In homage to Julia Child, whose life in France is interwoven with Queens blogger Julie Powell’s food follies in the upcoming movie “Julie and Julia,” I made these luscious scallops for dinner last night. Julia Child has been one of my food idols since I was a young bride, poring through her cookbooks in preparation for a dinner party. Her first two cookbooks, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” volumes one and two, written in collaboration with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (in the case of volume one) were always spot on. Lengthy they were to read, it’s true, but the recipes are fail-proof if you follow them to the letter. The French onion soup I learned to make from her cookbook nearly forty years ago is still the one I follow today. And though I grew up with an Italian mother who was a great cook, it’s Julia’s recipe for stuffed zucchini that initially clued me in to the possibilities of this vegetable. Here are my decades-old, tattered and splotched copies of her first two books:
I can hardly wait for the movie to debut, after having read “Julie and Julia” as well as Julia’s autobiography “My Life In France.” As movie-goers will learn, (and those who have read the above-mentioned books already know) Julia Child led an extremely interesting and intellectual life, not only in Paris, but in India, (where she worked for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA) and in Provence, Germany, Norway, Cambridge, Mass. and Montecito, Calif.
With this post, I’m also joining the party at “Champaign Taste” to celebrate Julia’s August 15th birthday. This is the fourth year in a row that food bloggers there will be honoring this American food icon in a virtual celebration of her trailblazing work. Julia and her colleagues spent years researching and writing the books that provided American home cooks with the first real step-by-step guide to authentic French cooking. If the Smithsonian can honor her by installing her entire kitchen as an exhibit, the least we can do is to remember her with one of her own recipes, so head over to “Champaign Taste” and join the party. Here’s the recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two , by Julia Child and Simone Beck Bouillabaisse of Scallops (Les Saint-Jacques en Bouillabaisse): 1 1/2 cups combination finely sliced leeks and onions, or onions only 1/4 cup olive oil a heavy-bottomed stainless or enameled 3-quart saucepan with cover 2 large cloves minced or mashed garlic 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato pulp (4 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded and juiced) 4 cups liquid: white-wine fish stock, or equal parts clam juice, water, and white wine or vermouth the juice from the tomatoes 2 large pinches saffron threads the following tied in washed cheesecloth: (here she calls for some dry herbs, but I used fresh ones and tied them all with twine, then dropped into the pot): 1 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. basil, 4 fennel seeds, and a 2-inch piece of dried orange peel or 1/4 tsp. bottled dried peel salt, pepper Cook the leeks and onions slowly with the oil in the covered saucepan for 5 to 6 minutes until tender but not browned. Add garlic and tomatoes, raise heat slightly, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes Carefully taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. 1 lb. bay or sea scallops, fresh or frozen Soak the scallops in cold water for 2 or 3 minutes if fresh, until completely defrosted if frozen. Lift out and drain, looking over each for sand; wash again if necessary. Leave bay scallops whole. Cut sea scallops into 3/8-inch chunks. (I used fresh sea scallops and left them whole.) Bring the soup base to a rapid boil, add the scallops, bring to the boil again and boil slowly uncovered for 3 minutes. Check seasoning again. Serve either from a warm tureen or in soup cups or plates, and decorate with parsley.