- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2005

After hosting a huge holiday open house and helping with a New Year’s Eve dinner, you’d think I would say no to entertaining for a while.

That’s never the case. My husband and I love inviting people to our home, and my extroverted spouse rarely misses an opportunity to get together with others. As luck would have it, we’ll be in Paris at the beginning of the year and will be returning to a small rented apartment. So, for our first entertaining of 2005, I have invited some close friends who live there to come for a casual meal.

Two guidelines come to mind when I entertain in early January. One is to keep it light because by now, most people have reluctantly gotten on the scale and are counting calories again. My other consideration is to plan simple menus because after the holiday cooking marathon, less rather than more time in the kitchen is a good idea.

The main course for my upcoming supper qualifies in both categories. Roasted salmon accompanied by a crunchy Asian-style salad will not expand anyone’s waistline, and the preparation is not complicated.

Salmon fillets are marinated for half an hour in a mixture of soy sauce, molasses and lime juice, then roasted quickly. A delicious salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced cucumber and roasted peanuts, all tossed in a slightly sweet and sour dressing, makes a fine counterpoint to the fish.

The salad dressing is a combination of contrasting tastes. Rice vinegar and lime juice add tart notes, while a touch of sugar provides sweetness. Toasted sesame oil, hot red pepper flakes and cilantro are vibrant flavor accents.

Steaming hot basmati rice and tender green beans, blanched and sprinkled with fleur de sel, make good side dishes for the fish.

For dessert, I’ve decided on a duo of good store-bought sorbets plus a small indulgence: a plate of homemade shortbread cookies.

Roasted salmon with crispy Asian salad

The salad can be prepared 3 hours ahead; separately cover and refrigerate the dressing and the lettuce, cucumbers and nuts. Cover and leave remaining nuts and chopped cilantro at room temperature. Bring refrigerated ingredients to room temperature before using.

SALAD:

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Juice and zest of 1 medium lime

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

Scant ½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (about ½ of a small head)

1 medium cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, then seeded and thinly sliced

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, divided

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided

SALMON:

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons dark molasses, preferably unsulphured

2 teaspoons lime juice

4 6- to 8-ounce salmon fillets, skin on one side

Vegetable or olive oil for greasing baking sheet

Salt

To make the salad dressing, whisk together vinegar, lime juice and zest, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and hot red pepper flakes in a small nonreactive bowl. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, cucumber slices, ½ cup peanuts and half of the cilantro.

For the salmon, whisk together soy sauce, molasses and lime juice in a shallow nonreactive dish. Add salmon fillets, flesh sides down, and marinate 30 minutes or slightly longer at cool room temperature.

Line a heavy, rimmed baking sheet with foil; grease foil with oil. Place salmon fillets, flesh sides up, on the baking sheet. Salt lightly. On center rack of preheated 450-degree oven, roast salmon until flesh is opaque and flakes easily when pierced with a sharp knife, 10 to 14 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Remove from oven and, using a metal spatula, loosen each fillet from its skin and transfer to a dinner plate.

Toss lettuce-cucumber mixture with half of the dressing to coat well, and garnish each serving of salmon with some salad. Drizzle remaining dressing over the salmon fillets and sprinkle with remaining cilantro and peanuts. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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