A SPECTACULAR NIGHTTIME VIEW SET OFF BY AN OTHERWORLDLY BLUE OF A SPOTLIGHTED POOL, A GATHERING OF CLOSE FRIENDS--THE QUINTESSENTIAL CALIFORNIA DREAM. Entertaining in such charmed surroundings should be easy. In 1990, with the help of a microwave oven, it is. Today's microwave cuisine can be sophisticated dinner food: hot oysters with pine nuts and spinach, an elegant lobster-and-wild-rice soup, steamed salmon, a dessert tart of macadamia nuts and pears. Life in Southern California really can be as laid-back as the rest of the world imagines.
OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL WITH SPINACH AND PINE NUTS
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped pine nuts
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 1/2 cups chopped spinach leaves (from 1 bunch)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Grated Parmesan cheese
Wash oysters under cold running water. Pry each open by pushing tip of oyster knife into pointed end at hinge. Press down to pop open lid. Move knife back and forth, making blade slide against top shell inside to sever muscle that holds both sides together. Remove lid.
Or microwave oysters, one at a time, depending on size, about 30 seconds to 1 minute on high , to facilitate opening.
Place butter in 9-inch pie plate and microwave on high 30 seconds to melt. Add pine nuts. Microwave on high 4 1/2 minutes until lightly golden brown, stirring halfway during cooking. Reserve 2 tablespoons whole nuts and chop remainder. Leave butter drippings in dish, and add garlic and shallot and microwave on high 1 minute.
Add spinach, and microwave another minute. Stir in lemon juice and chopped pine nuts and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide on top of oysters. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese as desired and garnish with reserved pine nuts. Microwave 1-1 1/2 minutes or until hot. Serve on bed of kosher salt if desired. Makes 4 servings.
STEAMED SALMON WITH ORANGE AND CUCUMBER
2 green onions
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
4 (6- to 8-ounce) salmon fillets or steaks, about 1 inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Orange and Cucumber Topping
Chop green onions and separate white parts from green tops. Reserve green parts for topping. Place butter, garlic and white onion parts in 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish and microwave on high 30 seconds to melt butter. (Or use 10- or 12-inch quiche dish, arranging fish spoke-fashion.) Add fillets to dish, brushing with melted butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with dill.
Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high 6 minutes or until fish is opaque. Serve with Orange and Cucumber Topping and sliced microwaved potatoes. Makes 4 servings.
Orange and Cucumber Topping
2 reserved chopped green onion tops
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 oranges, peeled and cut in sections
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
Combine green onions, cucumber, oranges, cilantro, olive oil and lime juice in bowl. Season to taste with salt. Makes about 1 cup.
CREAMY LOBSTER WILD RICE SOUP
1/2 cup wild rice
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced onion
4 cups hot chicken broth
2 lobster tails
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons flour
Dash white pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry Sherry
Wash wild rice and drain. Add 1 tablespoon butter and onion to 2-quart casserole dish. Cover and microwave on high 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until onion is tender. Add rice and hot chicken broth. Remove lobster from shells, reserving meat.
Break up lobster shells and add to broth. Cover and microwave on high 30 to 40 minutes, until rice is tender and kernels begin to open. Remove lobster shells. Add half-and-half. Cover and microwave on high 4 to 5 minutes or until simmering. Blend together remaining 2 tablespoons butter and flour until smooth. Stir into simmering broth until blended.
Return to microwave and simmer about 1 minute. Cut lobster meat crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Add to soup. Cover and microwave about 2 minutes or until lobster is done. Stir in white pepper, lemon juice and Sherry. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with whole or chopped chives and fan-shaped ends of lobster-tail shells. Makes 4 servings.
SLICED POTATOES WITH THYME
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 medium unpeeled red potatoes, sliced 1/2-inch
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Place butter in shallow 12-inch round baking dish and melt on high 30 seconds. Add red potatoes, stirring to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and thyme. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high 6 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and serve hot, garnished with minced parsley if desired. Makes 4 servings.
MACADAMIA PEAR TART
2 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
4-5 pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 (7-ounce) bottle macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped,
or 1 cup sliced almonds
Combine flour, sugar, oil, salt and cold water in bowl. Mix well with pastry blender, adding enough cold water to make soft, smooth dough. Pat into 10-inch round glass tart dish. Flute edges if desired. Pierce all over with fork. Brush all over with egg yolk wash. Microwave on high 8 minutes, making half turn after 4 minutes.
Melt butter in glass bowl 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and flour. Mix well. Sprinkle 1/3 of mixture on bottom of tart shell. Arrange pear halves on top, spoke-fashion, placing one piece in center. Sprinkle with remaining brown-sugar mixture and microwave on high 5 minutes. Rotate dish full turn, then microwave another 5 minutes.
Add nuts and return to microwave. Microwave on high another 5-8 minutes. Let stand until warm. Makes 1 (10-inch) tart.