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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Julie and Julia and Crepes Italian Style

copyright 2011, Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Blogger: Karissa Martin

Julie Powell, portrayed by Amy Adams in Julie and Julia (2009), lies on the floor amidst the stuffing from a roast chicken, crying uncontrollably. Her life has spiraled out of control, and, now, food isn’t even a sure thing anymore. This, among other similar meltdowns, was how Julie coped with stress, unlike Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep), her idol and inspiration. When Julia was stressed or feeling inadequate, she simply tried harder. When the men in her cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu were eyeing her slow onion chopping, she went home and, with a fire in her eyes, chopped a mountain of white, eye-stinging onions in record time. Nothing could keep her down.

Julie was working at a depressing job for Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, spending her days answering phone calls, getting yelled at, and living in her new, drab apartment with her husband, Eric, over a pizzeria in Queens. Food was the only sure thing in her life. “I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say "nothing" I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort.” This fact, on top of her depressing life and prodding from her husband, was why Julie decided to write a blog about Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This “Julie/Julia Project” brought Julie out of the dark hole she had been digging in her life. She said of her cooking, “And it was like she was there, like Julia was there in the room.” Julia helped her to enjoy life and food again. Those 524 recipes in 365 days were a constant in Julie’s life and made it a little easier to wake up every morning. Though the project may have stressed her marriage and stretched Julie thin, there were lighthearted moments with Eric whispering “lobster killer” in her ear and the entertainment of reading about Julia’s feisty moments in history. Julie needed this project.

While Julie’s life was falling apart in the film, Julia was living in Paris, just steps away from delicious markets, and her marriage was well intact. Her only problem was lack of work in this foreign country. While her husband was at work, Julia tried her hand at making hats, playing bridge, and learning French. But, nothing caught her interest until she started taking cooking classes. She met people, felt challenged, and ended up collaborating on a cookbook.

Through marriage, work (or lack thereof), and life, food saved them both: Julie from her miserable life and Julia from her feeling of worthlessness in France. Julie said, “Both of us were lost and both of us were saved by food in some way or other.”

While daydreaming about the food in France, why not make an Italian version of crepes called Crespelle alle Zucchine (crepes with zucchini)? You can ponder which came first, the French or the Italian crepe, while creating this light food. If you’ve never made crepes before, you may share in Julie and Julia’s cooking frustrations, but it will be well worth it when you can relax and enjoy your final product while watching delicious food dance across the screen.

Bon appétit!

Crespelle alle Zucchine (Crepes with Zucchini)
2 zucchini grated
¼ cup hard ricotta cheese grated (known as ricotta romana)
2 eggs
1/3 cup Swiss or Fontina cheese grated
2 tablespoons Parmigiana cheese grated
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tbsps butter

For the Crespelle:
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
pinch of salt
Blend all ingredients in bowl with wire whisk. Heat non-stick crepe pan. Place approx ¼ cup of batter in crepe pan (place batter in center of pan and move pan so that batter rotates around and covers pan). Turn over and cook on other side. Batter makes about 6 Crespelle.
Wash and clean zucchini. Dry and grate using a grater with large holes. Place in bowl and set aside.

In saucepan, place milk for béchamel. Place on low heat and whisk in, a little at a time, flour and butter so that mixture remains smooth. When boiling and thickened remove from heat.

Cool for 5 minutes and place into béchamel the grated zucchini, half of grated Parmigiana cheese, 2 eggs, ricotta romana, grated Swiss or Fontina cheese. Mix and add in pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cut sides of Crespelle so that each Crespelle forms a rectangular shape. Place in the zucchini filling and roll the Crespelle up. Wrap in aluminum foil and continue till all Crespelle are filled. Place Crespelle wrapped in aluminum foil separately in buttered casserole dish and heat in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, eliminate aluminum foil and place a small knob of butter on Crespelle and remaining grated Parmigiana reggiano cheese, place under broiler until brown on top (about 5 minutes) and serve hot.

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