Salmon Brunch, Coming Right Up

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Consider this easy, refreshing, colorful menu for a lunch or brunch.

The salmon can be fixed as much as a day ahead, though it tastes best if poached just a few hours before serving. The only real last-minute work is tossing the romaine lettuce into the pasta salad. (It's worth it--the crunch is absolutely delicious.) The no-bake lemon cheese tart can be frozen up to one month.

Start off with Prosecco, an Italian sparkling white wine. It's a wonderful substitute for Champagne, lighter-tasting and a good value. Add a few drops of cassis for a Kir or orange juice for a Mimosa.

Center the table with a big bouquet of fresh flowers and enjoy the season.

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Mandel is a cookbook author.

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Plate and napkins from Crate & Barrel.

Poached Salmon Filets in Mustard Seed Broth

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 50 minutes plus 4 hours cooling

MUSTARD DILL SAUCE

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons light sour cream

1/4 cup snipped fresh dill

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, sour cream and dill in a small bowl. (This can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight. Serve chilled.)

SALMON

4 shallots, quartered

2 cloves garlic, halved

3 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice

2 cups water

1/4 cup dry vermouth

3 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

6 (6-ounce) salmon filets, skin removed

Place the shallots, garlic, clam juice, water, vermouth, mustard seeds and bay leaf in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the broth, covered, for 20 minutes. Pour the broth through a strainer lined with a double-thickness of cheesecloth. Cool the liquid. (This can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen.)

Arrange the fish in a single layer in a large nonstick skillet. Pour the liquid over the fish; it should be covered. If not, add water as needed to cover the fish.

Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat, then gently cook the salmon, uncovered, with the slightest simmer until the fish just begins to look opaque in the thickest part, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Cool the fish in the liquid 1 hour. (The fish will be cooked through and be very tender.) Use a spatula to transfer the fish to a platter. Reserve the liquid; it can be frozen for soups, sauces or poaching other fish. Refrigerate the salmon until chilled, at least 3 hours, wrapped airtight. You can also refrigerate it overnight, but it's best served the same day.

To serve, spread a thin layer of mustard sauce on each filet. Garnish the fish and platter with dill sprigs. Pass any remaining mustard sauce.

6 servings. Each serving: 445 calories; 455 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 36 grams protein; 1.21 grams fiber.

Frozen Lemon Cheese Tart With Fresh Raspberries

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus 1 1/2 hours chilling

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2 1/2 cups gingersnaps (about 7 ounces)

1 (2-inch) piece ginger root, minced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (regular or light), room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 pint fresh raspberries, for serving

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Grease an 8-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Set it aside.

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Grind the gingersnaps in a food processor to crumbs. Combine the crumbs, ginger, butter and brown sugar in the processor until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan, pressing it into the bottom and up sides to form an even crust (work through plastic wrap to make this easier). Place the shell in the freezer.

Meanwhile, place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat them until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and lemon extract; beat until combined.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold it into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared crust; use a spatula to make a decorative surface. Return the tart to the freezer until firm, at least 1 1/2 hours. (This can be frozen up to 1 month, wrapped airtight.)

To serve, let the tart rest at room temperature 30 minutes. Carefully remove the rim of the pan. Place the tart on a serving platter and surround it with the raspberries.

6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 330 calories; 251 mg sodium; 53 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.75 grams fiber.

Pasta Salad With Peas, Cucumber and Fresh Mint

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 4 hours chilling

Cook the pasta and cucumbers ahead to allow time for chilling before they are tossed with the dressing. That way, the flavors are not absorbed by the pasta.

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8 ounces ditalini or any other small pasta such as pennette or orzo

Salt

1 English cucumber

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 large green onions, with tops, thinly sliced

1 (10-ounce) package frozen tiny peas, thawed

1/3 cup minced mint leaves

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken well

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 head romaine lettuce, diced small

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Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the package instructions.

While the pasta cooks, split the cucumber lengthwise, remove the seeds and dice it small. Just before draining the pasta, stir in the cucumber to blanch it. Drain the pasta and cucumber and return them to the pot. Stir in the oil. Chill the pasta completely, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Add the onions, peas, mint, balsamic and wine vinegars, mayonnaise, buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste. Toss until the pasta is well-coated. Taste; adjust seasoning. (This can be mixed several hours ahead or overnight and refrigerated, covered airtight.)

To serve, add the lettuce; toss until mixed. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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6 servings. Each serving: 158 calories; 267 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 20 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 3.96 grams fiber.

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