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Bailey's food is for friends


Lee Bailey's on the move again. The man who loves to cook and travel -- and document it all in beautifully photographed cookbooks -- is crisscrossing the country, this time to promote his latest labor of love, "Lee Bailey's Cooking for Friends" (Clarkson Potter, $30).

And not a moment too soon. Summer is on its way, and before long many of us will be traveling and cooking, too. For some, it will be weekend jaunts to the Hamptons or the Berkshires, with plenty of friends dropping by at mealtime. For others, it may be a trip overseas, staying, as Mr. Bailey always does, in a rented house and doing some, if not all, of your own cooking.

But this is a time to relax and enjoy yourself, whether it's a two-day weekend away or a two-week vacation abroad. And so simplicity should reign at the dinner table. But not boredom!

A trip to a local supermarket can be an adventure, especially in foreign ports. Keep an open eye, Mr. Bailey advises, and be ready to adapt favorite recipes to local ingredients. There's always a ready substitution, he maintains, and the results can sometimes be better than the original.

During a stay on the Greek island of Patmos, for example, the Southern-style pecan-coated fish of Mr. Bailey's childhood took on new life with a coating of the pistachios that were plentiful on the island. And instead of the usual tartar sauce, he bowed to local tradition and served the dish with tzatjki, a sauce made from cucumber, garlic, yogurt, lemon juice and dill. Although it was hard for Mr. Bailey to admit at first, he now confesses that he prefers the Greek version.

Because he's done it for so many years, Mr. Bailey has his "cooking on the road" show down pat. You may not want to follow his example and pack the off-white tablecloth and big cloth napkins that go everywhere with this peripatetic cook, but Mr. Bailey does offer some advice worth following by any away-from-home cook. Never travel without your knife sharpener and an oven thermometer, he says. With these two basics in hand, you need not fret if the home you're renting has less than the best equipment.

Following are recipes from Mr. Bailey's book -- stylish but simple dishes that are perfect when friends come to call.

Cold radish soup

Serves eight or more.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup thinly sliced green onions, mostly the white part

2 cups small-cubed white potatoes

2 cups thinly sliced radishes, plus additional for garnish

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

salt (optional)

chives for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan and stir in green onions. Cover tightly and sweat over very low heat 15 to 20 minutes until wilted. Do not brown. Add potatoes, radishes and enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and add the balance of the stock. Season to taste.

Chill and serve with chopped raw radish and snipped chives.

(You can make this soup thick or thin. Use additional chicken stock, as Mr. Bailey does, or low-fat milk or light cream.)

Rice, pea and olive salad

Serves six to eight.

3 cups cooked rice

1/3 cup sliced pitted green olives

1 cup frozen tiny green peas

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Toss rice and olives together. Place peas in a strainer and run hot tap water over them, shaking, to thaw. Shake dry and add to the rice mixture. Toss.

Whisk together all the other ingredients and dress the salad just before serving, tossing well.

Meringue tart

Serves six.

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

3 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, well toasted

1/4 ounce or more semisweet chocolate, grated

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars in a bowl and add egg whites. Beat with a mixer at slow speed until frothy, then beat at high speed until whites stand in stiff peaks, about 7 minutes or more. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with vegetable oil spray. Add meringue and smooth top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden.

Allow to cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in vanilla and nuts. Crush top of meringue in the center (if it has not #F already settled) and heap on the cream, smoothing top. Decorate with grated chocolate.

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Loosen edges before serving.

Hazlenut shortbread

Makes about 18 squares.

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted hazelnuts

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, flour, salt and nuts, mixing with fork. Add butter and mix with hands. When combined, sprinkle vanilla over all and mix thoroughly. Pat into 2 buttered 8-inch square baking pans and score the tops to make it easier to cut after baking.

Bake until set and turning slightly golden, 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting. If shortbread is allowed to cool completely before cutting, you will need to break it apart into serving pieces.

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