Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana

3 Feb

I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings. 

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Spaghetti Squash noodles

I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.

A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time. 

Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?

And you can eat it guilt free!

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Ingredients for Spaghetti Squash Amaticiana

INGREDIENTS

1 large Spaghetti Squash

1 medium red onion

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled

2 large cartons of cherry tomatoes

8 oz of Pancetta (omit if you want a Vegetarian/Vegan version)

Olive oil

Thyme

Red Pepper flakes

Fresh ground Black Pepper

Salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 375.

Prep your spaghetti squash:

Cleave the squash down the middle vertically.

Scoop out the seeds and mess in the middle.

Rub olive oil, and a lot of salt and pepper into the skin.

Place cut side down on a baking sheet.

Prep your tomatoes

Halve all the cherry tomatoes. (You can leave the tiny ones whole.)

Cut the red onion into healthy dice, you don’t want it too small. (See photo below)

Toss both together in a baking dish with a few good glugs of olive oil, healthy sprinklings of salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and 10 cloves of garlic, halved. Make sure it’s all tossed together well.

Lay sprigs of thyme on top, as well as any other herbs you like (rosemary and oregano are ideal.)

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tomatoes and onions prepped

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chopped red onion

Cover with aluminum foil. (I like doing this because it makes the tomatoes and onions saucier. For less juice and a more roasted flavor, don’t cover with foil or remove the foil the last 15 minutes.)

Roast your vegetables:

Place both trays in the oven. At 35-40 minutes, remove the spaghetti squash, leaving the tomatoes in the oven for another 15 minutes.

(NOTE: If you have two ovens, roast the squash in one at 375 for 35-40 min and the tomatoes in the other at 400 for 45.)

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Spaghetti squash out of the oven.

When the spaghetti squash comes out of the oven and is cooling, drizzle some olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven and fry the diced pancetta over med-low heat. A minute or two before the bacon is crisp, add 3 cloves of minced garlic, taking care the garlic sautes but does not burn, i.e. stir the mixture, don’t let it sit and don’t cook it over high heat.

If the pancetta and garlic mixture finishes before the vegetables are ready, remove from heat.

Let the spaghetti squash cool until you can handle it. Take a fork and drag it over and over inside the squash. Voila! ‘Pasta Noodles’ appear. 

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Tomatoes and onions out of the oven.

When the tomatoes and onions are roasted, put the spaghetti squash noodles in your pot and toss with the oil, pancetta and garlic until warmed through. Then add the roasted tomato and onion mixture. Continue to stir and toss until all is warm and bubbling and mixed through.

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Serve in bowls with grated pecorino.

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Best Films of 2016

31 Dec

(With a little TV included!)

Most exciting to me about the films on this ‘best of’ list are the directors, none of whom are old guard. I should state that while I very much believe diversity of all kinds is of the utmost importance in the arts, I myself don’t think about the age, race, sexual identity or gender of an artist when I view a work. Is this a dichotomy? Some would say yes. I think not. A work of art is great or it isn’t no matter who creates or guides it, at least by my own judgement. 

A debate for another post.

Something wonderful is happening in movies, though. Only after I compiled this list did I realize all the directors were younger or less established than the directors we usually find on year-end lists. A very diverse collection of artists were involved in the movies I found worthy of note in 2016. I didn’t compile the list with this in mind, it just happened. Which fired me up.  

Agree with my list or not, the directing (and writing!) talent found here bodes well for the future of my favorite art form.

ARRIVAL

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Denis Villeneuve is my favorite director working today. As evidenced previously in two incredible thrillers, Prisoners and Sicario, Villeneuve builds tension and dread better than anyone. In Arrival he does the same, brilliantly, but for very different effect. A thought-provoking work of science fiction with a dazzling emotional payoff, I’ve seen the movie three times. It gets better and richer with each viewing.

Along with stunning cinematography by Bradford Young and an innovative score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Villeneuve creates an atmospheric movie that somehow is simultaneously majestic and intimate. All of the actors shine, even in the smallest parts. Jeremy Renner does some of his warmest, most charming work ever. And Amy Adams is my pick for best actor of the year, male or female. Her understated performance is filled with great emotion and depth. She grounds the movie with a quiet power that makes the last twenty minutes even more thrilling and eye opening. A second viewing only elevates her work, given the final revelations. I’m not ashamed to say I wept the first time I saw ArrivalIt’s a masterpiece.

THE INVITATION

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Villeneuve isn’t the only director working today who is a master at dread. Karyn Kusama‘s The Invitation had my chest tight from the opening scene and the dread never let up.  This movie is the definition of a tightening vice. Taking place entirely in one evening at a dinner party in Los Angeles, much of the tension derives from our not being able to figure out exactly what the movie is for a long stretch of time. Is it a slow-burn thriller? A horror movie? Or is it a drama about a man unable to get over a tragedy? The movie is as much a clever mind-fuck as it is anything else. I loved the performances as well as all the twists and turns and red-herrings (or are they??). The final flip is phenomenal. If you enjoy a movie that quietly, subversively gets under your skin, one that will raise goosebumps on your flesh, look no further than The Invitation.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

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Jeff Nichols is another young master. His second feature, Take Shelter, is one of my favorite films of the last few years. Midnight Specialhis first of two excellent movies this yearis another slow burn thriller that is ostensibly science fiction but at its heart is a simple story of a father fighting to protect his son. Nichols is a master at disclosing information. He trusts the audience completely, allowing the movie to breathe and build in a remarkably intelligent manner. No one ends up who you think they are initially, which was another lovely surprise. Along with many other terrific actors, Michael Shannon once again proves himself one of the best actors alive. Wow, is Shannon terrific. As is this wonderful film.

