You know the room. It's the one between the living room and the kitchen. Sometimes you actually have to walk through it to get to the kitchen. It has a table and six chairs. In the old days--before you began to celebrate special occasions in restaurants, before your dining room table was turned into a way station for the computer or your kids' schoolbooks--you would invite friends over, sit down together and have dinner. In those days, you cooked, you hosted. It was called home entertaining.

Today many of us are time-stressed, restaurant-dependent rookie cooks who are too darned scared to choose a menu, set a table, pick some wines and stage a dinner, even for close friends. Is Dinner for Six a lost art?

"The pendulum is swinging back," says Jinny Fleischman, who, with her husband, Ed, runs Company's Coming, a series of courses designed for the entertaining phobic. "For years people have been going to restaurants for special occasions so now a restaurant meal isn't so special," says Ed.

Then there's Martha Stewart--she's part of the problem too. "She made entertaining so difficult, you had to be so perfect, that you couldn't measure up," says Jinny.

The Fleischmans believe that home entertaining is an easy art that some of us insist on making difficult.

First, we are too "high concept."

"People need to set parameters," says Jinny. "Otherwise, their entertaining takes too much time. We tell them they can cook some of the meal and buy some of the meal. Make the entree, then buy some tabbouleh or other 'fillers' plus a dessert."

Second, we don't plan.

"The more preparation you do, the less assembly," says Jinny, which means hosts should actually enjoy their guests, instead of panicking in the kitchen at the last minute.

Though the Fleischmans' classes consist of demonstration and participation in their Cleveland Park kitchen and dining room, there's also a bit of psychologizing. To reduce jitters in their budding hosts, they give guidance on planning, choosing wines, preparing a meal, carving an entree and even setting the table. "We work on building confidence," says Ed, who teaches the outdoor cooking, carving and grilling portions of the classes (beef fillet, Peking-style duck and shrimp on the Weber grill).

"We tell people that they have to stop thinking that everything must be perfect," says Jinny, who focuses on the recipes cooked indoors (angel hair pasta with scallops, spinach frittata). "Friends don't come over to judge you."

Oh yes, and those of us who are entertaining-challenged need to establish priorities. Surround the entree you're preparing with "forgiving foods" such as store-bought side orders, breads, appetizers, spreads and desserts.

The tips are flying. "And you want to know how to make your guests really comfortable?" says Ed. "Serve them a sparkling wine when they first arrive, to let them know this is special."

Jinny, a direct marketing consultant, and Ed, a transportation engineer with the U.S. Department of Transportation, came up with the idea to teach home entertaining three years ago. They spent the first year testing their theories on friends; for the last two years they've been educating real students at all different levels of expertise or naivete. When they're not teaching, they still entertain two or three times a week. Even on weeknights?

"We steam some mussels and clams and serve them with a big bowl of pasta," says Jinny. "Friends in town on business love to get out of the hotel, away from restaurants and come to a home," says Ed.

But a food metaphor best summarizes their philosophy. "Too many times when we entertain we go for the sizzle, not the steak," says Jinny. "Bringing people together and sharing--that shouldn't be forgotten."

Jinny and Ed Fleischman find that this menu--designed to be made largely ahead of time--allows you to enjoy your guests' company. All of the equipment used is found in most kitchens. While vegetarians will skip the beef course, the meal includes enough fruits and vegetables so they won't leave your table hungry.

Spicy Peanuts

(6 servings)

This recipe can be made up to a week ahead and kept in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about an hour before the guests arrive.

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces unsalted roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mini-food processor or blender, combine the garlic, pepper, paprika, thyme, oregano and salt and process until finely ground.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the ground spices and peanuts and stir just until the peanuts are completely coated with the spice mixture. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the peanuts to a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Cool the peanuts on the pan. Serve immediately or transfer to a tightly covered container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Per serving: 241 calories, 9 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 196 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Tuna Spread

(6 servings)

This recipe can be completed and refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving. If made ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. It can also be made immediately before serving and eaten at room temperature.

Keeping a can or 2 of oil-packed tuna on hand means you can whip this up in a flash whenever the mood strikes (or unexpected company arrives).

6 1/2-ounce can tuna, packed in olive oil, undrained

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Grated zest from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients and process until smooth. Transfer to a dish and serve with crackers or fresh or toasted slices of bread.

Per serving: 237 calories, 21 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 16 gm fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 252 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Spinach Salmon Salad

(6 servings)

The pine nuts can be roasted early in the day or the day before. The spinach can be rinsed, trimmed, placed in a dish towel and refrigerated. The shallot can be minced in advance and covered. The salad should be assembled just before serving. 1/4 cup roasted pine nuts

1 bunch (about 1 pound) fresh spinach, preferably baby spinach, washed and dried

4 ounces smoked salmon, sliced

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Roast the pine nuts in a 300-degree oven until they color slightly, about 10 minutes.

