Friday, February 26, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 35

The Golden Globes are FINALLY happening this Sunday, so I'm reflecting on the 2020 ceremony, where I was fortunate enough to be in the stands for the red carpet. It was the most exciting moment of my life (so far) and I'm so grateful my mom and I were able to do it, given all the chaos that the rest of the year brought. This year's ceremony will no doubt look very different - who knows if and when red carpets will return? - but I spent the majority of last weekend catching up on some of the nominated films. All three that I watched blew me away.

Best trip EVER!


CUISINE

I'm focusing mainly on movies for this post, but I'll share with you a fun cocktail you can sip on during the show. I don't have a name for it, OR a photo of it. Just trust me.

1 1/2 oz vodka
1 oz chamboard
1/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, then pour into a martini glass. Top with bubbly. Cheers and enjoy. 

SCREEN
Promising Young Woman - YIKES. This is a crazy unique and fresh storyline, written by Emerald Fennell and starring Carey Mulligan. Our protagonist is Cassie, who thinks she's doing the Lord's work by tricking men into thinking she's blackout drunk, only to entrap them when they try to take advantage of her. She's a sociopath with a complete and utter lack of conscience, yet you find yourself almost rooting for her. The supporting cast is unbelievable - Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse - just to name a few. Stop what you're doing and watch this. It's impossible not to feel something while you do.

Nomadland - Frances McDormand once again stuns as Fern, a woman who leaves everything behind to live in her van. Her husband's death and the 2008 recession were the driving factors, and we see her learn how to live as a nomad. The cinematography is stunning, and her interactions with supporting characters remind us that there's an enormous world out there; everyone is just trying to find their way through it. McDormand was perfect in this role, and she makes it easy for us to empathize with this character. Highly recommend.

Sound of Metal - Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben, a musician in recovery who also happens to be losing his hearing. This news is devastating to him and his girlfriend/bandmate, rightfully so, but he begins to find refuge in a deaf recovery community. His scenes with veteran actor Paul Raci are the most moving. Ahmed portrays this character's internal struggle beautifully and it's a thrill to be on this journey of self-re-discovery with him.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 34

Has everyone thawed from yesterday's icing? The icicles that formed on my trees and back deck were quite beautiful, if not a bit menacing. Knock on wood, I'm surprised (and relieved) that we haven't had more aggressive winter weather this year. Here's hoping spring is just around the corner.



CUISINE
I'm calling this entry "An Ode to Miso". It's one of my favorite ingredients because it works in both savory and sweet dishes. It's salty, funky and major umami. Most people are familiar with Miso Soup, but this fermented soy bean paste works wonders in some of my favorite go-to recipes. *For the purpose of these recipes, I used White Miso (but you could try yellow and red too!)

Miso Cod - Once again, my sweetheart and I were inspired by the one and only Chef Curtis Stone to make this dish. For a 1 pound cod loin, stir together 1/3 cup miso, 1/3 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine) and 1 TB sugar in a double boiler, over simmering water. You just want the sugar to dissolve, and it will only take a few minutes. Then spread this mixture all over your cod, and broil (not bake!) until the internal temp is 135. It's crazy tender and flavorful. Serve alongside roasted broccoli, sauteed bok choy, cooked rice - whatever you like. This recipe would also work well with salmon, sea bass or any other thick, flaky fish.

Miso Banana Bread - This is my absolute favorite way to use miso. I use this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine and it's a hit every time. I cover the pan with foil towards the end of the bake time, and check it with a toothpick around the hour mark, so as to not burn it. It's insanely moist and utterly addictive. 

Miso Chocolate Chip Cookies - The only thing better than regular cookie dough? Miso cookie dough. This is the ultimate salty-sweet flavor combination that I love in desserts. Check out this recipe.

Some readers may remember me using Miso to make the caramel topping for my Butterscotch Budino a few months ago, and I would be remiss if I didn't link it for you again here.

SCREEN
Judas and the Black Messiah - I'm finally getting around to watching some of the films that are getting awards show buzz. There's a lot of talk surrounding this one, and rightfully so. Daniel Kaluuya is superbly charismatic as real life Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton. I'm calling it now - go ahead and give the man his Oscar. Fans of LaKeith Stanfield will be excited to see him in this film, but Kaluuya's role is far juicier. Jesse Plemons and Martin Sheen make appearances too, as an FBI agent and J. Edgar Hoover, respectively. I was captivated by this story, one that has been clearly swept under the rug and largely kept out of history books. I found it quite fascinating and encourage you to give it a watch.

