A native Californian, she moved to Paris and revolutionized the way middle-class Americans thought about home cooking in general and French cuisine in particular

Wednesday marks the birth centenary of Julia Child, arguably the greatest American cook, who made a recent return to public awareness thanks to the movie "Julia & Julia." Bornin Pasadena, California, Child moved to Paris after she got married. Among that city's bustling markets, fine raw materials, and restaurants teeming with diners, she began herromance with French cuisine.

After completing her studies at Le Cordon Bleu, Child taught French cooking to American women in her Paris home. Two of her students, Simone Beck and Louisette Berthole, became her friends and collaborators in the writing of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (1961), the most influential and popular cookbook in the United States throughout the 1960s and '70s.

Child went on to publish dozens of books, appeared in hundreds of television programs, andprovided inspiration to countless cooks in America and around the world. She revolutionized the way that middle-class Americans thought about home cooking in general and French homecooking in particular.

The cookbooks authored by Child, who died in 2004 just shy of 92, are meticulous, filled with explanations, and detailed to an extraordinary level. She even notes the size of the dishes required. Her choice of ingredients is explained, and substitutes are suggested. The work processes are described at length, and all the possible versions of a dish are explained clearly, in a manner that is reassuring even to those who do not know their way around a kitchen. Most of her recipes are accompanied by illustrations of the work process and the final dish.

Here are three easy recipes based on Child's first two cookbooks. Together they create a tasty French summer meal. Out of respect for Child the recipes are reproduced here with only minor changes. Substitutes in keeping with the spirit of our time are offered in the introduction to each recipe.

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Roast chicken

The chicken is very tasty as is - natural, brown and crispy, but you can add ground blackpepper, a bunch of fresh rosemary or thyme in the chicken cavity, and a few unpeeled garliccloves spread around the roasting pan. Serve with a side of sauteed green vegetables, roastedpotatoes, or a fresh salad.

Ingredients (4-6 servings):

1.5-2  kilos chicken, washed and dried

 1/4 teaspoon salt

 2tablespoons room-temperature butter

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 onion, rough chopped

 

For basting the chicken as it roasts:

 2tablespoons melted butter

 1tablespoon oil

1/2   teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Sprinkle the chicken cavity with salt and half thebutter. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine. Brush the chicken with the remaining butter andplace in a roasting dish, breast side up.

Add the onion and carrot to the dish and roast for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken on its side, quickly baste it with the butter and oil mixture and roast for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken onits other side, repeat the basting and roast for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius. Continue roasting for 30 minutes, with thechicken still lying on its side. Baste the chicken every 10 minutes with the gravy from theroasting pan.

Turn the chicken onto its other side, season with half the salt and roast for 30 minutes.

Repeat the basting every 10 minutes. Season with the rest of the salt and turn the chickenbreast side up. Roast for 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and wait 10 minutes before carving.

Plum Clafouti

Clafoutis is a popular dessert in the rural regions of Limousin in central France. Thedessert is easy to make and requires no special skill. The plums can be exchanged for pittedcherries, pears, apples, or blueberries. You can add 1/2 a cup of blanched almonds and grindthem well with the rest of the ingredients. In my opinion the sugar can be cut to 3tablespoons for the marinade and 1/4 of a cup for the batter. Also, you can do without heatingthe frying pan with the butter: it is easier and simpler to grease the pie dish with meltedbutter. Best served fresh from the oven.

 

Ingredients (6-8 servings):

5-6 large ripe red plums (500 grams(

Boiling water

 1/4 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier), kirsch, or cognac

1/3 cup sugar

For the batter:

1 cup milk

1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup (70 grams) sifted flour

1 tablespoon butter to grease the pie dish

Preparation:

Blanch the plums for 10 seconds. Drain, peel, halve and remove pits. Soak for 1 hour inliqueur and sugar, stirring periodically. Strain the fruit and reserve the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place all the batter ingredients in a blender, including the marinade from the plums. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds (up to this pointyou can prepare in advance and keep in the fridge).

Grease a pie dish generously with butter (a Pyrex or oven-proof frying pan), and heat on thestovetop over a medium fire, until the butter layer stabilizes. Spread the plums around thepan, sliced side up. Pour the liquid batter around the plums. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot.

 Zucchini boats stuffed with Swiss cheese, almonds & breadcrumbs

This zucchini dish is especially delicious not only because of the almonds used in thefilling, but also because the zucchini manages to preserve its own taste. In my opinion thegarlic powder can be replaced by 1/2 a clove of fresh garlic; the cheese by an equal measureof Parmesan and Emmental (or Gruyere); and the butter by olive oil.

 

Ingredients (6 servings):

3 medium zucchini

1/4 cup chopped onion

1.5 tablespoons olive oil

Chopped pulp from the scooped out zucchini

1/2 cup (50 grams) sifted ground almonds

1/2cup heavy cream

1/2-2/3cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

2/3 cup (60 grams) grated Swiss cheese

1 egg

Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

3tablespoons (45 grams) melted butter

 

Preparation:

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and blanch the zucchini for 10 minutes. Drain.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp with a spoon. Salt the zucchiniboats and lay them face down on a kitchen towel to dry. Chop the zucchini pulp, place on aclean kitchen towel (free of laundry detergent), and squeeze out thoroughly. Set aside in abowl.

Fry an onion in oil for 10 minutes over a low fire, in a covered frying pan, stirringoccasionally. Remove the lid, turn up the fire and lightly brown the onions. Add the zucchinipulp and fry for a few minutes until softened. Transfer to a bowl and add almonds and cream.

Add 1/3 cup of the breadcrumbs and all but 3 tablespoons of the cheese. Mix.

Add the egg. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste, and mix well. If themixture is too thin for stuffing, add breadcrumbs.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Fill the zucchini boats and pile into small mounds.

Arrange in a baking dish, top with the remaining cheese, breadcrumbs, and melted butter. Bakefor 25-30 minutes.