Divide the spinach leaves among individual salad plates or place on a large platter. Arrange the smoked salmon slices over the spinach and sprinkle with the shallot and pine nuts.

Whisk together the oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.

Per serving: 104 calories, 6 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 260 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

Tomato Salad

(6 servings)

The salad can be prepared up to several hours before serving and refrigerated. But because tomatoes begin to lose their flavor when chilled, you don't want to make this too far in advance. Also, remove the salad from the refrigerator about 10 minutes prior to serving.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup small cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Whisk together the oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the tomatoes with the mozzarella and the garlic. Pour the vinaigrette over the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the basil. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Per serving: 51 calories, 2 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 71 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Roasted Red Potatoes

(6 servings)

The potatoes can be prepared up to the roasting stage about an hour before popping them in the oven. While the potatoes are best served immediately after roasting, they can sit on a buffet table for up to 1 hour.

2 pounds small red potatoes, washed

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the potatoes in half and dry them with a paper towel. Place them in a single layer in a roasting pan. Add the rosemary and oil and toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Roast in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, until well browned, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with salt and additional pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 143 calories, 4 gm protein, 24 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 52 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Beef Tenderloin With Onion Confit

(6 servings)

If you do your advance planning and preparation for the other recipes for this dinner party, you can then focus your attention on this tenderloin, an expensive cut of meat. Timing is crucial, so be sure to use a meat thermometer to get the meat as rare or well done as you and your guests prefer.

About 2 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin (in 1 piece)

2 cups red wine (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Olive oil for the pan or grill

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Onion Confit (recipe follows)

If desired, place the beef in a shallow bowl and add the red wine and garlic. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours, turning occasionally. Remove the beef from the marinade; discard the marinade.

Lightly oil a roasting pan or the grilling rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or preheat the grill on high.

Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the beef to the prepared pan or grill rack. Roast or grill until the desired degree of doneness. Start checking the temperature after 20 minutes. For rare meat, a thermometer inserted in the middle of the tenderloin should read 120 degrees; for medium rare, 125 to 130 degrees; for medium, 135 to 140 degrees. Remove from the heat and cover lightly with foil. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes--the beef will continue to cook while sitting. Then cut into 1/2-inch slices and arrange on a platter.

Per serving (with onion confit): 685 calories, 37 gm protein, 20 gm carbohydrates, 50 gm fat, 139 mg cholesterol, 19 gm saturated fat, 131 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Onion Confit

(Makes about 2 cups)

The onion confit can be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead, tightly covered and refrigerated. Reheat it just before serving and stir in the creme fraiche.

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds onions, thinly sliced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

About 1/4 cup chicken broth, as needed

1/3 cup creme fraiche

In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil. When the butter begins to foam, add the onions, stir to coat with the butter-oil mixture and reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden, about 2 1/2 hours. If the onions begin to burn, add some chicken broth, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaf. Stir in the creme fraiche just before serving.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 128 calories, 2 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 7 gm fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Apple Strudel

(6 servings)

The dessert can be made ahead and frozen for a month. Be sure to allow time for it to defrost. It could also be made early in the day. Rewarm it in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes before serving.

Butter for the baking sheet

4 small tart apples, preferably Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith, peeled and cored, each cut into 16 slices

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Flour for the puff pastry

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Vanilla ice cream or 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream beaten with with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil or parchment paper; lightly butter the foil or paper.

In a large bowl, combine the apple slices, pecans, raisins, brown sugar, orange and lemon juices and cinnamon. Stir to coat the apple slices evenly with the mixture. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the pastry to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Spoon the apple mixture in a strip down the middle of the pastry, leaving 2 inches of pastry on either side of the apples. Fold 1 long edge of the exposed pastry over the apples. Brush with the egg-water mixture. Then fold the opposite long edge of pastry over to meet the first side. With the tines of a fork, press the seam to seal.

Carefully transfer the strudel, seam-side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash. Wait for a few minutes and then brush again with the egg wash. With a sharp knife, cut 2-inch long diagonal dashes across the top of the strudel every 4 to 5 inches.

Bake the strudel in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 35 minutes. (Or roll the strudel tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.) Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into individual slices. If desired, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Per serving (without ice cream or whipped cream): 228 calories, 2 gm protein, 36 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 27 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Classes at Company's Coming are held in the Fleischmans' Cleveland Park home from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Prices vary. Customized classes for your own group or your special dietary needs are also available. For more information, call 202-966-3361 or e-mail

CAPTION: Ed and Jinny Fleischman's beef tenderloin. They feel entertaining at home is an easy art that some of us insist on making difficult.

CAPTION: Ed and Jinny Fleischman, at work on appetizers, above, have mastered the art of home entertaining.