Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

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Is That Your Final Movie?

October 10, 2009

slumdog-millionaire

Well, yes, sadly, it is. For now. But we’re really going out with a bang and not a whimper.

2008’s best picture Slumdog Millionaire, I hope and somewhat predict, will go on the list of greats that the Academy has picked for best picture.  It’s a firecracker of a movie.  I loved that the last movie used a game show as a conduit for telling the story.  I love game shows (if they’re good ones–Jeopardy, What’s My Line and not crappy ones– Deal or No Deal;  and can someone kill Family Fued already, please?) for the most part) and I love movies so this movie is perfect for moi.

2008’s best was a good choice from a bumper crop year:  The Reader (Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar), Milk (pretty good–James Franco was great) Frost/Nixon (totally underrated–incredible performance by Frank Langella, he deserved the Oscar more than Sean Penn, in my opinion) Benjamin Button (ghastly, ghastly,ghastly).  And Revolutionary Road was robbed.

We watched Slumdog, our last Oscar winner about 10 days ago and I haven’t had the heart yet to post.  I’m a bit too reluctant  to end this journey of  film watching.  All good things end, so they tell me, so I guess that goes for things that are great, too.  Bad movies included, (except for you, Cavalcade, you really sucked) Sigh, I really loved doing this project.  Planning the meal, cooking the meal, eating the meal and watching, for the most part, some terrific movies was always a highlight of my week.  But we’ll forge on; there’s been talk about doing movies that should’ve won (e.g. Some Like It Hot, GoodFellas) and that would be fun, but it’s in the “We’ll see” pile for right now.  The 10 nominations thing is going to drive me crazy, too; I might just go to an Oscar party and have someone else do the cooking.  That would be fun!

For our last meal (sounds kinda like we’re on Death Row here)  we went with the fine cuisine of India.  Cooking Indian food is a blast: there are so many different spices and textures and smells, well, it’s just heaven.  Luckily for my wallet, whole foods sold pretty much all of these exotic spices in bulk instead of those expensive jars. I think I drove the store cashier a little crazy with my tiny bags or cardamom seeds and fenugreek seeds, but it was worth it. For dinner we went with a Lamb Vindaloo recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking. I wish it was possible to google smells, because this meal was a treat for all senses:  yes, it even felt great.  To eat.

  • 2 t whole cumin seeds
  • 2-3 hot, dried red chili peppers
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • 1 t cardamom seeds (take seeds out of the pods)
  • 3-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 1½ t whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 t whole fenugreek seeds (if available)
  • 5 T white wine vinegar
  • 1½ to 2 t salt
  • 1 t light brown sugar
  • 10 T vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced into fine half-rings
  • 1 1/3 c water (or broth/stock)
  • 2 lb boneless lamb (or pork or beef) shoulder meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small, whole head of garlic, with all the cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • ½ t ground tumeric
  • Grind cumin seeds, red chilies, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds in a coffee- grinder or other spice grinder. Put the ground spices in a bowl. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Mix and set aside.

    Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over a medium flame. Put in the onions. Fry, stirring frequently, until the onions turn brown and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and put them into the container of an electric blender or food processor. (Turn the heat off.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the blender and puree the onions. Add this puree to the ground spices in the bowl. (This is the vindaloo paste). It may be made ahead of time and frozen.)

    Dry off the meat cubes with a paper towel and remove large pieces of fat, if any.

    Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of water and blend until you have a smooth paste.

    Heat the oil remaining in the pot once again over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the lamb cubes, a few at a time, and brown them lightly on all sides. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and keep in a bowl. Do all the lamb this way. No put the ginger-garlic paste into the same pot. Turn down the heat to medium. Stir the paste for a few seconds. Add the coriander and tumeric. Stir for another few seconds. Add the meat, any juices that may have accumulated as well as the vindaloo paste and 1 cup water (or stock). Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for an hour or until meat is tender. Stir a few times during this cooking period. Serves 6.

