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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
As she likes to point out, nothing Joanne Weir cooks is terribly difficult or complicated. The ingredients she calls for are not hard to find if one lives in a place of reasonable size. In a small town of 3,000 surrounded by farmland, the local supermarket may not carry certain items, but in larger locales frozen phyllo dough, a nice grade of olive oil, fresh herbs and nice cheeses should be available nowadays. The same should be true of a nice bottle of wine. Certainly, those who live in a city environment won't have any difficulty. What's amazing is how incredibly delectable Joanne Weir's recipes are given their relative simplicity.

"Weir Cooking in the City" is the companion volume to the television series of the same name, which can be seen on many PBS affiliates across the country. Ms. Weir's first position after graduating from cooking school was a five-year stint at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and her experience in that restaurant can be seen in her recipes. She stresses the use of fresh, pure ingredients and the results are excellent.

This sort of food could be served at any number of good restaurants and people would pay a handsome sum to have it. But Joanne Weir says that she thinks of herself as a teacher first and a chef second and what she has done here is to make superb food available to the home cook. It's probably not the sort of fare appropriate nightly for a family of six, but it's wonderful for a dinner party or an intimate meal for two. In fact, that's just how she sells her product -- food for relaxed entertaining. Nowadays, that's what I'm after.

I have tried and can highly recommend from this book several recipes. By all means, try the triple-ginger pineapple cake. It's to die for and very easy to make if you know how to separate eggs, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold them into cake batter. You'll need fresh pineapple, crystallized (candied) ginger, fresh gingerroot and ground bottled ginger - and what full-sized supermarket in the United States doesn't have those? The rest of the ingredients are completely mundane - ordinary flour, brown sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, milk and eggs.

The roast Cornish game hens with toast bread crumb salsa are outstanding. Toasted bread crumb salsa, as it turns out, is a sort of condiment made with bread crumbs, herbs, olive oil, lemon and some other ingredients that is absolutely delicious on poultry or even a steak - and it's easy to make. Most supermarkets nowadays have plastic packets of fresh herbs in the produce department and the rest of the ingredients are no harder to find than the game hens themselves (which can be frozen ones).

Equally amazing is a delicious soup made with bottled clam juice instead of stock, fresh fennel, celery, potatoes, fresh oysters and a cup of champagne (use a $15 champagne for this and serve the rest to drink). She's creative - one quarter of the soup gets puréed and added back to the soup with some cream to thicken it, before the oysters are added. Thus, the soup still has diced vegetables for wonderful texture, but a creamy, thick consistency. The oysters go in right at the end so that they are only lightly cooked. It's amazingly good and not difficult at all. I admit, fresh oysters might be hard to find in the middle of the country . . . .

Joanne Weir's recipes take their inspiration from the countries that ring the Mediterranean Sea. Hence, you'll find lots of fresh herbs and garlic used in her dishes. Ms. Weir is especially keen on "small plates," those foods served in Mediterranean countries as appetizers, things served to start a meal. Plenty of those are included in this book in addition to main courses, soups, salads, and desserts.

