Archive for the ‘food network’ Category

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The Penultimate One (for now)

August 23, 2009

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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

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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

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  • 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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Counting Crowes: The Gory that Was Rome

May 12, 2009

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It’s unusual, to say the least, that a leading actor (or actress)  stars  in two consecutive Best Picture Oscars winning movies. Clark Gable did it in 1934 and 1935 with It Happened One Night and Mutiny on the Bounty. Meryl Streep did it as a supporting actress in 78’s The Deer Hunter and 79’s Kramer Vs. Kramer.  And Russell Crowe did it with Gladiator and 2001’s A Beautiful Mind.  And I love that these double winners (all of them) are soooooo different from each other.

Gladiator is an old fashioned yarn about the ups and downs and ins and outs of a Roman gladiator.  Director Ridley Scott has added some modern touches–mostly CGI stuff.  The cast is phenomenal.  Russell Crowe is the perfect blend of tough and tender. Sigh. Joaquin Phoenix is great as the villainous Commodus.  My favorite bit of casting you ask?  It has to be the triumvirate of old 1960’s British actors on their last legs:

Oliver Reed as Proximo (remember him, Bill Sykes from Oliver!)

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David Hemmings (so beautiful in Blow-up, so bloated here) as Cassius

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And Richard Harris (post Camelot, pre-Dumbledore) as Marcus Aurielius.

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Sadly, all three of these great actors have passed on.  Gladiator was Mr. Reed’s last film.

Gladiator is a fairly good movie, but little by little I’ve been re-watching the 2000 Oscar telecast lately and I am really surprised from the tone of that evening that Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic did not win.  Also,  Julia Roberts was really annoying that night.

For dinner we tried to stick to a gladiator’s style of diet: lots of protein, walnuts and honey.  For dinner we adapted a recipe from the beautiful and talented Giada De Laurentiis. However, no way has she ever eaten anything “poached in oil” before.  Poached in oil is fancy chef-speak for deep fried.
Halibut  with Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Broccoli Rabe Pesto: (if you can’t find broccoli rabe, swiss chard is a nice substitute)
  • 8 ounces broccoli rabe (about 1/2 a bunch)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Halibut:
  • 1/4 cupolive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces halibut
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Broccoli Rabe Pesto:

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked broccoli rabe to an ice bath and let cool, about 3 minutes. Shake off the excess water and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, walnuts, honey, salt, and pepper process until smooth. With the machine running gradually pour in the extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Cover and set aside.

For the Halibut:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the halibut and cook until brown and crispy  1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and place in the oven for a few minutes (3-4) until done.

To Serve:

Place about 1/2 cup of Broccoli Rabe Pesto on a serving plate and gently smooth out to make a bed for the fish. Using a slotted fish spatula gently transfer the cooked fish from the poaching oil to the serving plate, placing the fish on top of the bed of pesto. Serve immediately.

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Singing Songs About the Southland

January 17, 2009

1994 was another golden year for the Oscars. Almost as good as 1939. Almost. With the exception of one clunker, any one of the other four nominees could reasonably have been best picture that year. The golden four? Forrest Gump (winner), Pulp Fiction (great movie) Quiz Show (one of my all time favorites), The Shawshank Redemption (gets better every time I see it). The clunker? Well, I hate naming names, but what the heck is Four Wedding and a Funeral , clunk, doing on this list? The only award it should have been nominated for would have to be Best Performance by a Big Black Hat.

I remember there being a great rivalry between Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction that year. Gump is certainly more crowd pleasing. Pulp Fiction is for more eclectic tastes. This shows in their respective soundtracks as well. Forrest Gump is like listening to an ordinary classic rock station: The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd et al. Pulp Fiction digs a little deeper and goes a little further: Dusty Springfield, The Statler Brothers. On musical soundtrack choices alone Pulp Fiction should have won.

But Forrest Gump is a lot of fun and has some great performances: Tom Hanks (winning his second Oscar) Gary Sinise (I went to the same high school as he did; only he’s much older) and Robin Wright are all great. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should. This was also one of the few times in recent history that we all were able to watch the movie. Eleven year old girls get bored easily.