    For a side we had some spinach fried rice
    1 cup Basmati Rice
    1 cup chopped spinach(frozen)
    1/2 red onion finely chopped
    2 green chillis
    1clove garlic
    1″ pc ginger
    1tsp canola oil
    1tsp ghee
    1tsp jeera
    1 tsp garam masala powder
    salt to taste

    Preparation:

    Cook basmati rice with 1 1/2 cups water.let it cool and separate the grains.
    Meanwhile blanch the frozen spinach.Allow it to cool slightly
    In a blender make a thick paste of the spinach,green chilli,ginger and garlic.
    In a anon stick skillet heat oil and ghee.Add jeera and saute onions
    Add the spinach paste and saute for 4-5 mins.
    Mix the rice evenly with the spinch mixture in the skillet.

    And for dessert, we dabble a bit with the world’s most expensive spice, saffron.
    Saffron Poached Pears w/ a Champagne Sabayon
    poached_pears

    Pears
    6 cups water
    5 ½ cups sugar
    ¼ cup lemon juice
    1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
    Zest of 2 oranges, in strips
    1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
    4 Bartlett pears

    Champagne Sabayon
    4 egg yolks
    ¼ pound sugar
    1 cup champagne
    ¼ teaspoon white pepper, finely ground
    Method:

    For Pears:
    Bring all ingredients to simmer, then remove from heat and steep 10 minutes. Discard orange zest and vanilla pod.

    Peel, halve, and core pears and put them in saffron syrup, covered with double layer of parchment paper to keep pears submerged. Poach at very gentle simmer 15-20 minutes, or until pears yield to paring knife. Cool pears and syrup separately, then store pears in poaching syrup.

    For Champagne Sabayon:
    Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl set over simmering water until fluffy, thickened, glossy, and hot. Use immediately, or chill in ice bath, then fold in ½ cup cream, whipped to soft peaks, and chill up to 1 day.

    To Serve:
    Spoon warm or cold Sabayon over poached pear half, and garnish with pomegranate seeds or a few chopped pistachios.

    Well, I guess this is it,  the end. Fin. It’s a wrap. To borrow from 1965’s best picture “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!” or even better, here’s someone who always says it best:

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    The Penultimate One (for now)

    August 23, 2009

    ncfom

    Penultimate is one of my favorite words.  A lot of people think it means even more than ultimate.  I cannot tell you how much I hate that.  Penultimate means next to last.  And next to last is, unbelievably, where we’re at.  Well, for now.

    No Country For Old Men, 2007’s best picture is a product of  this country’s best filmmakers: The Coen brothers.   Joel and Ethan Coen can make movies that make you laugh, cry, wince, and pretty much everything else.  They are brilliant writers, just brilliant and even better directors; there’s never a false note in their movies:  Actors must love them to pieces and the Coens were long overdue for a best picture Oscar.  Fargo, have you seen Fargo?  Best movie ever.  Well, okay maybe best movie of the last 15 years.

    No Country for Old Men is a tough movie:  violent, terse, tense.  Scary. Bleak. There is no one here you really like.  I remember when we saw this movie at the show (Chicago vernacular, sorry)  and I just cringed when Javier Bardem’s character (Anton) would come on screen, because I knew he was up to something bad and that violence would ensue.  And I hate violence.  But No Country is a good story, well told with great actors.  Javier Bardem deserved his supporting Oscar just for the frightening hairstyle.  But Jim and I both agree, even though I think it’s still a little early to really make this judgement, that There Will Be Blood would have been a better pick for 2007.  And we could’ve had milkshakes.  And, but, plus that little plucky movie Juno would have been fun, too.

    Perhaps this skit from SNL will help you decide.  Bill Hader’s Daniel Day Lewis is spot on.

    Vodpod videos no longer available.

    For dinner we went with a tex/mex theme.  And for this recipe the cola we used was Mexican Coca-Cola.  No stinkin’ high fructose corn syrup for these gringos, no sirree.  They use the real thing. Chigurh, I mean sugar.

