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Rita DeMontis
Rita DeMontis

'Eat Pray Love' - and eat some more

By RITA DEMONTIS, National Food Editor, QMI Agency
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August 19, 2010

If you're planning on seeing Eat Pray Love at the movies this week, don't go on an empty stomach.

You'll end up eating the armrest. Or worse, the arm of the person next to you.

This lush, gorgeous film is based on the bestselling memoirs of author Elizabeth Gilbert, an American who leaves her marriage and New York lifestyle to embark on a year-long quest through Italy, India and Bali to find herself via gastronomy, spirituality and great sex. Okay, she also fell in love.

And to be honest, it's as close to pure food-porn as you can get without an R rating. Starring award-winning actor Julia Roberts -- who has now redefined the art of eating piping hot pizza -- the film takes the viewer on the real-life locations that so inspired Gilbert to reshape her life.

Apparently it reshaped her figure, too, judging by all the pasta she consumed while in Italy.

The movie is pure chick flick and, with provocative close-ups and exquisitely detailed shots of glorious plates of fresh figs and cantaloupe, fried artichokes, skinny spaghetti and fat tagliatelle, not to mention Napoli's iconic pizza margherita and hot expresso and let's not forget rich gelato redolent with nuts and candied fruit and...did we mention the wine?

Eat Pray Love may be all about spiritual journeys and finding the person within -- but once found, that person has a bib on and a fork in hand!

You can't help but drool as you watch Roberts' lips wrap around a twirled fork fat with linguini, or daintily dab at her cup of ice cream, or smearing her mouth with the cream and flaky pastry of a fresh cornetto.

Let's just say this movie will definitely be the envy of every single food show on television. And good grief -- I'm gaining weight just writing about this!

Food aside, the movie is powerful and follows a journey based on grief and redemption and forgiveness of one's failings.

And it'll make you look at that flaccid box of popcorn in your hand and launch your own journey -- to your local supermarket where you can pick up all the staples you need to bring Eat Pray Love to your table. Without leaving the comfort of home. The following recipes will definitely give you a taste of what Eat Pray Love is all about.

Joy of eating

According to Columbia/Sony Pictures, the movie Eat Pray Love, visits many of the real-life locations that so inspired Elizabeth Gilbert to reshape her life.

One of the many places Gilbert frequented as she discovered the joy of eating in Italy was Naples' L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele -- so highly regarded the line for a pizza is often out the door and around the block.

Founded in the early 1900s, the pizzeria today makes 180 pizzas every hour -- each pizza takes only 30 seconds to bake in the 800 F oven -- and is sold in only two sizes (regular and large). It is an unforgettable delicacy. Visit Damichele.net for more details.

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

1/2 tsp. (.5ml) sugar

1 1/2 cups (375ml) lukewarm spring water

1 oz. dry yeast

1/3 cup (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups (1L) unbleached, organic flour

1 Tbsp. (15ml) sea salt

Dissolve sugar in water. Blend in yeast until foamy. Transfer to a deep bowl and mix in olive oil.

Sift flour and salt together over a flat surface or pastry board. Make a well in centre of flour and carefully add liquid mixture.

Gradually work mixture until slightly sticky, adding additional flour to scrape up dough on surface. Knead carefully for several minutes until dough is smooth and slightly elastic. Divide into three even balls. Place in individual, lightly greased bowls and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Remove one ball of dough from bowl and place on lightly greased flat pizza pan or baking sheet. Using tips of fingers, work quickly to spread dough evenly across pan. Top with basic pizza sauce (recipe to follow) and your favorite topping (pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, proscuitto, sweet peppers, or see traditional toppings in sidebar.)

Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 20 minutes or until dough is crisp and golden.

Makes three 12-inch pizzas.

BASIC PIZZA SAUCE

2 cups (500ml) crushed tomatoes

4 Tbsp. (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tbsp. (15ml) dried oregano

1 tsp. (5ml) dried basil

2 tsp. (10ml) sea salt

1 tsp. (5ml) black pepper

Pinch dried chili peppers (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Enough for two pizzas.

TOPPINGS

Try these popular pizza toppings:

- Margherita: Spoon 1 cup (250ml) tomato sauce on dough. Add 1/2 cup (125ml) grated mozzarella cheese; top with 5 to 6 fresh basil leaves.

- Napolitana: Brush dough with 1 Tbsp. (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil. Add several slices anchovy fillets, 1 Tbsp. (15ml) capers, 1 Tbsp. (15ml) sliced black olives and 1/2 cup (125ml) grated mozzarella cheese or 1 ball fresh bocconcini cheese, sliced.

- Pizza Quattro Formaggi: Brush dough with 1 Tbsp. (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil. Spoon on 1 cup (250ml) tomato sauce. Sprinkle 1 tsp. (5ml) dried basil. Cover pizza with 1/4 cup (50ml) each sliced Fontina, crumbled Gorgonzola, sliced Bocconcini and crumbled ricotta cheese.

- Pizza Primavera: Spoon 1 cup (250ml) tomato sauce on dough. Add 1 Tbsp. (15ml) prepared pesto (optional), 1/4 cup (50ml) sliced button mushrooms, 1/4 cup (50ml) chopped prosciutto, 4 canned artichoke hearts, drained and cut in quarters. Cover with 1/4 cup (50ml) grated mozzarella cheese.

Place pizzas in centre oven at 450F and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheeses run and dough is crisp and golden.

BALSAMIC BLACK CHERRY GELATO

Julia Roberts makes the audience hungry for good gelato in the movie. This recipe, courtesy of Ontariotenderfruit.com, utilizes Italy's other great gift to the food world -- balsamic vinegar!

4 egg yolks

1 cup (250ml) granulated sugar

2 cups (500ml) whole milk

4 cups (1L) sweet black cherries, stones removed

2 Tbsp. (30ml) excellent quality aged balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. (15ml) vanilla

In a bowl, whisk together yolks with sugar until thickened and pale. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to simmer, stirring often. Whisk about 1/2 cup (125ml) of milk into egg mixture and then transfer back to saucepan. Cook over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 8 minutes. Strain into clean bowl. Let cool.

Puree 2 cups (500ml) of cherries with juices in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir cherry puree, cherries, balsamic and vanilla into milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to 1 day.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Alternatively, freeze mixer in a large stainless steel bowl. After four hours, transfer to food processor and blend again. Freeze completely.

Makes 4 cups (1L).

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