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GOOD COOKING

Chic Soup

June 06, 1996|ABBY MANDEL

Just the mention of bouillabaisse--that hearty fish soup from France's Mediterranean coast--makes me hungry. I have so many wonderful memories of when and where I have savored this Mediterranean specialty.

Although people talk about a classic bouillabaisse, cooks from Cap Cebere to Menton use their own choice of fish and flavorings. The following shortcut recipe, which I have refined over many years to a simple three-step procedure, is no exception.

This bouillabaisse would make a simple but chic supper party. It's surprisingly easy, with the last-minute cooking of the garnish and fish taking less than 2 minutes. Ladle it over slices of French bread or serve it with garlic bread (to sop up the last juices). A slightly chilled Sauvignon Blanc would be a good wine choice.

Start the meal with a vegetable course--a green bean and red pepper salad with apple vinaigrette--that is vivid and satisfying without overpowering the main course. For dessert, a raspberry-pear combination keeps the lightness of the meal in mind.

1-2-3 BOUILLABAISSE

The trick to this quick and easy bouillabaisse, which I learned from three-star Swiss restaurateur Fredy Girardet, is to enrich the stock with a small amount of pureed potato. Don't let the ingredient list discourage you. This is the sequence: 1) Make the stock. 2) Puree the mixture. 3) Reheat the broth and briefly cook the fish and shellfish.

1 1/2 pounds mussels (about 12)

Water

Salt

1 (8-ounce) bottle clam broth

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1/2 pound small boiling potatoes (about 4), peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, split in half

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon saffron

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth

1 1/2 cups sliced leeks (white and light green part)

1/2 pound peeled shrimp

1/2 pound bay scallops

14 ounces skinned red snapper or other rock cod, cut in 1-inch cubes

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon butter

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar, if needed

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Several hours before serving, clean mussels, cover with cold salted water, refrigerate 1/2 hour, wash several times and drain. Use kitchen shears to remove beards.

Put cleaned mussels in medium saucepan and add 1 inch water. Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered, until mussels open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open. Reserve liquid. Reserve mussels and liquid (in refrigerator, if cooked ahead).

Simmer clam broth, vegetable broth, 1 cup water, potatoes, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, cayenne and wine in 3-quart covered saucepan until potatoes are very soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Puree broth in blender. Can be made 1 day ahead to this point and refrigerated.

Bring soup base to boil. Add reserved mussel liquid, if desired (strain through a sieve lined with paper towels if liquid is sandy). Add leeks, then shrimp. Cook 30 seconds. Add scallops and fish. Simmer until fish is cooked through, about 30 seconds more. Add tomatoes and stir in butter until melted. Taste, adjust salt and pepper, and add sugar if too acidic tasting. Remove from heat.

To serve, place 2 mussels in each of six warm shallow soup bowls. Ladle soup over mussels, dividing broth, vegetables and fish evenly. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

220 calories; 980 mg sodium; 98 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0.68 gram fiber.

RASPBERRY BAKED PEARS

Raspberry glaze, raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries combine to make these pears delicious. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries in light syrup, thawed

3 firm pears

3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam (or strain seeds from preserves)

4 teaspoons butter

1/3 teaspoon ground allspice

1 pint fresh raspberries, chilled

Puree frozen raspberries, then strain puree and chill.

Peel pears, split in half and core. Make flat cut on rounded sides of pears so they can be set down with cored side up.

Gently melt jam and butter with allspice in microwave oven or over low heat, stirring often until smooth. Place pears, cored side up, in baking dish lined with buttered foil. Brush pears with jam mixture. Bake at 450 degrees 10 minutes.

Use spatula to turn pears over. Brush exposed surface with mixture. Bake until just soft but not mushy, 20 to 25 minutes more, depending on ripeness of pears. Brush surface once more midway with remaining mixture. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated; let come to room temperature and gently reheat pear halves in 200-degree oven until warm, about 20 minutes.)

Put 2 tablespoons chilled raspberry puree on each dessert plate. Tilt plates until sauce coats center. Place 1 warm pear half on top of sauce. Drizzle each pear with 1 tablespoon chilled raspberry puree. Garnish center of pears and plates with fresh raspberries. Serve pears warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

156 calories; 1 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 3.59 grams fiber.

* Dave Walfeck serving bowls from Freehand, Los Angeles.

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