    Jim made a lovely skirt steak taco courtesy of Rachael Ray.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup cola
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
    • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    • Salt
    • 1 pound skirt steak, cut into 4 portions
    • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
    • 2 jalapeño chiles, finely chopped
    • 8 crisp taco shells
    • 2 cups shredded slaw mix (from a 1-pound bag)
    • 1 avocado, cut into 8 lengthwise slices

    Directions:

    1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the cola, olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, the chili powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add the steak and let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
    2. In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeños and remaining lime juice; season with salt.
    3. Preheat a grill or grill pan to high. Grill the steak, turning once, about 15 minutes for medium-rare; let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and toss with the tomato salsa. Fill each taco shell with some slaw mix, an avocado slice and steak with salsa. Serve with the lime wedges.
    I made a classic Texas sheet cake.  So easy.  The cinnamon-chocolate combo is fantastic.
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup canola or other vegetable oil
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon, and set aside.

    Stir together the remaining ingredients.

    Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until you have a smooth, rather thin batter.

    Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.

    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (whole, 2% or skim – doesn’t matter)
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted (about 4 cups)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

    Mix the milk and cocoa in a heavy saucepan (stir, stir, stir). Add the butter and, over medium heat, stir until the butter melts. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the pecans.When the cake is just out of the oven, spread the frosting evenly on the hot cake.

    Being a chocolate freak, I use just a half-teaspoon of cinnamon in this cake. I want the cinnamon flavor to come through, but I don’t want it to overpower the chocolate.

    If buttermilk is not a staple item at your house, this is a good recipe in which to use dry buttermilk. For a product review, see Dry Buttermilk.

    If you aren’t sure about your oven, you can test it with one of those little dime store oven thermometers. With its comparatively thin batter, Texas Sheet Cake requires every bit of the 400° heat in your oven, if it’s going to get done in 20 to 25 minutes.

    One more to go.  Crap.

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    I Love That Dirty Water….

    August 15, 2009

    Finally.  A quarter of a century or so after his first Academy Award nomination and several  subsequent nominations later, Martin Scorsese, probably the greatest American filmmaker of the past half century, finally won the Academy Award.  The Departed is not his best movie by far; I think that one is probably Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Casino or Taxi Driver or even The Aviator (my personal fave: I abhor violence).  But beggars can’t be choosers:  Do you think John Ford thought that How Green Was My Valley, 1941’s best picture, was his best picture?  Probably not.  And it’s odd to me that this Martin Scorsese film that won wasn’t set in New York and Robert DeNiro wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  The Departed is set in Boston.  And the lack of DeNiro does not really matter; this movie is lousy with top drawer actors:  Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen.  Certainly a murderers row if there ever was one for acting.

    It was a great moment at the Oscar ceremony when a bunch of his peers presented him with the award.

    oscars01One of the best things about a Martin Scorsese film is his use of music.  Did you know that Bernard Herrmann, Citizen Kane’s and also Alfred Hitchcock’s great composer’s last movie scored was Taxi Driver? I absolutley flove the soundtrack to Scorsese’s  New York, New York (and not because of the ubiquitous title song, the New York, New York soundtrack is a great big band jazzy kind of record–Liza Minnelli never sounded better and Robert DeNiro can’t sing).  The Departed soundtrack is great, too.  Scorsese sagely added that great Boston band Dropkick Murphys to the soundtrack.  We saw them open for Offspring this summer. ( I know what your thinking: yes, the Oscars in Order team does have some rather eclectic tastes.  You’re right, we do! ) And Dropkick Murphys rock.  You gotta love an Irish American Celtic punk band that, yes, has a  bagpipe player.

    For dinner we did all things Boston.

    Boston Baked Beans (of course)

    2 cans (about 15 ounces each) navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2cup beer (not dark beer)
    1/3 cup minced red or yellow onion
    1/3 cup ketchup
    3tablespoons light molasses
    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/2teaspoon ground ginger
    4 slices bacon
    Preparation:
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place beans in 11X7-inch glass baking dish. Combine beer, onion, ketchup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and ginger in medium bowl. Pour over beans; toss to coat.
    2. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces; arrange in single layer over beans. Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and bacon is browned.  So easy, so delicious, so much bacon.
    We had a simple salad made with Boston lettuce

    For our dinner entree we went somewhat Italian for Marty and had a lobster ravioli with a lobster cream sauce.  I was lucky to have some lobster shells in my freezer.  Paid off nicely.

