Re-think the waffle. Remove the butter and syrup. What have you got? A wonderful substitute for the ubiquitous potato, rice or noodles -- hot, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, and porous enough to soak up any sauce poured over it.

Any type of saute'ed dish or stew is a perfect complement to a savory dinner waffle, as the waffle absorbs the flavor of the sauce, while retaining enough texture to support the meat, poultry, or fish in the saute' or stew.

A savory waffle has less sugar than a sweet waffle, and has salt, pepper and other flavorings added. Experiment on your own, adding some of the herbs, spices and other ingredients of your favorite dishes to the basic waffle batter, so the waffle echoes the taste of the entree. As elegant as a saute'ed dish served over a waffle can be, so can an everyday meal like chili be spruced up by adding some chili powder and/or canned diced chilies to the batter and simply pouring the chili over the resulting waffle. Of course, you could add some grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a few sprigs of fresh coriander to make even this dish seem more special.

The waffle batter that follows is versatile -- it can be baked in a traditional or a Belgian waffle iron; it is mildly flavored, so that some of the ingredients in each saute'ed dish can be added to the batter, to bring the waffle and the entree into culinary harmony.

BASIC WAFFLE BATTER

(Makes 6 waffles)

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sparkling mineral water

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 egg yolks

4 egg whites

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. Beat together the buttermilk, mineral water, oil and egg yolks. Mix with dry ingredients. Add any special ingredients to complement entree. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently fold into batter. Using approximately 3/4 cup batter for each waffle, bake in a preheated waffle iron, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake according to directions on waffle iron (three minutes in both my traditional and belgian waffle irons.) Waffles may be made ahead, and placed in a toaster or hot oven to crisp and re-heat.

Per serving: 198 calories, 7 gm protein, 29 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 91 mg cholesterol, 417 mg sodium.

PORK TENDERLOIN SLICES WITH TOMATO COULIS ON BASIL WAFFLES

(6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut in 1/4-inch thick slices

3/4 cup white wine

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

15 large fresh basil leaves, minced

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoons white pepper

FOR THE WAFFLES:

1 batch Basic Waffle batter (recipe above)

6 tablespoons minced fresh basil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Heat olive oil and saute' garlic and shallots for 1 minute, taking care not to brown the garlic. Add pork slices and saute' over medium-high heat until opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove meat from pan and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and boil to reduce to about 2/3 of original volume (takes about 3 to 5 minutes over high heat.) Add tomatoes and saute' for 1 minute. Add minced basil leaves. Stir butter into pan to melt, and add salt and pepper. Add pork slices to sauce and heat through. Prepare waffle batter (recipe above), with basil and garlic additions, and bake according to instructions. Serve hot pork and sauce over waffles.

Per serving: 576 calories, 41 gm protein, 36 gm carbohydrates, 27 gm fat, 11 gm saturated fat, 227 mg cholesterol, 812 mg sodium.

VEAL SAUTE WITH RED CURRANT SAUCE ON HERB-DIJON WAFFLES

(6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds veal scaloppini, cut in strips

3 cups chicken broth

4 1/2 tablespoons red currant jelly

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh mint

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

4 cloves garlic, minced

FOR THE WAFFLES:

1 batch Basic Waffle Batter (recipe above)

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

Heat oil and saute' veal strips over medium-high heat for 1 minute, just until opaque, or barely done. Remove veal from pan and keep warm. Add chicken broth to saute' pan and boil to reduce to 1 cup (takes about 5 minutes over high heat.) Whisk in currant jelly to blend. Over medium heat, whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add mustard and salt and cook just until blended. Add mint, parsley and garlic and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and add meat back to pan to heat through. Prepare waffle batter from recipe above, with mint, parsley and mustard additions, and bake according to instructions. Serve hot veal and sauce over waffles.

Per serving: 537 calories, 33 gm protein, 41 gm carbohydrates, 26 gm fat, 10 gm saturated fat, 214 mg cholesterol, 1277 mg sodium.

MANDARIN BEEF ON SOY-SCALLION WAFFLES

(6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds lean beef sirloin, or fillet, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root

1 1/2 bell peppers, halved and thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons white wine

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon pepper

11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

FOR THE WAFFLES:

1 batch Basic Waffle Batter (recipe above)

1/2 cup finely chopped water chestnuts

3/4 cup minced scallions

3 tablespoons soy sauce

Stir-fry meat over high heat in the oil, until barely done. Remove meat from pan and keep warm. Adding more oil if necessary, saute' garlic, ginger and bell pepper slices for 1 minute. Mix liquid ingredients, sugar and pepper and add, with beef, to pan and heat through (don't overcook). Add mandarin oranges and heat. Prepare waffle batter from recipe above, with water chestnuts, scallions and soy sauce additions, and bake according to instructions. Serve hot beef and sauce over waffles.

Per serving: 598 calories, 30 gm protein, 43 gm carbohydrates, 33 gm fat, 11 gm saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 1267 mg sodium.

TURKEY IN TOMATILLO SAUCE WITH CHILI-CILANTRO WAFFLES

(6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds cooked turkey (or any leftover meat or poultry)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

14-ounce can tomatillos, drained

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons diced, canned green chilies

3 large romaine lettuce leaves

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

6 tablespoons chopped onions

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

FOR THE WAFFLES:

1 batch Basic Waffle Batter (recipe above)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup diced, canned green chilies

Cut turkey into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry pan (or heat in microwave) until they start to pop, about 5 minutes. Cool seeds. Combine seeds with remaining ingredients (except turkey and waffle ingredients) in a blender or food processor and process until blended. Toss sauce with turkey and heat gently. Prepare waffle batter from recipe above, with cilantro and chilies added, and bake according to instructions. Serve hot turkey and sauce over waffles.

Per serving: 485 calories, 45 gm protein, 37 gm carbohydrates, 16 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 178 mg cholesterol, 918 mg sodium.

CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES ON RED ONION WAFFLES

(6 servings)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in bite-size pieces

1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

12 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped

2 tablespoons brandy

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup (1 ounce) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

FOR THE WAFFLE:

1 batch Basic Waffle Batter (recipe above)

1/4 cup (1 ounce) chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup red onion, finely chopped

Heat the oil over high heat and add the chicken. Saute' for 5 minutes, tossing the chicken constantly. Remove the chicken and keep warm. Add more oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute' the onions, thyme and pepper for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and brandy and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the broth and sun-dried tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently boil for 5 minutes. Add chicken and heat through. Prepare waffle batter from recipe above, with additional sun-dried tomatoes and onions, and bake according to instructions. Serve hot chicken and sauce over waffles.

Per serving: 494 calories, 46 gm protein, 39 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 188 mg cholesterol, 778 mg sodium.

Terri P. Wuerthner is a freelance California food writer and the author of "Food for Life, the Cancer Prevention Cookbook."