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Weir Cooking in the City

by Joanne Weir

Weir Cooking in the City



Fans of Joanne Weir's PBS shows, Weir Cooking in the Wine Country, and Weir Cooking in the Wine Country II, will be happy. In April, PBS began airing her next venture, Weir Cooking in the City. Even better, the eponymous companion book is already out. If it is a preview for her show, this is good news.

The Wine Country series had us fall in love with the Napa Valley. Her companion books were worthy counterparts. Now Weir will indulge us with San Francisco. And although this effort is relevant to any city USA, let’s be honest. San Francisco is the perfect venue for a food discussion. Its food scene is spectacular—great restaurants, a stunning new farmers market, access to everything edible, and loads of culinary talent.

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Her mission in Weir Cooking in the City is simple. "Wouldn’t you like," she says, "to be able to make food with a lot of style but without so much effort?" Trust her to pull this off. She spent five years in the kitchen at Chez Panisse and studied with Madeleine Kamman. It’s unlikely Weir will entangle you in a complex, time-consuming, trendy cooking adventure. Instead, she focuses on stocking the “city pantry,” Mediterranean, Latin, and Asian-style. She advocates impromptu entertaining, and makes that possible without a meltdown. You will remember her seven pages of wine advice. Joanne Weir has the privilege of living in this jewel of a city, but she celebrates urban life anywhere.

So, what’s inside? A lot of fun, easily scalable dishes serving six to eight people. Starters like Rice Paper Shrimp Rolls, Parmesan Flan, and Smoked Eggplant with Pita Chips. Salads that range from Warm Grilled Fennel Salad to Duck Salad with Pecans and Kumquats. Her eleven soups include an elegant Champagne Oyster Soup with Celery and Fennel, and hearty Kale Soup with Pancetta and White Beans. Lobster, Roasted Pepper, Tomato and Corn Chowder is worth the extra effort and expense.

Weir is inspired by choice and diversity, whether that means new cooking techniques, exotic ingredients, or making an old-fashioned Butter Pecan Ice Cream. In the chapter named Mains and a Few Sides, you’ll find ethnically inspired meals like Spice-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cucumber Lemon Raita, and Shanghai Noodles with Chicken, Cashews, Cilantro, and Mint sharing space with Pan-Seared Pork Medallions with Riesling and Apples, and Braised Veal Shanks with Olives and Lemons. What about the “few sides?” Try pairing Wasabi Mashed Potatoes with Soy-Marinated Flank Steak with Asian Pesto. Minted Sugar Snap Peas are perfect with a Roulade of Herbed Lamb with Stewed Garlic.

If you are asking where is the seafood, it’s in the Herb-Crusted Tuna Skewers with Tomato Aioli. Or Pepper-Salt Crabs inspired by the late, great Barbara Tropp. It’s in the New England bound Clam and Mussel Boil with Corn and Red Potatoes, and in San Francisco’s own Cioppino with Crab, Clams, and Shrimp.

Weir’s mother used to say, “People always come for the dessert.” Here’s why. Gary Danko-inspired Individual Warm Raspberry Soufflés get sauced with raspberries. Warm Polenta Custards with Grappa-Soaked Golden Raisins are much more than that, with port-stewed dried fruits as a beguiling complement. Don’t consider skipping Cranberry Upside-Down Cake. Do remember to make the Nectarine Sorbet with Blueberry Compote this summer.

There’s more to like: Wine suggestions, well-written and tested recipes, friendly, engaging introductions before you start cooking, and lots of thoughtful tips and advice; in short: a San Francisco feel with an inclusive attitude. That’s enough reason to stay tuned for her show.

Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler

(Updated: 01/16/08 SB)

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