    The pasta I got at Trader Joe’s.  Follow package directions and put sauce on top.
    Saute some onion and celery together in some olive oil. Add the lobster parts and saute until they are red and fragrant. Pour in some sherry to deglaze. Add some low-salt chicken broth and simmer for about an hour with a bay leaf, some sage, and a few whole peppercorns. Strain. In the original pan, saute some shallots and some prosciutto in butter. Add the lobster stock, and equal parts cream, then whisk in a dab of tomato paste and a beurre manier (butter and flour in equal parts–about a tablespoon each) and reduce to about 2/3 the original volume.  Salt to taste.  Add some freshly chopped parsley and sage.
    For dinner we went with the classic Boston Cream Pie.  From Gale Gand.  Sinful.
    Ingredients

    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup cooking oil
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • Pastry cream, recipe follows
    • Ganache, recipe follows
    • Pastry Cream Filling:
    • 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
    • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    Ganache:

    • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
    • 1 cup heavy cream, boiling

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg white mixture and fold in. Gently pour the batter into a 9-inch greased pie pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Invert the pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely.

    Pastry Cream Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.

    Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)

    Ganache: In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.

    To assemble pie, remove the cake from the pan. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Place bottom layer on a serving plate or board, and spread with the pastry cream. Top with second cake layer. Pour chocolate ganache over and down the sides of the cake. Store in refrigerator.

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    No Pride, Lots of Prejudice

    August 1, 2009

    6crash

    Crash is way  too controversial to talk about!  OK, no it’s not really.  It was, however,  mine and Jim’s biggest disagreement ever about what movie should have won that year.  I much preferred the more complex and richer Brokeback Mountain.  He liked Crash.  I think that any movie that wins best screenplay (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana) and best director (the great Ang Lee) should also win best picture. In the end, after a much heated discussion, we agreed on the comparison of   Crash being is a Dickens novel, and  Brokeback being a Jane Austen.  And since I have the power of the keyboard I can clearly state that Brokeback should have won.  And me and Jack Nicholson were both surprised when it didn’t.

    Whoa indeed.

    Crash isn’t a bad movie.  Paul Haggis, who won the previous year’s best adapted screenplay award for Million Dollar Baby wrote and directed Crash.  Haggis is also a journeyman television writer. And by journeyman I mean journey, man:  he’s written for such varied and sundryed shows such as thirtysomething (a show I loved) and The Facts of Life (a show who’s theme song is now stuck in my head).  Crash’s ensemble cast is pretty incredible too.  Matt Dillon, truly one of our must underrated actors,  is great as the beleaguring and beleaguered cop–the rescue scene is harrowing on so many levels and Dillon and Thandie Newton both shine.  And I love Brendan Fraser, he’s one of my favorite actors.  He doesn’t do a lot in this movie (he plays the sterotypical somewhat corrupt DA).  But It was nice to see him only so I could reminisce about my favorite amusement park ride ever: The Mummy Ride. Love it.

    Racism, however is such an uncomfortable difficult subject.  And most everyone in this movie is guilty of one form of racism (or racial profiling for a more PC word) or another.  So you really end up not liking anyone in this cast.  OK, the daughter and the locksmith, that’s it.  In the end though I think that people watching this movie 20-30 years from now –someone doing the next generation of an Oscars in Order perhaps?– will be hard pressed to figure out how this one won.  Kind of like me and Cavalcade.  Brokeback Mountain, on the other hand, with it’s timeless tale of self-sacrifce will indefinately continue to win the approval of audiences. I need to stop.

    Well we went with the stereotype theme and made food that fit the stereotypes.  Sort of.  Crash is set in Los Angeles so we made California rolls.  I’m not a big sushi eater and this was my first time making sushi.  It’s a bit tricky when you don’t have all the right tools: I had to use a big bamboo place mat instead of the proper, smaller wrapper. They looked a bit wobbly but they tasted great.