All in all, I think Joanne Weir is a wonderful author of cookbooks, bringing the most delicious food imaginable into the homes of those of us who have moderately decent cooking skills, and "Weir Cooking in the City" is a great entry into her series of books. If you're lucky enough that your local PBS affiliate shows the analogous TV program, so much the better, because you can see her prepare all the recipes and, more, you can find out how much she loves to cook and share her gift for cooking with others.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
This new book by author, teacher, and PBS TV chef show host is aimed at helping people entertain at home when they are in an environment such as downtown San Francisco, where virtually every type of foodstuff imaginable is a few blocks walk away. At worst, you may have to take a cable car or motor scooter trip for a mile or so to reach your objective. Life is tough.
That last cynical remark is not fair. This is a very good book on both cooking and entertaining. It is as good as Sheila Lukins' new book `Celebrate', but complimentary to that book as Lukins is focusing on inexpensive family entertaining and Weir's target is more for young couples with few children to eat up disposable income. Both books gain from offering food / beverage pairings. Weir is more parochial in that her beverages are all modest to higher priced wines. Weir's book is clearly better than Ina Garten's book on parties, as Weir offers a really valuable instruction on a lot of the nuts and bolts of organizing and prepping a party. It is not in the same league as the classic Martha Stewart `Entertaining', which is really directed at large, catered parties.
The first feature about this book which impresses me is a table of contents which lists every recipe in the book, in chapter and page order, and chapters are arranged by course. This feature is doubly valuable in that chapters are based on very logical courses familiar to modern American families. These chapters are:
Firsts (Weir knows her stuff here, as she wrote a book on Tapas and Mezes)
Salads
Soups
Mains and a few Sides (Why not go to the very small extra effort to split these up?)
Desserts
Weir's cuisine is centered on the Mediterranean, with some East Asian and Latin American dishes added for variety. Interspersed with main dishes are recipes for pantry preparations such as salsa, preserved lemons, dashi, and potato chips. Many dishes are familiar such as spaghetti and meatballs, or variations on familiar themes such as Panini Caprese (the old familiar mozzarella, tomato, and basil combination).
All the cooking instructions are mindful of tips and techniques familiar to most Food Network junkies, such as being careful not to burn the garlic when you do a sauté beginning with garlic in olive oil. The author is also brave enough to recommend making your own chicken stock and her recipe may not be worthy of Judy Rodgers, it is quite good for the home cook.
My biggest problem with the book is with the section on pantry items. I have never seen anyone succeed with a viable pantry-stocking list, leading me to believe that no fixed pantry list will work for anyone other than the person who makes it up. By all means, buy this book if you like to entertain at home, but avoid the author's advice on pantry items. Her giving us three (3) different lists compounds the error. One for the Mediterranean cuisine, one for a Latin American cuisine, and one for an Asian cuisine. Heaven forbid if you want to cook from all three. Let me just cite a few errors in the Mediterranean list.
Does not recommend salt packed anchovies and capers over products packed in olive oil.
Does not give any warning on spoilage risks for nuts, nut oils and whole grains.
Puts phyllo dough on the shelf. I believe this must be frozen to preserve beyond a few days.
Pictures mozzarella as a pantry item, while authorities I know say this must be a serve on day made item.
The pantry notion is doubly misguided since the book is aimed at city dwellers who are both short on living space and long on availability to nearby markets and specialty stores. Best strategy is to simply buy what you need when you need it, keep a careful eye on shelf life, and never, never buy anything because you may make something with it in the future. You never do.
A cookie cutter blurb from Alice Waters graces the dust jacket. I give Alice credit for supporting a former employee, but I suspect the value of her endorsement may be wearing itself a little thin by now. More surprising is a rare blessing from Madeline Kamman. Not bad.
This is a superior book if you like to entertain at home and you do not have the time to wade through books devoted to regional cuisines to pick out suitable dishes (although I suggest Patricia Wells' books are an exceptional resource on this matter).
Highly recommended for people who entertain at home and wine and food fanciers.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2004
Joanne Weir has done it again! This cookbook is unbelievable. I live in an urban neighborhood myself, as soon as I had briefly looked the book over, I found myself strolling through the Italian, Asian, and Latin sections of the city searching for ingredients, visualizing the dish as I gathered the makings for a really fabulous and truely tasty meal. Joanne's show, Weir Cooking in the City, is a wonderful accompaniment to the book. It really brings the dishes to life. Good Job! I highly recommend it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2009
I have 3 other cookbooks by Joanne Weir, but I'm still very attached to this one, as well as all the other books by her that I have . Her recipes are excellent, and utilize many interesting tastes, and fresh ingredients with interesting twists.
This is a wonderful book, I've used it so much the pages are falling out, so I just ordered a new copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2014
The only recipe I tried to make was the Caramelized Chocolate Almond Budino but I stopped because the recipe does not tell you what to do with the 8 eggs called for in the list of ingredients. Poor editing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2008
I have finally found a cooking writer who cooks the way I like to eat....Mushroom pasta is fall down good..Lental salad is great...just try one....
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on July 13, 2015
This cookbook is great I'm lucky to live close to San Francisco and can pick up the ingredients with no problems.
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on August 14, 2014
Cookbook definitely for big city living. Hard to find ingredients used that are not available in small towns.
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Great gift, arrived on time.
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on December 20, 2014
Love Joanne Weir books!
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