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Food of the Season, Beautiful Food

April 15, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

If you didn't know that winter was over by looking outside, you'd know it by looking at all this color on your table.

The piquant balsamic vinegar glaze is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet oiliness of salmon. It complements the fish and makes the presentation most appealing.

Couscous With Green Onions, Cucumbers and Peas and flavored with dill and fresh mint completes the plate, and a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp is wonderful for dessert. It can also be made at least a day in advance and reheated. Finish it with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.

Don't worry about the amount of garlic in the glaze. It sweetens as it cooks, leaving only a trace of garlic but a nice depth of flavor. This recipe can be easily doubled for a large party; just be sure the fillets are roughly the same thickness so they cook evenly.

BALSAMIC-GLAZED SALMON FILLETS 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon honey 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar Salt Freshly ground pepper 6 (5-ounce) salmon fillets, washed, patted dry with paper towels 2 tablespoons julienned basil Basil sprigs

In small saucepan, saute garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until garlic is tender, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Do not brown. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil, mustard, honey, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine. Simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Gently reheat before using.

Arrange salmon fillets in single layer on baking pan lined with foil. Brush fillets with warm glaze.

Bake on upper oven rack at 475 degrees until sizzling and glazed, about 10 to 14 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Use small paring knife to cut through thickest part of fillets to see if done. Do not overcook.

Brush with remaining glaze. Season to taste lightly with salt and pepper. Use spatula to transfer to warm serving platter. Garnish fillets with julienned basil and basil sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 206 calories; 231 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams protein; 0.03 grams fiber.

Couscous, a granular pasta, is almost always sold in a quick-cooking form, taking only five minutes to prepare once the hot broth is poured over it. Here, it's mixed with sauteed vegetables and flavored with dill and fresh mint. It's a gentle companion to a mild-flavored fish. Couscous can be made in advance , if you have a microwave oven. Reserve the fresh mint until serving time; otherwise the recipe can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. Add about 1/4 cup additional broth before reheating. Gently reheat in a microwave oven until hot. Do not overcook. Mix in reserved mint.

COUSCOUS WITH GREEN ONIONS, CUCUMBERS AND PEAS 1 1/2 cups couscous 2 cups boiling low-sodium chicken broth 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 large green onions, thinly sliced 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/3-inch dice 1 1/2 cups frozen peas 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill 2 tablespoons julienned fresh mint leaves 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, depending on saltiness of broth Red pepper flakes

Put couscous in 2-quart bowl. Pour hot broth over. Let stand, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat butter in small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions and cook about 3 minutes, stirring often. Do not brown. Add cucumbers. Cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes. Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through, few seconds.

Fluff couscous with fork. Add cooked vegetables, dill, mint leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir well to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 128 calories; 338 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.29 grams fiber.

This is a delicious crunchy fruit crisp. Serve it warm with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB CRISP 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, washed, cut in 1/3-inch slices 2 pints strawberries, washed, patted dry, hulled, cut in half, if large Grated zest 1 orange 2 tablespoons orange juice 3 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca 2 teaspoons vanilla 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar 1 cup flour Dash salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon Grated zest 1/2 orange 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into tablespoon-size pieces Vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche

In large mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, orange zest and juice, tapioca, vanilla and allspice. Toss well to combine. Let stand 15 minutes while preparing topping.

Combine brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and orange zest in food processor work bowl or mixing bowl. Mix to combine. Cut in butter with pastry blender (or food processor) until crumbly. Mixture should be very crumbly.

Transfer fruit mixture to ungreased 10-cup shallow baking dish. (Surface will be uneven.) Spoon topping evenly over fruit. Pat gently to keep in place. Place baking dish on baking sheet to catch juices.

Bake at 350 degrees until well-browned and bubbling, about 50 to 60 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes before serving. Can be made day ahead and refrigerated once completely cool. Reheat in 350-degree oven 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about: 278 calories; 41 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol;12 grams fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.07 grams fiber.

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