    Juice of 1/2 lemon

    1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces

    4 sheets nori

    1/2 batch sushi rice, recipe follows

    1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted

    1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into matchstick-size pieces

    4 crabsticks, torn into pieces (crabsticks are imitation crab, or “krab”)

    Pickled ginger, for serving

    Wasabi, for serving (but be careful this stuff is hot!)

    Soy sauce, for serving

    Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning.

    Cover a bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap. Cut nori sheets in half crosswise. Lay 1 sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the plastic covered mat. Wet your fingers with water and spread about 1/2 cup of the rice evenly onto the nori. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. Turn the sheet of nori over so that the rice side is down. Place 1/8 of the cucumber, avocado and crab sticks in the center of the sheet. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you, keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, and roll it into a tight cylinder, using the mat to shape the cylinder. Pull away the mat and set aside. Cover with a damp cloth. Repeat until all of the rice has been used. Cut each roll into 6 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

    Sushi Rice:

    2 cups sushi or short grain rice

    2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice

    2 tablespoons rice vinegar

    2 tablespoons sugar

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.

    Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

    Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer the rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.

    We also bought some frozen Korean shortribs from Trader Joe’s and Jim fired those up on the grill.

    And we also had this nice summer-jicama and watermelon salad

    GT0109_Jicama-and-Watermelon-Salad_med

    • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
    • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Kosher salt
    • 1 jicama, cut into matchstick pieces
    • 4 cups watermelon in 2-inch chunks
    • 1/3 cup roughly torn fresh mint leaves

    Whisk together juices, honey, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add the jicama, watermelon and mint and toss to coat.

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    Revenge of the Nerds

    July 16, 2009


    I know there’s a lot of people out there who go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs over The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I’m not one of them, and neither is Jim.  Watching 2003’s best picture LOTR:  The Return of the King was a bit tortuous for us.  We’re really not the fantasy film watchers at all.  And why did it seem like every scene the last hour of the movie  was like the last scene, and yet it kept on going?  I think that if I checked my DVD player there would still be some wacky elves and/or crucial battle scene going on. Honestly,  I really couldn’t make head nor tails out of any of these movies.  And we kept getting other CGI fueled fantasy movies mixed up with this:  Where was Aslan?  What’s Harry Potter up to now?  (Jim kept calling Frodo Harry Potter.  I thought he looked more like Debbie Downer myself).

    frodo

    debbie_downerHarry-Potter

    They definitely could all be related.

    Around in 2003 that could have or should have won: Mystic River (sure, why not?) In America (one of my favorites, brilliant film) Seabiscuit (Tobey Maguire, another Frodo relative).

    Reluctantly I can sort of see why this one did win.  There’s a lot of film making going on here.  Even though I’m not a special effects fan, The special effects really are phenomenal.   Once again, the cgi-less crowd scenes in Gandhi seem like a miracle.  I really do admire Peter Jackson and co. for telling this tale.   I’m sure it’s  a lot better than reading the book (I read The Hobbit when I was in high school. Hated it).  And I do have a soft spot for Mr. Jackson because he appears in (the special features part) one of my favorite documentaries Broadway The Golden Era.  He was trying to get Fay Wray to appear in his upcoming King Kong remake.  She passed away before it could happen

    Thanks to Roxane we now know what happens when nerd worlds collide:

    For the epic dinner I consulted a few websites that really really like to eat elven food and decided on making Rosie’s Shire Pie and a Carrot Cake.

    For the pie:

    Rosie’s Shire Pie

    1 pound whole mushrooms
    1 pound ground sausage
    1 yellow onion, diced
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 stalks celery, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    2 Tb. flour
    1/4 Cup dry white wine
    1 1/2 Cups chicken stock
    1 Tb. thyme
    1 teaspoon sage
    Salt & pepper to taste

    Clean mushrooms and cut into quarters.  Crumble the sausage & place in a large, deep pan.  Cook over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, celery, and carrot, and cook about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more until vegetables are tender.  Stir in flour and cook and couple of minutes, stirring.  Add wine and half of the stock, stirring and working out any lumps.  Add remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low, add herbs, salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes.  Pour into deep pie dish or 8×8 baking dish and set aside.

