Monthly Archives: August 2009

Julie/Julia Movie

This afternoon, I took in one of the greatest guilty pleasures ever invented: a mid-day movie. I’d originally taken off a couple of days to travel to see family, but then I screwed up my knee last week by twisting it as I walked up the stairs exiting the subway. With my travel plans scuttled, I reached out to a few friends to see about catching up, as I still needed to take the vacation days. One of the first ones to confirm that he was available had mentioned over a dinner of lobster rolls and Old Bay french fries at the Mermaid Inn a few weeks back that wanted to see Julie & Julia when it came out.

After reading several reviews and many blog posts about Julie & Julia, I have to confess, I was wondering if I really did want to see it. Almost everyone seemed to agree that the parts of the movie that cover Julia Child’s life and her personal and culinary development while she was living overseas, are the most interesting. Most folks seemed lukewarm about the parts that highlight Julie Powell’s goal of making all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have to say that while I definitely could have watched an entire film about Julia Child, I am left admiring Julie Powell for tackling this task. I had read parts of her blog while she was writing it.

I received my own two-volume set of these cookbooks as a 25th birthday present, at my request. I’d been cooking for many years, but it was really just the basic 70s-80s family type of stuff and dorm food. Then, after subscribing to cooking magazines for several years, and after trying to spread my culinary wings, I felt as though I was ready to take the ‘adult’ step of learning how to cook from Mrs. Child’s opus.

The truth is, however, that aside from consulting her books for certain techniques and general information, I don’t really cook from them. I am not the audience for which she was originally writing, nor was Julie Powell. While I am definitely servant-less, I am also not a stay-at-home wife who can spend the multiple hours on preparation and cooking these kinds of meals. I admire Julie for taking on that task, after working a full and (from the depiction in the movie) tedious job. Do you remember New York City in 2002? It was awful to be here in the post-09/11 funk and depression and working for the LMDC couldn’t have been fun.
I definitely recommend seeing the movie for both stories. I agree with everyone else whose reviews I have read that I could have seen a whole movie about Julia and Paul Child, and I hope that they get Meryl Streep to play that part again because she was amazing. Keeping up with a blog, a life, a marriage, a job, and the recipes couldn’t have been easy for Julie Powell, but she did it. Like many folks, I predict, I will pull these books off of my shelf again to read them and perhaps even to tackle some of the recipes. Both of these stories have given me back some of my cooking inspiration, which I think is a great reason to see any movie.

Buon appetito!

Torta al Cioccolato

I had an Italian-themed group dinner to go to on Sunday. It gave me the perfect excuse to bake the Apricot Crostata that I’d tried out for the first time earlier in the week. As you can see, the response it received was pretty much the same as it had been when I’d made it for the folks at the office. I think I was a bit surprised at the reaction to it, but maybe it was that it just looked so different from typical potluck desserts that everyone wanted to grab a slice. I’m definitely filing this one away in my “keeper” file.

The other dessert I brought was a recipe that I don’t think I’ve made in at least ten years: Torta al Cioccolato.* It was a standby Italian dish that I used to bake when I had dinner parties. I’m not sure why I stopped preparing it except that I don’t really have people over to eat dinner anymore. I just haven’t had the time, energy or money to throw something together the way I used to do. Having a small apartment doesn’t help either. This gathering was a great excuse to test drive it again.

Judging from the plate below, it looks like it was pretty well received. The thing that I like the best about this dessert is that it has a dense chocolate flavor without being overly rich. It isn’t a completely flourless cake, but the small amount of flour is supplemented with ground walnuts. It is perfect with an end-of-dinner espresso. Although I served it without anything on the side, berries and whipped cream, a small scoop of gelato, or a dollop of mascarpone would be a wonderful accompaniment. I think that this cake might just need to make it back into the dessert rotation.

Buon appetito!

*This recipe appeared in the May 1995 issue of Bon Appetit. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it on line in their archives so I was unable to link to it.