- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

PARIS — My husband, a college professor of many years, adores inviting students to our home for dinner, often at the last minute. That’s what happened several days ago.

We are here for a few weeks, both working on projects, and are staying in a small rented apartment with a tiny kitchen, but that hasn’t dampened the expansive host’s spirits.

After discovering that two young women whom he knew were here studying, he suggested that we have them over for supper that evening. “Just keep it simple; cook some dishes and buy a few prepared ones,” he said.

It didn’t take me long to agree. Many years ago, I spent my junior year of college studying in Paris, and I still remember how much I appreciated being invited for a homemade meal. When both women accepted our invitation, I put together a menu and headed to the market.

I bought salmon fillets, tender little green beans that were trimmed and ready to cook, and some mashed potatoes from a local deli. I picked up a few cheeses, a baguette, a bag of cleaned salad greens and some dark chocolate candy.

At home, I assembled a flavorful butter seasoned with chopped pistachios, mint and lemon to use as a garnish for the fish and made a vinaigrette dressing for the salad. That was all the cooking I did in advance.

At serving time, I quickly sauteed the salmon fillets in olive oil, dusted them with salt, then topped them with dollops of the delectable butter. I popped the beans in pot of boiling water for 5 minutes and reheated the potatoes with extra milk and butter. Nothing could have been easier or less stressful.

After the main course, in true French fashion, we had salad, then some cheese. We finished with tea and chocolates.

Our guests ate with abandon and didn’t leave until it was time to catch the Metro.

What an easy menu for entertaining — on this or the other side of the Atlantic.

Sauteed salmon fillets with pistachio lemon butter

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint plus 4 extra sprigs for the garnish

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios, salted if possible

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more, if needed, for sauteing the salmon

4 salmon fillets, 6 to 7 ounces each and about 1 inch thick

Sea salt, optional

4 thin lemon wedges for garnish

To prepare the pistachio lemon butter, use a fork and mix together butter, chopped mint, lemon zest and juice, kosher salt and cayenne pepper in a small nonreactive bowl until well blended. Stir in the pistachios. Taste and if needed, season with a little extra salt.

When ready to cook salmon, coat a medium, heavy skillet — large enough to hold the salmon fillets in a single layer — with olive oil and place over medium high heat. When hot, add the salmon, flesh sides down, and cook until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Turn and cook until salmon is cooked all the way through and flesh flakes when pierced with a sharp knife, about 3 to 4 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove and season fillets with fleur de sel, if desired, or with additional kosher salt.

To serve, top each fillet with a generous pat of pistachio lemon butter and garnish with a mint sprig and lemon wedge.

Makes 4 servings.


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