    The recipe called for a homemade biscuit to be baked on top of the pie.  I cgi-ed a bit and used refrigerated biscuit dough and baked it for 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

    I also CGI-ed the carrot cake: I used a mix.  And canned frosting (I never do that). I did bake it in a bundt pan so it looked like a forbidden secret ring.  Preciousssss

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    And All That Jazz

    June 10, 2009

    The last time a musical won best picture was Oliver! in 1968.  It took the academy 34 years to honor another musical, 2002’s Chicago. They picked a great one.  The tale of Chicago is an oft told tale from different sources: Originally a Broadway play from 1926 called Chicago, Hollywood made it into a Ginger Rogers film, Roxie Hart. Kander and Ebb and Bob Fosse brought the musical to Broadway in 1975 with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera (who for a brief, brilliant moment is in this movie.  Chita is a goddess.  It’s a shame Gwen Verdon passed away in 2000, I bet they would have fit her in, too.) where it did ok, but withered in the shadow of 75’s monster hit A Chorus LineChicago was revived on Broadway in 1996–where it’s still playing–go see it! and finally made it onto the screen for 2002.

    A treat from youtube!

    The 1950’s and 60’s were rich in musicals.  Although a lot of the great ones (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) used the singing talents of Marni Nixon for the leading ladies.  What’s amazing about the current crop of musicals is that the actor is not dubbed.  That’s really Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta Jones singing.  And not too badly, either.  Not too surprised about Richard Gere’s singing chops, though:  he has a musical past–He played Danny Zuko from Grease in London.  All the performances are great in this movie.  Chicago’s own, the busy John C. Reilly is perfect as Amos.  Lucky penny Reilly is in three of 2002’s best picture nominees Chicago, Gangs of New York and The Hours, but the movie really belongs to the mesmerizing  Zeta Jones, she deserved her best supporting Oscar, and how!

    The last time a movie set in Chicago won best picture was also a 20’s 30’s period piece 1973’s The Sting.  Chicago the city is an interesting place today, too filmmakers.  We’re more than gangsters and pinstriped suits and liquor and jazz.  And hot dogs and pizza.  To prove how cool Chicago is today I prepared a meal from recipes from a current crop of Chicago based but internationally renowned top chefs.  For a delicious fruit salad I went with this great Charlie Trotter recipe :

    CANTALOUPE, MANGO AND ASIAN PEAR SALAD WITH KEY LIME-VANILLA BEAN VINAIGRETTE

    Serves 4

    FOR VINAIGRETTE

    3 tablespoons key lime juice
    pulp of 1 vanilla bean
    7 tablespoons olive oil
    salt and pepper

    In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, vanilla bean pulp and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    FOR SALAD

    1 cup large-diced cantaloupe
    1 cup large-diced mango
    1 cup large-diced Asian pear
    ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
    1 cup watercress, thick stems removed

    In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss with Vinaigrette and serve.  Delicious and your hands smell great afterwards, too–all lime and vanilla-ey.

    For dinner I was surprised to find this simple but exquisite Macaroni and Cheese dish from Mr. Molecular Gastronomy himself, Grant Achatz.

    Ingredients

    1. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    2. 6 thick slices of bacon (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
    3. 1 medium onion, minced
    4. 2 bay leaves
    5. 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
    6. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    7. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    8. 6 cups whole milk
    9. 1 pound elbow macaroni
    10. 1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (5 cups)
    11. Salt

    Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
    2. Add the onion and bay leaves to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, and cook until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes, whisking frequently. Discard the bay leaves.
    3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and boil until pliable but undercooked, about 4 minutes. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot.
    4. Stir 4 cups of the cheddar into the hot sauce, add the bacon and season with salt.Add the sauce to the macaroni and mix well. Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining 1 cup of cheddar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

    For dessert I went with the queen of Chicago pastry chef, Gale Gand and her cream cheese stuffed chocolate cupcakes–I was amazed that these turned out so good–there’s hardly any egg in the batter–but the recipe worked great!

