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COOKING & ENTERTAINING WITH STYLE : California Collaboration

November 08, 1987|BETSY BALSLEY | Balsley is The Times' food editor.

Is there a perfect menu? A meal so superb that it fulfills an epicure's exacting expectations? We think so. Particularly if you start with not one but six superb chefs and persuade each to provide a single course for a once-in-a-lifetime meal. To prove that such an objective is within reach, we contacted half a dozen of Southern California's finest young chefs to determine what they would prepare under such circumstances. The result: A five-course meal (we asked two chefs for entree suggestions so as to provide a choice) that displays the magnificent creativity of each of these culinary artists at his or her best. The surprising part of this project--and certainly a bonus for the non-professional cook--is that none of the recipes provided was too difficult to prepare at home, nor did any require ingredients available only to restaurateurs. And if that isn't fantasy realized, we don't know what is.




Chitarra al Pesto

Penne al Pomodoro

Fettucine alla Panna

Prepare Chitarra al Pesto, Penne al Pomodoro and Fettucine alla Panna and keep them warm. At serving time, arrange about 1/2 cup each on each plate.

Chitarra al Pesto

2 1/2-ounce packages fresh

basil leaves, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons grated

pecorino cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts

5 ounces angel-hair pasta

cup whipping cream

1 teaspoon butter

cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine basil, garlic, pecorino cheese, olive oil and pine nuts in a small bowl. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente state. Drain and keep warm. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan until mixture just begins to boil. Stir in basil mixture and heat through. Remove from stove and add pasta, tossing gently to coat thoroughly. Add Parmesan and toss again. Serve in half cup portions as of appetizer course. If desired, garnish each portion with an additional fresh basil leaf.

Penne al Pomodoro

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 small stalk celery, minced

1 small carrot, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

cup olive oil

1 1-pound, 12-ounce can Italian tomatoes

cup white wine

10 fresh basil leaves, minced

Salt, pepper

Red pepper flakes

1/2 pound penne pasta

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Saute onion, celery, carrot and garlic in olive oil over low heat for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are very soft but not browned. Stir in tomatoes, cover, and continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir mixture frequently, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon as they cook. Add white wine about halfway through cooking period. Add basil and season to taste with salt, pepper and red-pepper flakes. Cook 20 to 25 minutes longer, stirring frequently.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente state. Drain well. Remove sauce from heat and toss as much as desired with pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan and toss again. Serve in half cup portions as of appetizer course.

Fettucine alla Panna

1/2 pound fettucine

2 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 tablespoon butter

Salt, pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook fettucine in boiling salted water to al dente state. Drain well and keep warm. Heat cream and butter together in small saucepan. Let mixture boil until slightly thickened and reduced to about half. Remove from heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine with pasta and toss to coat well. Add Parmesan and toss again just before serving. Serve in half cup portions as of appetizer course.



4 shallots, finely chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 4-ounce Dover sole fillets

4 medium shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

2 cups white veal stock or chicken stock

2 medium zucchini, cut in small cubes

1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped

Salt, pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

Madeira-Shiitake Essence

Saute shallots in 1 tablespoon butter until soft, but not browned. Let cool. Lightly baste sole fillets with shallot mixture and roll up from short end of fillets. Fasten rolls with wood pick.

Poach mushrooms in simmering stock until very tender. Drain mushrooms and set aside, reserving stock for use in Madeira-Shiitake Essence.

Cook zucchini in boiling salted water to cover until soft but still green, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain zucchini and return to pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until most of moisture has evaporated. Press with spoon until zucchini is partially pureed, then add basil and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Steam or poach sole fillets until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spread zucchini in center of plate and sprinkle with chopped tomatoes. Arrange sole fillets in center over zucchini-tomato mixture and top with mushroom cap or sliced mushroom. Spoon Madeira-Shiitake Essence around edges.

Madeira-Shiitake Essence

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup Madeira wine

Reserved shiitake cooking liquid

Salt, pepper

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