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I like martinis. This is not to suggest that a martini qualifies for "Dinner Tonight" (although I'd be happy to make a case for it) but rather that there's always a lot more vermouth hanging around the house than I need. So why not put it to use in an entree?

Poaching -- cooking food by immersing it in just-simmering water -- is as easy and as fast as it gets. It's also a great way to prepare tender fish fillets. Flavoring the poaching liquid (aka water) adds oomph to whatever's being cooked; broth or wine are typical additions.

The fish is further dressed up here with toasted sliced almonds, butter and Italian parsley. Keeping the stovetop theme, boiled new potatoes and steamed green beans make good accompaniments.

Steaming produces delicate flavors in vegetables while preserving their many nutrients. But microwaving can give you the same results; it also eliminates another dirty pan. Place vegetables in a microwave-safe container; add water to about a quarter full. Microwave on high for about 1 minute (this will vary, depending on the vegetable); check for doneness. Continue cooking in 30-second intervals until desired doneness is achieved.

As for beverages -- well, as long as you've got the vermouth out ...


Martini by the Sea

Boiled new potatoes

Steamed green beans

Martinis or sparkling water for the adults, water or juice for the kids

Fruit sorbet


* Fish is extremely perishable. If you're not going to eat it within a day, freeze it: Wrap each fillet individually in foil or plastic wrap and pop all of them into one large freezer bag. Storing them together saves time and guesswork later on.

Martini by the Sea

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 11 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 cup water

1 cup vermouth or white wine

2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste

2 boneless whitefish fillets

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 / 4 cup finely chopped parsley

lemon wedges

Heat large, dry skillet; toast almonds, stirring, until golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove from skillet; set aside.

Heat water, vermouth and 2 teaspoons salt in skillet to a simmer. Add fillets; simmer until fish just turns opaque and flakes easily, about 5 minutes. Remove fillets; add salt and pepper to taste. Top with butter, almonds and parsley; squeeze lemon juice to taste.

Nutrition information per serving: 480 calories; 64 percent of calories from fat; 34 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 135 milligrams cholesterol; 5 grams carbohydrates; 39 grams protein; 100 milligrams sodium; 2.6 grams fiber

Renee Enna is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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