Easy weekend meals

Living in the Bay Area, I prefer to spend my weekends at home. But many people residing in a less desirable climate take weekend trips to get away. Our friends bound for the Wine Country or Carmel often bunk with us.

Planning the menu for these brief stays is challenging. I want the food to be special, but also uncomplicated so that I have time to spend with my guests.

A cold poached salmon for Shabbat can be prepared early and be waiting whenever the guests arrive. Serve it on a bed of greens surrounded by a lightly dressed potato salad.

Saturday will probably be spent seeing the local sights. A Coriander Chicken and Almond Gratin, which can be made days ahead and reheated, is the perfect dinner to pop in the oven when you come home. Warm tortillas and salad of thickly sliced fresh tomatoes perfectly completes the meal.

Sunday is meant for hanging around and a late brunch will hold you through the early afternoon. Smoked Salmon and Sweet Onion Flan may be assembled ahead and baked just before serving. Serve bagels, cream cheese and jam as accompaniments, of course.

Poached Salmon | Serves 6

1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
2 parsley sprigs
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
6 salmon steaks
In large skillet combine all ingredients except salmon. Bring to a boil and add salmon. Keep liquid at a bare simmer and cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow fish to cool in liquid. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Place fish on a bed of mixed greens and serve with Lemon Mustard Sauce.

Lemon Mustard Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup yogurt
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. mustard
3 Tbs. chopped dill
Combine all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Coriander Chicken and Almond Gratin | Serves 6

3 large skinned and boned whole chicken breasts, cut into inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbs. oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh
coriander leaves
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
6 Tbs. margarine, melted
2 Tbs. lime juice
salt and pepper
Lightly dust chicken with flour and cayenne. In large skillet, heat oil and sauté chicken until golden. Put chicken in a 9×9-inch dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add wine and stock to same skillet and deglaze over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until thickened. Pour sauce over chicken. Combine garlic, coriander, green onions, almonds and jalapenos. Sprinkle over chicken. Pour melted margarine and lime juice over all and bake, covered with foil, 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.

Smoked Salmon and Sweet Onion Flan | Serves 6

2 Tbs. oil
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and butter 6-cup shallow baking dish.
Heat oil and cook onions until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove onions to prepared baking dish. Mix eggs, cream, milk, salmon and seasonings until well combined. Pour over onions and sprinkle with chives. May be prepared to this point and held in refrigerator overnight. Bake about 1 hour or until custard is just set in center. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].