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Cooking School: Travels With Joanne
Join Joanne Weir on a mouth-watering culinary adventure
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Classes take place in Provence, Tuscany, Piedmont, the Veneto, Seville, or San Francisco for cooking enthusiasts who sign up to learn with Joanne Weir, whose culinary journeys are mouth-watering voyages to some of the world's capitals of extraordinary food. "My dad called me his 'wandering gypsy' when I was a little girl," says Joanne.
Her Weir Cooking in the City captured the prestigious James Beard Award for best general cookbook (2005). She also hosts the PBS television series, Joanne Weir's Cooking Class.
Every year Joanne leads cooking tours to Europe and conducts an annual weeklong session in her San Francisco kitchen. "These are dream trips -- experiences that can't be found in travel books," Joanne says. In addition to hands-on cooking classes and wine tastings, travelers visit with local artisans and take excursions to nearby markets.
Students find themselves luxuriously immersed in local culture. In Spain, guests stay at Seville's 17th-century Hacienda de Oran, a prime example of Andalusian architecture. In Italy, Tuscany's Chianti region welcomes Joanne's students to a villa embraced by vineyards and olive groves and owned by a noble family for seven generations. In France, Provence's Blanche Fleur guesthouse dates back to the 15th century and is situated near the renowned Chateau Neuf-du-Pape wine country.
Photography: James Carriere
A certain brio energizes Joanne's classes. Her first instructions are, "Engage all five senses. Learn about food by its look, touch, and smell. You'll know what it sounds like sizzling in the pan and reap its ultimate reward -- taste." Her goal is to give students confidence. "I'll be right here with you," she assures everyone.
"I love anywhere there's olive oil and wine," Joanne quips. Not surprisingly, her classes focus on the rustic, hearty food traditions of these locales. In Provence, for example, Stone Fruit and Goat Cheese Salad, chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic, and bouillabaisse typify what will be prepared in class. The salad is tossed with a late-harvest Riesling dressing: Its concentrated fruit flavor pairs beautifully with peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries at their ripest peak.
Joanne's San Francisco class gives an American viewpoint to her Mediterranean-inspired cooking. (Farmer's Market Lunch, Summer Fiesta, Italian Supper on the Terrace, or Chilling and Grilling are featured menus.) Here, in her classic Victorian two-flat, the dancing patterns of majolica decorate the airy kitchen/dining room where students gather to learn, cook, eat, and sample wine.
Today, the class is treated to a lesson on preparing one of those specialty dishes, Tuscan Pork. Pork tenderloin is rubbed with a fragrant herb mixture and baked inside a crispy baguette. Sliced like a sandwich, it's a meal students won't soon forget. "Taste, taste, taste! Check your seasoning! Don't forget to salt!" Joanne reminds everyone. "Just a sprinkle teases flavors out of food."
Avid cook Rob Tessaroto of Ontario (shown here with Joanne and fellow student Nancy House) attended school as a birthday present from his wife. "Joanne's palate, approach, and enthusiasm made this an incredible gift," he says. San Franciscan Lorraine Fedorak agrees. "I've learned timing, how to have fun in the kitchen, pair wine, and use salt!" For these culinarians on tour, wanderlust is wonderful.
Joanne's European tours start at $4,300 a person, exclusive of travel costs. Her San Francisco class is $2,000, travel and accommodations not included. Visit www.joanneweir.com for information.
Tuscan Pork Recipe
- 1 pound pork tenderloin
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen or 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 crusty baguette loaf (about 14 inches long and 4 inches wide)
Trim fat from meat. In small bowl combine sage, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic, and fennel pollen or seeds; set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add tenderloin to hot skillet. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until pork is evenly browned, turning often. Remove pork from skillet; cool slightly. Rub entire surface of pork with herb mixture; set aside.
Halve baguette horizontally. Remove bread from inside of halves, forming thin shell. Brush inside of shell with remaining olive oil. Place pork on inside of baguette, replacing top to completely enclose pork. Trim off excess ends of bread. Tie at 1- to 2-inch intervals with clean kitchen string. Place on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, in 375°F oven 25 to 30 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 155°F to 160°F. Let stand 10 minutes. Slice to serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings
Toasted Goat Cheese and Stone Fruit Salad
- 1 cup late-harvest Riesling or Riesling
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 4-ounce logs goat cheese (chevre)
- 6 cups torn mixed salad greens
- 1 ripe nectarine, pitted and cut into wedges
- 1 ripe plum, pitted and cut into wedges
- 1 apricot, pitted and cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup fresh dark sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
In small saucepan bring Riesling to boiling. Boil, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes or until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil and vinegar until well combined. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, combine panko, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in another small bowl. Cut each goat cheese log crosswise into 3 slices. Dip each slice in oil, turning to coat all sides. Dip in panko mixture, turning to coat all sides. Place coated slices on small baking sheet. Bake cheese slices in 375°F oven about 10 minutes or until tops are very lightly browned and cheese is warm.
In large bowl combine salad greens and all but about 1 tablespoon of wine vinaigrette. Toss to coat; divide among six salad plates. In medium bowl combine nectarine, plum, apricot, and cherries. Add remaining wine vinaigrette; toss to coat. Arrange atop greens. Top each salad with goat cheese slice; sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Spicy Corn Souffle
- 1 medium red sweet pepper*
- 4 eggs
- 6 ears fresh sweet corn
- 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 small jalapeño pepper**, seeded and diced
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
Halve sweet pepper lengthwise; remove stem, seeds, and membranes. Place pepper halves, cut sides down, on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in 425°F oven 20 to 25 minutes. Bring foil up around pepper to enclose. Let stand 15 minutes or until cool. Loosen edges of skin with sharp knife; gently pull off skin in strips and discard. Dice roasted pepper.
Separate eggs; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice corn kernels off cobs; reserve. Cut corn cobs in half crosswise. In Dutch oven, combine corn cobs, half the reserved corn, and half-and-half. Bring to boiling over low heat. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 2 minutes. Remove corn cobs from Dutch oven. Cool slightly. Use blunt side of knife to scrape half-and-half and corn juices from cobs. Discard cobs. Transfer half-and-half mixture and scrapings to blender. Cover; blend until smooth. Strain mixture through medium-mesh strainer.
In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour; stir constantly 2 minutes. Add pureed corn mixture; stir until mixture thickens, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer mixture to large bowl.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish. Add egg yolks to half-and-half mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Fold in remaining reserved corn, roasted red sweet pepper, jalapeño pepper, paprika, salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Fold in cheese.
In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Gently fold one-fourth of whites into corn mixture. Fold remaining egg whites into corn mixture. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake about 15 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
*Step 1 may be skipped by substituting 1/3 cup diced bottled roasted red sweet pepper.
** Because hot chile peppers, such as jalapeños, contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, avoid direct contact with chiles as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the chile peppers, wash your hands well with soap and water.
Italian Almond Crumb Cake
- 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup coarse polenta
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup ground almonds (4 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon each finely shredded lemon peel and orange peel
- Pinch salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon grappa or rum
- 1/2 cup butter, cut up
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan; set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
In food processor combine flour, polenta, sugar, almonds, lemon and orange peels, and salt; cover and process with one or two on-off turns to mix. Add egg yolks and grappa; process about 30 seconds or until crumbly. Add butter; process 20 to 30 seconds more or until mixture starts to hold together.
Crumble mixture evenly into prepared pan; do not press. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake 40 to 45 minute or until top is lightly golden.
Loosen and remove sides of pan. Cut into wedges. Cool slightly on wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.