The AMERICAN MASTERS documentary on famed restraunteur Alice Waters contains mouth-watering footage of select dishes prepared at her restaurant, the world-renowned Chez Panisse, which prides itself on the use of fresh, luscious, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Even if you don’t live in sunny California, you can still prepare the following recipes:
Strawberry Orange Compote
This is an extremely simple and quick dessert, but you must use truly flavorful oranges and strawberries. If fraises des bois are available, add a few for their flowery perfume.
3 small navel oranges
2 one-pint baskets strawberries
Hull and slice the strawberries about ¼ inch thick into a bowl. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the oranges and cut away all the peel. Remove skinless sections of the oranges by sliding a sharp paring knife alongside the membranes and pry the segments out into the bowl with the strawberries. Squeeze the juice from the remains of the oranges into the bowl, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of sugar to taste, and mix gently.
Spoon the compote into serving glasses or dishes and garnish with mint.
Soupe Au Pistou With Lamb Shanks
This version of the classic provencal garlic-and basil-infused vegetable soup is quite substantial and suitable for a main-course dish.
Serves 6 as a main course.
6 small lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
2 medium onions, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
14 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
10 cups Basic Chicken Stock
Bouquet garni: thyme, parsley, and bay
2 pounds fresh shell beans, shelled
1 pound romano beans, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 pound green beans, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 large bulb fennel, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
Optional: 1 cup cooked pasta, such as orzo, mezzi tubetti, conchiglie or orecciette
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 garlic cloves
2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Season the lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat and brown the shanks. In a large enamelware Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and lightly sauté the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and bouquet garni. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Add the lamb shanks in a single layer, cover and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook on the stovetop or in a 350-degree oven for 2 hours, or until quite tender.
While the lamb is braising, bring about 2 quarts of salted water to boil. Add the shell beans and cook until just tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the beans and let them cool at room temperature. In the same boiling water, replenishing as necessary, one vegetable at a time, parboil the romano beans, green beans, fennel, carrots and potatoes until just done, and spread them out to cool.
When the shanks are done, remove them from the broth and set aside. Strain the broth, discarding the braising vegetables. Let the broth settle, and skim away any fat from the surface. Measure the broth, and add chicken stock, vegetable cooking liquid, or water to bring the quantity to 10 cups. Return the shanks and broth to the Dutch oven. Set aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the diced onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the parboiled romano beans, green beans, fennel and carrot and potatoes, stirring well to coat with he oil. Add the tomatoes, shell beans and chopped parsley and thyme. Season everything with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes more.
Bring the broth and lamb shanks to a simmer. Stir in the sautéed vegetables and cook gently for a few minutes. Taste the broth, adjust the seasoning, and stir in the pasta if using. (The soup can be cooled to room temperature at this point, refrigerated, and reheated the next day.)
To make the pistou, pound the pine nuts and garlic with a pinch of salt as mortar. Add a few basil leaves and continue to pound. Alternating basil and olive oil, continue pounding until a smooth paste is achieved. Stir in any remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. You will have about 1 cup of pistou.
To serve, heat the soup and ladle into deep, wide soup plates, with a lamb shank in each. Swirl a heaping tablespoon of pistou into each serving.