Celebrating Julia! She’d be 100 this week!

Courtesy of the Smith College Archives

 Yes, that headline is correct. If Julia Child were alive today, she’d be a hundred years old on August 15th! America’s first lady of cooking was well into her thirties when she moved to France, became passionate about French food, and took cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu.

Julia mastered the techniques of her adopted cuisine, but it wasn’t her French knife skills that made her famous once she returned to America. It was her personality and her joie de vivre that we all loved.

Over 6 feet tall, she towered above her cook top in her first television series, and with that high, proper voice, gave amusing commentary while turning out omelets and whipping up soufflés with boundless enthusiasm. Viewers adored her because she was so down to earth, and had a willingness to make fun of herself when something didn’t come out right.

I owe my career to Julia; many years ago my husband gave me as a wedding gift a copy of Mastering The Art of FrenchCooking I. It became my culinary bible, and to this day I still have my original copy with its tattered pages and broken spine. As a food writer, I have always admired Julia’s dedication to writing recipes with clear, detailed instructions, and have tried to do the same for my readers.
So, Julia, here’s my wish for you!  Wherever you are up there in culinary heaven, I hope you’re enjoying your beloved “truite meunière” along with a good, crusty baguette, and a glass of wine!  Bon Appétit et merci!
Haricot Vert and Niçoise Olive Potato Salad
This recipe was inspired by Julia’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking I.  It’s a simple potato salad, prepared with a vinaigrette rather than a mayonnaise dressing. 
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 /2 cup olive oil
2 pounds small (1 1/ 2 – to 2-inch diameter) red   skin potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1/ 2 pound tender green beans, preferably haricots verts, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 2- to 3 inch lengths
2/3 cup Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted or unpitted, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. For dressing, combine shallots, vinegar, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper in a nonreactive mixing bowl, and whisk to blend. Whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt and the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 12 to 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove potatoes to a large nonreactive bowl.
3. Add the green beans to the same pot in which the potatoes were cooked, and cook until they are tender, 5 to 6 minutes for small haricots verts, or about 8 minutes for larger green beans. Drain beans in a colander, and refresh under cold running water to stop cooking. Pat beans dry and set aside.
4. When cool enough to handle, quarter potatoes. Wipe out any excess water that may have collected in the bowl, and return potatoes to it. Pour half the dressing over the potatoes and gently toss to coat. Marinate potatoes at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
5. To assemble salad, toss beans and sliced olives with the remaining dressing in a separate bowl, then add them plus fresh thyme and lemon zest to the potatoes. Toss mixture gently so that the potatoes don’t break. Season salad with salt and pepper, and mound in a shallow bowl.  Serves 6.
* Photo of Julia Child cooking with her classmate and fellow cook, Charlotte Turgeon, at their 1964 Smith College 30th reunion taken by Margaret Sussman (also a member of the class). Courtesy of the Smith College Archives.

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