Joanne Weir's seasonal recipes evoke flavor of wine country

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

NEW YORK -- Consistent with the spirit of enjoyment that characterizes her cookbooks and television series, Joanne Weir has dreamed up a three-course menu overflowing with seasonal flavor.

"I am so happy with this menu," said Weir, author, cooking teacher and professional chef, terming it "perfect for late summer, early autumn."

Her special menu begins with a squash soup, has grilled salmon as its main course and finishes with pear granita (ice).

"The pear granita is to die for," she said on the phone from San Francisco, having just finished -- and clearly enjoyed -- her final testing of the recipe.

If you wish, you can make the soup a couple of days in advance, she says. When you are ready to serve it, simply heat it, garnish with basil and Parmigiano cheese and serve. Add other vegetables, such as green beans and carrots, if you like.

The herbs used so generously in the soup and fish dishes reflect part of Weir's delight in her California environment. "There are so few herbs that we don't have all year round here," she said. "I grow most of my own to use fresh -- I have a balcony."

As in her cookbooks, she offered a suggestion for a wine to complement the meal. Here, her choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc.

Late Summer Squash Soup With Herbs

9 cups chicken stock

6 ounces dried farfalle pasta

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 1/4 pounds assorted summer squash, such as pattypan and zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 basil leaves, cut into thin strips

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until almost cooked or al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the herbs, squash and lemon juice and simmer 4 to 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with basil and serve immediately. Pass the Parmigiano at the table.

Makes 6 servings.

In the following recipe, other types of fish can be substituted for salmon. Try tuna, halibut, snapper or cod.

Skewers of Salmon with Arugula Salsa Verde

1 3/4 to 2 pounds fresh salmon fillet, skinned and boned

1 lemon

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 bamboo skewers

1 cup coarsely chopped arugula

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

1/3 cup green olives, pitted and chopped

3 tablespoon capers, chopped

1 shallot, minced

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges, as a garnish

Cut the salmon into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes. With a vegetable peeler, peel the lemon. Place the salmon in a bowl with the lemon peel, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and black pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes. Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, stir together the arugula, parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, olives, capers, shallots, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice, and the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Use this salsa verde within 1 hour.

Preheat an outdoor grill or an indoor cast-iron ridged grill. Thread the salmon onto the skewers, distributing evenly. Grill the salmon until golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the salmon and continue to grill until done, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Place the salmon on a platter and spoon the salsa verde over the top. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

No ice-cream machine? Here is the answer! Granita is a refreshing Italian icy-cold slush often made during the hot summer. Now you can make it year-round with various fruits depending upon the season. For this recipe, use ripe Bartlett or Comice pears.

Pear Granita

6 pears, about 3 pounds, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place the pears in a saucepan with the water and sugar and simmer 3 minutes. In a blender, puree the pear mixture until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add the lemon juice to the pear puree. Pour the mixture into a shallow 13-by-9-inch metal or glass baking dish and place in the freezer until ice crystals begin to form, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Whisk with a fork to move the crystals. Continue to whisk with a fork every 30 minutes until the mixture is completely crystallized and like slush, 2 hours.

To serve, spoon or scoop the granita into ice-cold serving dishes. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

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