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Love that healthy food

Published Oct. 10, 2005

In the last few years, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate candy that once symbolized romance on Valentine's Day have been replaced with heart-healthy recipes. While no one argues that eating what is good for you is, well, good for you, there is some doubt that romance can blossom over a low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber dinner for two, even with candlelight, red camellias and the New York Philharmonic playing Gershwin in the background.

If you're entertaining thoughts of a Valentine's romance over dinner, take heart. Clip these recipes, straight from the Manhattan of Woody Allen films and the Odeon, a popular brasserie near Wall Street. There, on a recent winter's night, I asked Ansell Hawkins, general manager, to order for me. It was a heart-smart move.

Hawkins diligently searches out the best and freshest ingredients from unlikely sources. Free-range chickens come direct from an up-state farm. Cheeses, including the mandatory goat cheese, are from a Vermont dairy. Fresh herbs are grown under glass on Long Island.

Odeon Chef Stephen Lyle learned his trade the old-fashioned, hard way, as an apprentice in France, and uses self-restraint in working with Hawkins' high-quality ingredients. As a result, Lyle's cuisine is frequently of the highest order, as decreed by Curnonsky, French prince of gastronomes. That is, his cuisine tastes like itself. A happy byproduct of restraint is that quite often his specialties are also heart healthy. His Steamed Salmon, polka-dotted with black olive Tapenade, cubes of red tomato and green basil leaves, is a case in point.

Lyle skins a center-cut fillet of salmon, extracting any bones with needle-nose pliers, then gently pounds the fillet to a uniform thickness of about { inch. He cooks and serves it on a heavy-duty crockery plate filmed with olive oil, oven-heated until it's so hot the salmon hisses and shrinks the instant it hits the plate. (Do not try this with your china. Remember, Lyle is a professional, and so is the crockery.)

With Chef Lyle's Salmon, have rose-skinned new potatoes dabbed with more Tapenade. Begin with asparagus spears in warm mustard vinaigrette. Finish with Strawberry Bleeding Hearts piled in crystal goblets and a chocolate truffle on the side. Entertainment after dinner is your affair.


1 cup Greek or salt-cured olives, pitted

\ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

\ cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed OR 2 teaspoons dried

In blender container, combine olives, olive oil, lemon and basil. Cover and blend on high speed until olives are pureed, stopping motor as necessary to push mixture into blades with rubber spatula. Spoon into covered container and refrigerate, up to two weeks.

Use as relish with grilled, steamed or baked fish, chicken and vegetables, for cold meats and cold cooked vegetables, as topping for hard cooked eggs, as sauce for pasta and as spread for sandwiches, especially cheese.

Variation: Substitute 2 tablespoons capers and 4 anchovy fillets for basil. Makes about 1 cup. Preparation time: 5-10 minutes.

Nutrients per tablespoon: 46 calories, 0 gm. protein, 1 gm. carbohydrate, 5 gm. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 57 mg.