Little Children - I first saw this when it came out in 2006 and loved it. I recently read the book by Tom Perrotta, and thought it would be fun to revisit the film. It's hard to believe that Kate Winslet was only 31 when she made this movie - her maturity and complexity in this role earned her a deserved Oscar nomination. She plays Sarah, a bored housewife who has an affair with Brad, a bored stay-at-home dad. The storyline of a child molester lurking in the neighborhood brings an underlying sense of unease, with Jackie Earle Haley mastering this role. It's definitely not a feel good film, but it's got a great score and it's an interesting character study.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 33

Happy Valentine's / President's Day weekend everyone! I was ELATED to get an early Valentine's Day surprise from my beau. I honestly don't know that I had ever received a dozen red roses, and they are absolutely stunning. 

CUISINE
In an effort to be more health conscious, we've decided to go all in on "Meatless Mondays". There are so many meat alternatives these days, but if you're not into the "Impossible" or "Beyond" options, look no further than Jackfruit! It comes in a can at Trader Joe's and when cooked, has the texture of pulled pork or chicken, and it acts as a sponge, soaking up anything you flavor it with. 

To make Mexican-inspired Jackfruit, drain the jackfruit and give it a rough chop. Saute a bit of onion, garlic and bell pepper (if you have any) in some olive oil over medium high, then add in your jackfruit. Sprinkle in some taco seasoning, or any combination of the following spices: chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add in a little chicken stock or water, and cover the pan. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then taste for seasoning. Serve it with your favorite taco bowl ingredients like rice/quinoa, beans, salsa, guac, cilantro, jalapenos, cheese - the options are endless! You will NOT miss the meat! 

SCREEN
The Goonies - Yes, I am 100% aware of the fact that I have been living under a rock and had never seen this iconic 80s film. But I'm an only child, who didn't have an older sibling to make me watch it. I admit that I was rolling my eyes during the first 30 minutes, but it actually became quite the tale of adventure, and this group of young actors (Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, to name a few) really tug at your heartstrings. I actually really enjoyed this movie, and I love the fact that I can make (and get!) Goonies references now.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 32

I'm eagerly anticipating the first UNC-Dook basketball game of the season, which happens to be tomorrow (Saturday night). I love the rivalry, and it brings back great memories from my 4 years on the Hill. This is one of my favorite photos of all time, taken at the bar Four Corners, which we used to frequent. I think every receipt should close with this, and that a pint should still be this cheap!

I will always remember.

CUISINE

My sweetheart and I have been watching a lot of "Take Home Chef", the 2006-08 TLC show that introduced the world to Chef Curtis Stone. We've been inspired to recreate several of his dishes, most recently Shrimp Curry. It can seem intimidating to attempt a dish without an actual recipe, but we were actually thrilled with how this came out and wrote down what we did, so we could easily replicate it. She's not a looker, but she sure does taste good. Thank you for the inspiration, Curtis!

3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (you could also use scallops, chicken, or any meaty white fish!)
2 TB butter
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 TB ginger, minced
1 TB garlic, minced
1 1/2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 TB red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1 TB tomato paste
1 tsp Tikka Masala Spice blend
Salt & Pepper
Cooked Rice & Naan for serving
Cilantro and Cashews for garnish - optional

Over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 TB butter and add your onions. Let them soften and begin to caramelize, which will take about 10 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, tomatoes and curry paste. Cook this for a few minutes, until a dark color is developed. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste and Tikka Masala Spice blend and stir to combine. Let this simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Taste for seasonings, adding s&p as needed, then add your shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes. Serve this over cooked rice, alongside some warm naan, and you'll be good to go. If you want to make it a bit extra like me, garnish with some cilantro and cashews.

Shrimp Curry with Saffron Rice

SCREEN
Thank You For Smoking - I don't know how I let this one slip by me. Aaron Eckhart is in the role of his lifetime as Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, who can enamor and persuade just about anyone he speaks to. He seems to crush it professionally, but we see his struggles at home and in his relationship with his son. It's a dark comedy with a killer supporting cast including J.K. Simmons, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, Robert Duvall and more. If you missed it like me, go back and check this one out!

