A January dinner party that doesn’t deprive – The Denver Post

By David Tanis, The New York Times

I manage to have a pretty good diet throughout the year, eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, with moderate (mostly) wine consumption.

But from late November until the last gasp at the end of December, we all are bombarded with richness and excess at every turn. Who can resist?

Once the new year begins, it’s time to re-rig — but a person’s got to eat. I won’t commit to utter sensory deprivation, so I make sure that January’s food is tasty and beautiful, if not abundant. And throwing an occasional dinner party shouldn’t be out of the question. The trick is to lighten up without sacrificing flavor. That’s what this menu is all about.

When there’s a need for a meal like this, I’m often inspired by skimming through Japanese cookbooks. There, I find examples of food that is exquisite in its simplicity. Though I’m no expert, I try to mirror, respectfully, this uncomplicated approach.

For a first course, I wanted something fresh, so I settled on an herb salad with tofu. There’s a well-known Japanese dish of tofu drizzled with soy sauce or ponzu and sprinkled with scallions, ginger and shaved bonito, eaten cold.

Playing with that idea, I use a combination of tarragon, dill, shiso, mint, basil, cilantro, parsley and watercress paired with cool, custardy silken tofu. Then there’s a dressing of toasted sesame seeds, lime juice, ginger, sesame oil and finely minced green chile stirred into yogurt. It may sound odd (it’s not remotely authentic), but the combination is quite refreshing.