    • Filling
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/3 c. sugar
    • 2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • Cupcakes
    • 3 c. all-purpose flour
    • 2 c. sugar
    • 1/2 c. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
    • 2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2 c. hot water
    • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
    • 2 tsp. white vinegar
    • 1 Tbsp. instant cofee crystals (optional)
    • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

    To make the filling, in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl often, and then blend in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the sugar and chips and mix for a few seconds on low to fold them in.

    Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 (12 cup) muffin tins with cupcake paper liners.

    To make the cupcakes, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee, and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are a few lumps).

    Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full of batter. Drop a heaping tsp. of the cream cheese filling into the center of each.

    Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cupcakes have puffed on top and are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the tins.

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    Counting Crowes II: The Man With Two Brains

    May 26, 2009

    abm

    I think the Academy felt guilty about snubbing Ron Howard’s superior Apollo 13 back in 1995 and that’s why they voted A Beautiful Mind as being 2001’s best.  Not that A Beautiful Mind is bad, it’s just not that great.  It sort of reminded me of one of those 1930-1940’s MGM melodramas where no one believes Greer Garson could discover radiation and she ages or no one believes Jennifer Jones sees visions or Irene Dune conquers rustic Oklahoma and ages.  This time Russell Crowe (as John Nash)discovers some complicated theory whilst going a bit schizoid and ultimately (after aging) wins the Nobel prize.  And Jennifer Connelly gets to be supportive and impossibly beautiful.

    This movie made me feel like 1994’s Teen Talk Barbie (“Math is Hard”) because I didn’t understand what John Nash’s theories were all about and all the scratches he left on the windows left me scratching my head.

    abm2

    The movie is a bit slow but just like Ms. Connelly it’s very pretty to watch.  Princeton University looks amazing.

    Othe films nominated that year: Moulin Rouge (oh, how I wish this one had been picked it’s such a favorite of ours), The first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of terror (I’m dreading 2003, I really am.  I just don’t get all that Middle Earth stuff) Gosford Park (that’s a good one, too.  And they should have thrown one Altman’s way; now it’s too late) and In the Bedroom (meh).

    For dinner we had dorm food.  But not just any dorm food: we cherry picked from what they were serving for dinner at Princeton that day.  Let me tell you, those Princeton University students eat some tasty food. And the following salad was the one Jim and I had at our wedding dinner 20 years ago. Fancy stuff Princeton

    Spinach and Warm Bacon Salad

    • 8 ounces young spinach
    • 8 pieces thick-sliced bacon, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 large white mushrooms, sliced
    • 3 ounces red onion (1 small), very thinly sliced

    Remove the stems from the spinach and wash, drain and pat dry thoroughly. Place into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

    Fry the bacon and remove to a paper towel to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

    Transfer the fat to a small saucepan set over low heat and whisk in the red wine vinegar, sugar and Dijon mustard. Season with a small pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper.

    Add the mushrooms and the sliced onion to the spinach and toss. Add the dressing and bacon and toss to combine. Divide the spinach between 4 plates or bowls . Season with pepper, as desired. Serve immediately.

    and for dinner:


    Gnocchi Bolognese

    (Serves 4)

    Ingredients:

    * 2 tablespoons olive oil
    * 1/2 oz. finely chopped onions
    * 1/2 oz. finely chopped carrots
    * 1/2 oz. finely chopped celery
    * 1 lb. ground meat – mixture of pork, veal, & beef
    * 2 lb. Italian potato gnocchi
    * Handful of fresh basil
    * 6 cups of marinara sauce
    * Handful of Parmesan cheese
    * Pinch of salt & pepper

    Preparation:

    Sauté onions in frying pan with olive oil. Add celery and carrots. Add ground meat and marinara sauce and cook in frying pan for about 15 minutes. Cook gnocchi separately in boiling water for 6 minutes. Stir constantly. When gnocchi rises above water, they are done. Drain water. Combine gnocchi with meat/ marinara mixture and add Parmesan cheese, basil, and a touch of salt and pepper.