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In Julia's Kitchen

Jody Adams's Sweet and Sour Sole, Venetian Style
Zarela Martinez's Corn Relish


July 1995

When I got the galleys to In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, the book written to go with Julia Child's new television series, I dropped everything and read it straight through. I don't usually do this with any book, but something right away told me that this was special--one of those rare books packed with information that's a pleasure to read.

What's more, it gives you a warm, familial sense of being on the set and right there with Julia and her guest cooks--a group of cooks from all over the country who really care about what they're doing and produce food that the home cook can cook, too.

As it happens, I did visit the set while the series was being filmed--the set being Julia's house (everyone calls her "Julia," of course, whether they know her or not, which is okay with her). Every pantry, closet, parlor, and basement storage or laundry area corner was occupied either by equipment or people, including Susie Heller, the culinary producer, a sprite who kept the menus going and everyone cheerful, and Nancy Verde Barr, the co-writer of the book, both established with laptops. The very controlled chaos is best described by Julia in her introduction: "Trucks, cars, and miscellaneous equipment lined the street, a big Dumpster was parked in the driveway next to the strange orange-colored air-conditioning pumper, and wires of all sorts were running in every direction. The inside was even more peculiar, beginning with the bulky air-conditioning pipe laid from hall to kitchen, and all those people wearing headsets wandering around or crouched over monitors, all those lights and machines, and our own company television chefs, Charlie Saccardi and Bernard Giordano, constantly running up and down from cellar to kitchen carrying platters of food. A strange and busy household indeed, but the smell of good cooking was always in the air."

Everyone clearly thought that there was really no place else to be. That feeling comes through the book, which is why I was so pleased to read it all at one time. It's as rare to capture a mood in a book as it is for a writer to be able to write the way he or she speaks. Look, for instance, at the notes from Julia to the cook about aspects of a chef's menu that caught her interest, whether it be sweetbreads (yes, you should try cooking them) or veal (she likes it pink and classic, not "baby beef") or "garlic lore and handling tips." They ring with that authoritative, infinitely useful voice every American cook treasures.

Here are two summertime recipes from excellent cooks: Jody Adams, chef of Rialto, a restaurant in the heart of Harvard Square, not far from the Julia homestead; and Zarela Martinez, an animated woman and New York restauranteur who loves transmitting her passion for the food of her native Mexico.

    -- Corby Kummer


JODY ADAMS'S SFOGLII SAOR:

SWEET-AND-SOUR SOLE, VENETIAN STYLE


Always interested in Italian regional dishes, Jody Adams has adapted this spicy fish recipe from the Venetian repertoire. The finished dish, which can be served hot or at room temperature, is based on an old Italian method of keeping fish from spoiling in a hot climate--it was the large amount of vinegar that did the work. Jody has tamed and sweetened it for modern tastes. It is a fascinating combination of flavors, with its spicy peppers, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, and orange juice.

INGREDIENTS FOR 4 SERVINGS

FOR THE SOLE:

8 fresh skinless and boneless sole fillets (imported channel sole or gray sole), 4 to 5 ounces each and 3/8 inch thick

Salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging the fillets)

Excellent olive oil

FOR THE SAUCE:

4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (1/3 cup)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tablespoons raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons Marsala wine or sherry

1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

4 tablespoons excellent olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

FOR THE GARNISH:

16 pieces pickled red peppers, either homemade or store-bought

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED:

A 12-inch no-stick frying pan

PREPARING THE SOLE: Season the sole fillets with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the frying pan with 1/8 inch of olive oil. When very hot but not smoking, saute the sole until golden brown on each side and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.

PREPARING THE SAUCE: In the same frying pan, over moderate heat, add the shallots and saute a minute or two, just until tender. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in the red pepper flakes, the raisins with their Marsala or sherry, and the pine nuts; reduce to a glaze--a minute or so. Swirl in the orange juice and boil down by a third. Then whisk in the olive oil to thicken the sauce; stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the fish, and garnish with the red pepper strips.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Chef Jody suggests you accompany the dish with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.


ZARELA MARTINEZ'S CORN RELISH


Zarela tucks this Mexican corn relish inside her tamales and it is delicious. It would be right at home on a summer picnic table alongside hamburgers or grilled steaks.

INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 2 1/2 CUPS

2 large ears of fresh corn

2 fresh poblano chiles *(see note below)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced

About 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Salt to taste

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED:

A corncob stripper or 4-sided grater

A cast-iron griddle (or use a heavy cast-iron or cast-aluminum frying pan)

Tongs (for turning the peppers)

A 10-inch frying pan, preferably no-stick

* Fresh Poblano Chiles: Poblano chiles are long--4 to 6 inches--shiny, dark green chiles with a distinctive flavor that varies from mild to hot. Available in many large markets, poblanos are used often for stuffing and also as a flavoring once they are charred and peeled. You can substitute Anaheim or New Mexico long green chiles in their place.

PRELIMINARIES: With a sharp knife, remove the kernels and juices from the corncobs, preserving the juices--you should have about 2 cups. (See also Dean Fearing's ingenious kernel removal using the large holes of a grater, below.) Heat the griddle or skillet over moderately high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Arrange the peppers on the hot surface, turning often to cook evenly until the skins are blackened and the flesh is somewhat softened. Remove the peppers and wrap them in a kitchen towel, letting them steam for several minutes to loosen the skin. Then peel, discard the seeds and veins, and coarsely chop them.

MAKING THE RELISH: Heat the oil in the frying pan, stir in the onion and garlic, and saute for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they are softened but not browned. Blend in the peppers and saute one minute, then stir in the corn and continue sauteing for 4 to 5 minutes, just until tender. Stir in the cilantro, and salt lightly to taste.


DEAN FEARING'S CORN STRIPPER AND FRESH CORN PUREE

A cooked puree of fresh corn kernels makes an attractive bed for the shrimp in Dean Fearing's Mansion Shrimp Diablo "Tamale," and here's his ingenious way of getting those pesky kernels off the cob. Lay a four-sided metal grater, large holes facing up, in a baking dish. Pressing firmly, push the corn over the large holes, scraping off the kernels and juices. Rotate the cob after each push and you'll quickly remove all the kernels. Four ears of corn make about a cup of puree.

To cook the puree, Dean pours it into a skillet and bakes it for about 20 minutes in a 350 [degree] F oven, until thickened and cooked through. He seasons the puree with salt and a little lime juice, plus drops of maple syrup or honey to sweeten off-season corn.


  • More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound

    Copyright © 1995 by Corby Kummer. All rights reserved. Recipes from In Julia's Kitchen With Master Chefs, by Julia Child, with Nancy Verde Barr. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995. Hardcover: $35.00. Copyright © 1995, A La Carte Communications.
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