stick cinnamon 8 whole cloves 1 piece orange peel, 3 to 3 1/2 inches long 1 piece lemon peel, 2 1/2 to 3 inches long 6 lumps sugar 1 cup brandy 1/4 cup Cointreau

Make black coffee, using 2 1/2 tablespoons ground coffee to each cup water. Keep warm while mixing spices, orange and lemon peels, sugar, brandy, and Cointreau in a chafing dish. Heat. Ignite and stir with a ladle to dissolve sugar while flaming. Gradually stir in black coffee and continue stirring until the flame ceases burning. Serve hot in cups. -From "The Coffee Cookbook" by William I. Kaufman