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A Simple Supper That's Ideal on Short Notice

June 19, 1986|ANNE WILLAN | Willan, a cooking teacher and author, is founder and president of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris. She lives in Washington. and

Sooner or later it happens to us all--the business meeting stretches way beyond schedule. A child must be taken to the doctor. A friend arrives unexpectedly from out of town. Suddenly there's little time to shop for supper and even less to cook. Besides, who wants to make elaborate preparations in the heat?

On such occasions, I've found these recipes invaluable, not least because they adapt to whatever ingredients you can find. The Provencale soup calls for the widest possible range of vegetables, with the choice up to you. One of those packages of mixed stew vegetables sold by markets would be handy here. Pasta adds body to the soup, and chopped parsley a touch of freshness.

Garlic Mayonnaise

Anyone who has encountered the Provencal garlic mayonnaise called aioli never forgets it. Wonderful, heady stuff. In the old days, hard work was involved in crushing the garlic with a pestle and mortar, but with a processor or blender, this now is done in seconds.

Here the mayonnaise is spread on toasted bread croutes to add richness and punch to the soup, but aioli is equally good with hard-cooked eggs, cold chicken or fish. In fact, if you want to add to the menu, I'd buy cooked shrimp or chicken and serve it with green salad, reserving the mayonnaise for this course instead of the soup.

Continuing the Mediterranean theme, fruit is an obvious choice. It takes only minutes to scoop balls of melon and combine them with strawberries in Port wine. Other fruits such as peaches and mango take kindly to the same treatment. Served plain or with a topping of sherbet, the fruit is a colorful, refreshing end to a fast feast.

SUPPER IN 1 HOUR FOR 4 Provencal Vegetable Soup Garlic Mayonnaise Cantaloupe With Strawberries and Port Suggested wine: Light white wine such as French Muscadet, Italian Verdicchio or California Chablis This menu can easily be completed from start to finish in an hour.

One hour before serving, chill wine. Make vegetable soup. Leave to simmer.

About 40 minutes before serving, prepare melon and strawberries and chill.

About 30 minutes before serving, add zucchini and peas to soup and continue simmering. Make Garlic Mayonnaise.

About 20 minutes before serving, bake croutes. Set table.

About 10 minutes before serving, add pasta to soup and simmer until tender.

PROVENCAL VEGETABLE SOUP

3 carrots, thinly sliced

2 medium turnips, thinly sliced

2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced

1 leek, trimmed, split and finely sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

4 ounces green beans, cut julienne

Bouquet garni of 10 parsley springs, 1 bay leaf and 2 sprigs thyme

3 quarts water, about

Salt, pepper

1 pound zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup shelled green peas

4 ounces shell pasta

2 to 3 long crusty rolls

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Garlic Mayonnaise, optional

Place carrots, turnips, potatoes, leek, onion, tomatoes, green beans and bouquet garni in large kettle with water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add zucchini and peas. Continue simmering 20 minutes. Add pasta and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Taste to adjust for seasonings. Finished soup should be quite thick, but if cooking liquid evaporates too quickly, add more water.

Slice crusty rolls for croutes. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Soup may be made up to 1 day ahead and stored, covered, in refrigerator. Undercook pasta and vegetables slightly to allow for reheating. Store croutes in airtight container.

Just before serving, reheat soup, if necessary, on top of stove. Warm croutes in oven. Discard bouquet garni from soup. Spoon into bowls. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with croutes and Garlic Mayonnaise, separately. Croutes can be spread with mayonnaise and soaked in soup, or eaten out of hand. Makes 4 main course servings.

Note: Greater variety of vegetables in this soup is better. Be sure to include tomatoes and peas or green beans for color.

Garlic Mayonnaise

8 to 10 cloves garlic, peeled

2 large egg yolks

Salt, pepper

1 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Puree garlic in food processor or blender. Add egg yolks and season to taste with salt and pepper. With machine running, add 1 tablespoon oil, drop by drop, until mayonnaise starts to thicken. Add remaining oil in slow, steady stream until absorbed by mayonnaise.

Stir lemon juice into mayonnaise. Taste to adjust for seasonings. Mayonnaise may be made up to 1 day ahead and stored, tightly covered, in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Do not stir when cold to prevent possible separation. Makes 1 cup, 4 servings.

Note: If egg yolks are cold or oil is added too fast, mayonnaise may separate. If so, begin again by adding curdled mixture to another egg yolk.

Variation: For Quick Garlic Mayonnaise, beat 8 to 10 crushed garlic cloves into 1 cup prepared mayonnaise. Season to taste with lemon juice.

CANTALOUPE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND PORT

2 small ripe cantaloupes

1 quart strawberries

2 tablespoons sugar, about

1 cup Port

Mint sprigs for garnish

Halve melons and discard seeds. With ball cutter, scoop out flesh in balls. Scrape shells clean. Cut slice from bases to sit firmly. Chill.

Hull strawberries, washing only if sandy. Halve if large. Add to melon balls with sugar and Port. Taste, adding more sugar if necessary. Chill.

Fruit may be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. Just before serving, spoon mixture into melon shells. Decorate with mint sprigs. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Liqueur or sweet white wine may be substituted for Port.

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