My favorite Gump Scene: I laughed for days when I first saw this–the drinking Dr. Pepper (nice product placement) in the White House Forrest meets JFK “I gotta pee.” scene. Hilarious.

The Gump scene that makes me admire Sir Richard Attenborough: The above pictured Washington monument scene. A lot of the “people” in the “crowd” scene were just CGI trickery. All those people in the Gandhi crowds were real people.

For dinner we went to Savannah’s renowed Paula Deen for advice and recipes. We ate at Lady & Sons on a trip to South Carolina a few years ago (before she got so Food Network famous). The restaurant is lovely. And so is her food.

Shrimp Cocktail–(cause you know we had to use shrimp)

  • 1 pound medium or large shrimp, in the shell, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Cocktail Sauce,from a jar
  • Lemon or Lime wedges

put some cocktail sauce in a martini glass, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Put cold shrimp around the edge of the glass. Serve with lemon or lime wedge.

Easy Gumbo casserole (cause you know we had to use even more shrimp)

Gumbo:
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 cup chicken or fish stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
10-ounce package frozen cut okra
2 cups shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined

Topping:
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup milk
12-ounce package corn muffin mix

In an iron skillet, saute onion and celery in oil. Add bay leaves, thyme, lemon-pepper seasoning and House Seasoning. Pour in stock and add tomatoes and okra. Cover pot and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in shrimp.To prepare the topping, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together egg and milk, add to muffin mix, and combine until just well-blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls on top of hot shrimp mixture, leaving the center uncovered. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

for dessert we had Life is Like a Box of Chocolate brownies. So easy, so fun. You never know what you’re going to get. This was a smash hit.

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, melted, plus a little more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 9 pieces of chocolate box chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 by 13-inch cake pan (aluminum is fine) with butter. Beat the 1 1/2 sticks butter and the sugar together in a large bowl until blended. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then stir in water and vanilla. Sprinkle the salt and baking powder over the mixture, then mix in. Do the same with the cocoa. Finally, stir in the flour until just blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Push a chocolate into the batter about 2 inches apart, until the chocolate is covered. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center is set, the edges look a bit crusty, and the top of the brownies start to crack a little. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

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Awkward Silence

December 15, 2008

I’m not the biggest fan of scary movies. And Silence of the Lambs is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Back in 1991 I remember being too afraid to see this movie in the theaters. I almost went though, when it was really hot and the free air-conditioning would have been nice; I decided to have my baby instead. I did, however, see it later when it came out on video. We probably rented it alongside what maybe should have been 1991’s best–Beauty and the Beast and probably another movie as well because the video store we frequented, BP Video made you rent 3 movies at one time. Threeforfive.

But as scary movies go, Silence of the Lambs is a classic. It’s an amazing movie that holds up really well. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster have an amazing amount of chemistry. They both deserved their Oscars. As did director Jonathan Demme; his Oscar speech is a classic how to not give an acceptance speech speech. It’s aslo a shame they had to return to the Hannibal Lecter character in subsequent films (Foster and Demme didn’t return). It cheapens it a bit. Hey, did you know that Martha Stewart once dated Anthony Hopkins. She broke up with him because his Hannibal character gave her the willies. Now, that’s scary.

Friends of ours once joked about what were we going to cook up for Silence of the Lambs. Well, it could’ve have been awkward, but fortunately no one here is a cannibal . It was actually somewhat easy to come up with food ideas for the film. —It’s helpful that one of the most famous lines ” I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” is from Silence. We did the beans (unfortunately not in season we had to use frozen) and the chianti and some nice lamb chops. Luckily we didn’t hear the screams.

