As readers of this column know, I love to cook and I love to cook for friends. But as time has passed in my culinary life, I am taking advice from one of my favorite cookbook authors and TV chef, Ina Garten.
While Ina makes beautiful food, she is a strong proponent of making entertaining easy—fun to do and not drudgery. She suggests easy nibbles before dinner like nuts and olives and simple desserts like a fruit-and-cheese tray or chocolate-dipped strawberries. She insists that, if a weekday dinner takes more than 30 minutes to prepare or a dinner party more than two hours, she is just not doing it.
I like that. Gone are my days of roasting veal bones for a demi-glace, making a lemon soufflé with candied violets on top or a molded tomato aspic. (Does anyone actually know what these things are anymore?)
So, I gathered together a few recipes from here and there: the salmon from a “Taste of Home” cooking magazine (it has quickly become a favorite), roasted cherry tomatoes (no idea where I got this one), and wasabi mashed potatoes (inspired by Café Fresco in downtown Harrisburg.) These three, combined with a green vegetable, have “rescued” me for quite a few company dinners. All are easy to prepare (even for a weeknight) and make a lovely presentation on the dinner table.
FIRECRACKER SALMON, ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES AND WASABI MASHED POTATOES
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger (sometimes I use the ginger paste I find in the grocery store)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 salmon filets (6-8 ounces each)
Ingredients (mashed potatoes)
- 4 very large yellow gold potatoes
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 ounces half and half or 1 12-ounce can whole evaporated milk
- Wasabi powder (I start with about 1 tablespoon and then add more to taste. It can get hot.)
- Salt to taste
- 2 pint boxes cherry tomatoes (I look for “fat” ones and choose the mixed variety of red, yellow, and orange if I can find them.) Remove stems.
- Olive oil
- Coarse sea salt
- Handful of chopped fresh basil
- In a small bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients for the marinade.
- Pour ¼ cup marinade in a large Ziploc plastic bag. Add the salmon, seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes along with the remaining marinade.
- Drain the salmon and discard the marinade in the bag.
- Place salmon, skin side down, on a greased sheet pan with sides.
- In a bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt and the chopped basil over them.
- Arrange the cherry tomatoes on both sides of the salmon on the baking sheet.
- Place the salmon and tomatoes in a 375-degree pre-heated oven and roast for about 30 minutes. But watch carefully. Remove when the salmon is nicely browned and tomatoes softened and slightly collapsed.
While the salmon is roasting, cook the yellow gold potatoes in boiling salted water until soft. Drain, mash and beat in the butter, cream or milk, and wasabi powder to taste. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Arrange the roasted salmon in a long row on a platter and place the roasted tomatoes on both sides. A few fresh basil leaves tucked here and there looked pretty. Sprinkle the sliced green onion over all.
Serve the salmon and tomatoes with the wasabi mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Broccoli, green beans or asparagus work well.
So now, as the weather begins to cool this month, you have a lovely, easy to prepare meal for company. No need to roast veal bones. Invite everyone!