Monday, October 6, 2014

Just like Julia

For the second time now, I am reading "My Life in France" Julia Child's autobiography. This book is an easy read and a joy to spend time with.  Julia Child lived life with passion and pleasure and this is apparent in her autobiography.  "My Life in France" is so good that when I read it the first time, about eight years ago, my husband saw how much I loved it, read it too, and was utterly charmed by it. Believe me, women's autobiographies are really not his thing!

Anyway, as part of the fun,  I have been watching Julia's videos on youtube from her old TV show, "The French Chef" and cooking along with her.  Saturday I watched her make a Nicoise salad and Sunday night, that was our dinner.  Of course, much of Julia's cooking is complicated and time consuming, (like the croissants I'm going to tackle today).  Her two volume masterpiece, "The Art of French Cooking", contains all kinds of difficult recipes requiring unusual ingredients, techniques and cooking equipment, at least by the usual American standard.  Even back in the day when I was just beginning to cook and taking cooking lessons from some of Los Angeles' best chefs, I found many of the recipes in her cookbook intimidating.

Nicoise salad is easy in comparison and in, fact, I've made one many times before.

However, this one is different, simply because it's Julia's.  I made it her way, except for the anchovies which I left out.  Julia uses anchovies preserved in salt which she purchases in Nice during the show.  These were a bit hard to obtain in Tahoe City...and I don't really like anchovies much anyway, so they were out.  Otherwise the recipe is pretty much the same.

I am often complimented on my salad dressings and when people ask me why they taste so good, I give the credit to the addition of fresh or freeze-dried shallots, which I feel really add a little tang and excitement to any vinaigrette.    I'll sometimes smash up a garlic clove and let it sit in the dressing for awhile but I remove it before serving.  In Julia's dressing, however, it's all about the garlic.

Vinagrette for Nicoise:

1 garlic clove mashed
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 t lemon juice
1 t wine vinegar
1/2 t dried mustard
fresh ground black pepper
1 t lemon juice
1 t wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Julia starts with the smashed garlic clove in a mortar and pestle.  She then adds in the salt, 11/2 t lemon juice and 1 t wine vinegar and makes a loose paste.  This is then put in a measuring cup to which she adds the dry mustard, pepper, and remaining lemon juice and wine vinegar.  Briskly whisking, the olive oil is slowly dribbled in until she has a good emulsion.

Potato Ingredients:

5 medium round potatoes like Yukon Gold boiled until perfectly done and sliceable, still hot
1 T fine chopped shallots
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 T white wine
water from boiling pan

Slice the potatoes and put them into a bowl while they are still very warm.  Take 1 T of cooking liquid and splash over potatoes.   Add the shallots, generous salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and white wine.  Let sit until assembly.

Remaining ingredients:

green beans, boiled to al dente
2 summer farmer's market quality tomatoes
Nicoise olives
2-4 fresh boiled eggs
1 can of tuna
1 head of leafy green lettuce such as Boston lettuce, washed and crisping in refrigerator

On a large platter:  Use some of the vinaigrette to dress the lettuce and arrange it in a ring around the exterior of the platter.  Add some vinaigrette to the potatoes and place them in the center of the lettuce.  Quarter the tomatoes and place them in groupings on the lettuce.  Place clumps of olives and capers between tomatoes.  Add the tuna on top of the potatoes, being sure to let some potatoes show.  Place the halved eggs around the tuna.  Add remaining vinaigrette to the green beans, divide them into four clumps and arrange around the platter as shown in photo.

Be sure to wear your pearls and an apron while you're cooking, if you truly want to channel you're inner Julia.

Here's Julia's video if you'd like to watch her in action.  Either way, you must at least watch the first minute or two.  Her unmistakable voice and style is simply, tooooooooo delightful!


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