From Alton Brown @ food network

Cranberry Chutney:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups cranberries, divided
1 cup water
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 serrano chile, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves

Grilled Lamb Chops
8 (4 to 5-ounce) porterhouse lamb chops
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves, garnish
Finely chopped chives, garnish

For the Cranberry Chutney:

Combine the sugar, honey, 2 cups of cranberries and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the cranberries pop and become soft and the mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the onion, ginger, chile, garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until thick about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining cranberries and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the Grilled Lamb Chops:

Heat the grill to high or a grill pan over high heat. Brush chops on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides and cooked to medium doneness, about 6 minutes total. Remove lamb from the grill, loosely tent and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serve on a plater with cranberry chutney and cranberry sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Sauté of Fresh Fava Beans, Onions, and Fennel

1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in spice grinder
1 1/3 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped pancetta*
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook fava beans in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, cool and peel outer skins (do not cook or peel lima beans).

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel bulb; sauté 5 minutes. Add favas or lima beans and fennel seeds; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 cup broth and 2 tablespoons dill; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in pancetta and savory, adding more broth if mixture is dry. Simmer until favas are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

* Pancetta, Italian bacon cured in salt, is available at Italian markets, some supermarkets, and some specialty foods stores.

P.S. Even though he prepared this week’s feast (and did a great job) Jim almost got himself kicked off the Oscars in Order crew this week. Why, you ask? Because he would not shut up during the whole movie. Don’t you hate when someone keeps saying “this is the scary part” two to three minutes before anything scary happens. And he did it constantly And I’ve seen the movie before, Jim–you were there. Well, that was Jim during Silence of the Lambs. But don’t fear Jim didn’t remain unforgiven for Unforgiven.

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Transplendent

May 29, 2008

Alvy: What’s with all these awards? They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.

1977 was the summer, fall, winter & spring of Star Wars. Star Wars was everywhere and everywhere you went there was Star Wars. It was inescapable. I remember watching the 1977 Oscar ceremony and being floored —my jaw completely dropping. And dropping out of joy: Annie Hall won best picture for 1977. Not the behemoth that was and kinda sorta still is Star Wars.

It’s also nice to note that a comedy won best picture. Comedies are rare for Oscar winners :It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It With You, The Apartment being the only comedy winning predecessors I can think of.

It was such a treat watching this old favorite of mine. In fact movies like Annie Hall or Casablanca (Oh, yes this one’s up there with Casablanca for me) and the watching there of was one of the reasons I/we decided to do this whole enchilada. Sucker that I am for romance. And comedy. On the other hand, Jim is on board more for the Braveheart and Deer Hunter type movies. He a sucker for blood and gore. And men with blue faces.

Annie, there’s a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can’t get it out. This thing’s heavy. Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side.

Also, when back when we were brainstorming this little project (Movie + food= fun) Annie Hall was a natural, because it has a couple of scenes with lobsters. We love lobsters. In fact, when we get live lobsters Jim like to name them. Usually the lobster ends up with the name “Pinchy.” This time we had Alvy

and Annie

We started the movie with a little side by side appetizer– sort of a salute to the Easter in Wisconsin scene/ the Singers and the Halls

[Annie’s family and Alvy’s family converse through a split screen]
Mom Hall: How do you plan to spend the holidays, Mrs. Singer?
Alvy’s Mom: We fast.
Dad Hall: Fast?
Alvy’s Dad: No food. You know, to atone for our sins.

Mom Hall: What sins? I don’t understand.

Alvy’s Dad: To tell you the truth, neither do we.

For the Singers we had smoked salmon with a little cream cheese on crackers–for the Halls we had Triscuit triangles with a little nice ham and Wisconsin cheddar cheese:

Pretty!

And the lobsters were easy to make–throw them in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Start timing when the water starts boiling again. Cook until the lobsters turn red (about 5 minutes per lobster) and then let rest for about 5 minutes. Then have at it. Oh, it’s easy to clarify butter, too. Put a stick of butter in a ramekin and place in the low temp oven for about 45 minutes–the milk solids rise to the top–just skim ’em off and you’ve got some clarified butter for lobster dipping.

I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.

So I made the eggiest dessert I know: Souffle.

From Gale Gand—Hot Vanilla Souffle with Chocolate Sauce