2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

5 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots


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Pepper; and salt, if you must

For the orange-saffron butter, place orange juice in a heat-proof glass cup and zap 30 seconds in microwave. Add saffron threads and stir with a fork to dissolve.

In a food processor or blender, pulse-process orange juice-saffron mixture, unsalted butter, orange zest, shallots, and pepper and salt to taste. Remove to a piece of wax paper and use the paper to shape butter/saffron mixture into a log, so you can cut 8 "coins" from it. Cover and chill until serving time.

For the salmon, prepare grill for medium-high cooking. Brush salmon steaks with some oil, add some pepper; and salt, if using. Grill steaks 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove to a large serving platter. Add a saffron butter coin to each steak. Garnish with parsley. Serve.

Mediterranean rice salad

This cool and colorful make-ahead side dish is lighter than the "usual" cook-out fare featuring potato or pasta salad. If you feel you need more veggies, turn to yet another of our natural wonders — the avocado. Perhaps the ones you use will come from our in-law's avocado ranch, a 40-acre spread near Mount Palomar observatory.

For avocado salad, choose 4 large, perfectly ripe avocados, peel, cut in half lengthwise and gently remove seeds. Spritz with a little lime juice to prevent browning. Arrange on small, chilled plates on a bed of frisee or other favorite spring greens (about 1 cup per serving). Drizzle with a mixture of half olive oil and half best quality balsamic vinegar. Grind some sea salt and fresh pepper over each. (You can make about 1 hour in advance, then chill until serving time.)

Rice salad

This can be served warm or at room temperature as a pilaf or made ahead and chilled to be served as a salad.

1/2 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons tomato paste