The Little Things - I was very excited to watch this film. It had so much potential - a compelling plot, brilliant cast, a score by my favorite film composer, an accomplished director - but it unfortunately fell just a bit flat. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek give OK performances as a sheriff and detective working to track down a serial killer in 1990s Los Angeles. The star here, without a doubt, is Jared Leto, who plays the main suspect and is absolutely perfectly cast as this creeper. Fans of closure at the end of a movie (like me) may be disappointed. Watch this film for Leto's performance, and only that. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 31


CUISINE
The weather we're having lately certainly calls for some comfort food. One of my favorite crock-pot dishes is Cassoulet, which is essentially a combination of beans, vegetables and meat, and it's easily customizable. My sweetheart and I decided we wanted to be a little EXTRA and add some seared Duck Breast to the dish. It was surprisingly easy and super delicious. 

Sear the breast after liberally seasoning it with salt, and place it in a cold cast iron skillet, skin-side down. Turn the heat on, to medium, and the fat will slowly begin to render. After a few minutes, and once the skin is crispy, flip the breast and let it continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Place the skillet in a 425 degree oven and let it continue to cook for about 4-6 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 135. And the most important step when cooking meat - you must let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into it! Then thinly slice and serve. 

Here's the recipe for Cassoulet I used, and it's worth noting that I substituted Smoked Sausage for the Italian Chicken Sausage (you can use any you like, really!) In the past, I've also added some chicken thighs that cook down nicely, too.
Cassoulet with Duck Breast

SCREEN
White Tiger - YES. More like this, please. Vaguely reminiscent of "Parasite", with about a quarter of the subtitles. It's based off a book published in 2008, and tells the story of Balram, a driver for a wealthy family in India who is desperate to flee his live of poverty, using any means necessary. I don't want to give away much more of the plot, and I'd even discourage you from watching a trailer. Jump right in and be prepared to be immediately engrossed.

La Vie En Rose - I'm a big Marion Cotillard fan, and had never seen her Oscar-winning performance in "La Vie En Rose". This biopic tells the story of French singer Edith Piaf, and Cotillard is incredible in her portrayal. It's a pretty dismal story - Piaf grew up in a brothel and was surrounded by drugs and alcohol, and had very little support system. Her talent saves her, if only fleetingly, and by 47 years old, her hard-lived life catches up with her. Stunning hair and make-up, and beautiful music. I recommend this film, but fair warning - it's 2 hours and 20 minutes of some pretty dramatic material.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Cuisine & Screen: At Home, Part 30

It's here. 2021 AND PART 30. I cannot believe that I've done 30 weeks of at home posts, and I'm grateful to all of my readers for humoring me throughout all this. Even when things get back to "normal," I think I'll still do some at home posts and reviews, because it's allowed me to hone my cooking skills and it's been a really fun hobby for me. Last month, I got away for a few days in the beautiful NC mountains, and wanted to share this stunning (and no filter!) view with you all.

CUISINE
A few of my girlfriends and I will occasionally do (socially distanced) themed dinner and movie nights. About a month ago, we watched "The Holiday" and prepared British food. One provided drinks (a Gin Blackberry Smash and Hot Toddies); one provided the entree (Shepherd's Pie); and I provided the dessert, something I've been wanting to learn how to make for a long time: Sticky Toffee Pudding. It took every utensil and tool in my kitchen to make (boiling the toffee sauce on the stove, simmering the dates in a saute pan, pureeing the dates in a food processor, baking the puddings in the oven) but it was so incredibly worth it. I would have eaten all 6 servings by myself. And the good news is that it made enough toffee sauce so that next time I can skip that step and just make the cakes! Here's the recipe I used. 

HEAVENLY

SCREEN
Prom - I am all aboard the Ryan Murphy train, and couldn't be more obsessed with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Keegan Michael-Key and Andrew Rannells, so it pains me to say that I didn't just lose my mind over Murphy's new film, "Prom". It's a spectacular premise, even if it's a bit far-reaching, and delivers a great message. (Though I really don't know what Nicole Kidman was doing taking this role.) I don't think I've EVER given a negative review of a movie musical (though I didn't see 2019's "Cats") and I don't intend to start now, but this was a bit too long for its own good, and maybe my expectations were just entirely too high. It's a good time, not a great time. Available on Netflix.

Fruitvale Station - Michael B. Jordan can really do no wrong in my eyes. I'm a little late to the game on this film (it came out in 2013) but I watched it on New Year's Day, ironically, because the film recounts the life of a man who was shot and killed by police on New Year's Day in 2008. I don't remember a lot of press surrounding the shooting of Oscar Grant, III - I feel like the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the catalyst for the BLM movement and ample media coverage - but Oscar's is a story worth telling. And Octavia Spencer is phenomenal, as per usual, as his mother. Available on Netflix.