HELL OR HIGH WATER

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Until I saw Arrival, Hell or High Water was my favorite movie of the year. In some ways, it still is. I didn’t want to see it, this kind of narrative is not my thing. When the first scene in the movie involved two brothers robbing a bank, I shook my head and wondered why I bothered going to the theatre: ‘I have to watch these two losers for a couple of hours?’ Imagine my surprise when I came to care deeply about these two men, as well as so many other characters in the movie.

Clearly I love quiet, understated movies with slow burns that build to enormous emotional payoffs. Hell or High Water wrecked me in the best of ways in the last quarter, with a final scene that is one of the best written, directed and acted scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Even before this final scene, the movie begins to yield results in numerous ways. It seems by now we’d get tired of Jeff Bridges doing this recent thing of his. But Bridges hits depths here beyond even Crazy Heart and True Grit. Bridges kills it. Ben Foster is winning well deserved accolades for his riotous turn as one of the brothers. Katy Mixon and Gil Birmingham are standouts among a very talented cast. Finally, Chris Pine was for me the stunner. Like all great actors, Pine speaks volumes doing nothing. I’ve always been a fan but his work here was a revelation. As a native Texan, I’ll also say the work of writer Taylor Sheridan and director David Mackenzie was perfect. They caught a Texas I know, love and hold dear.

What a movie.

13th

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Ava DuVernay’s documentary about our criminal justice system is, like many of the best documentaries, challenging, angering, frustrating and ultimately devastating. Even with my “Why Black Lives Matters Matters” post earlier this year, it was easy for me, an “old white guy”, to continually think ‘Yeah, but…’ during the first 45 minutes or so of this superbly made film. The weight of the statistical information, however, combined with the archival imagery, begin to make it very difficult to refute the ideas put forth about the causes and effects of mass incarceration.  13th is an important film I challenge anyone to see and watch all the way through.    

LA LA LAND

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Damien Chazelle’s last movie, Whiplash, was my favorite film of 2014. He ups himself this year with La La Land, a dazzling movie musical that is part paean to the glorious musicals of old and part modern twist on the beloved genre. Gorgeously crafted with a youthful excitement and daring that radiates from the screen, La La Land also benefits from the electrifying chemistry of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. They’ve now starred together in three films and all I can say is I want to see them together in a movie every year. They are truly our Hepburn and Tracy and a joy to watch. As is the movie.

LION

 

lion-movie-poster-dev-patelI don’t know why I avoided this movie in December. Maybe because I knew it was going to be wrenching. But I’d also read a few comments that called it cheesy or sentimental. Stupid. Stupid comments and me stupid for listening. What a movie. Gorgeously shot and directed with superb acting, writing and a score I loved, I could imagine Lion being the stealth movie that steals La La Land’s Oscar gold. Whatever happens awards wise (there are so many awards now, all are becoming increasingly irrelevant) run go see this movie while you have the chance to see it in a theatre. (May I also add that it is often easy these days to forget what an incredible actress is Nicole Kidman? She kills it. But so does everyone else involved.)

MOONLIGHT

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I also loved Moonlighta movie that affected me deeply. I kept having trouble articulating why. One night I was hanging with one of my best friends, Noy, a wonderful writer who is one of the smartest people I know and also one of the most relaxed and fun. I love her to death. She spoke so beautifully about why she loved Moonlight, I asked her to put it on paper for the blog. I very much concur with what she writes below:

“Lukewarm praise can damn a film, but so can loud acclaim — especially when it’s directed at something as tender as Moonlight. Set largely in Liberty City, Miami, the film unfolds in three acts, with three astoundingly good actors (Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) portraying watchful, nearly silent Chiron through his boyhood, teen years, and early thirties. Chiron is poor, black, and grappling with questions about his sexual orientation; his mother is battling a crack addiction. The demographics feel limiting as a description — as much as Moonlight is informed by race, poverty, mass incarceration, and notions of masculinity, it isn’t a political polemic. Nor does it indulge in reductive psychologizing. Rather, it’s a story of becoming. Through depicting the life of one irreplaceable, particular individual, Moonlight asks the universal questions: What softness do we (try to) kill in ourselves to survive? And can we truly survive without it? 

Director Barry Jenkins drew on an unproduced play by MacArthur-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to form the spine of the film. But as for its heart — although they never crossed paths in their youth, both Jenkins and McCraney grew up in Liberty City, and both had mothers who struggled with crack addiction. One has the sense that in a different world, perhaps Jenkins and McCraney might have become Chiron…or in a more benevolent, just world, Chiron would have grown up to be the men who imagined him. 

Almost every bit of love Chiron receives is laced with bitterness. That we seek love from others, as fallible as we all are, is fraught; that Chiron does seems like folly. But his persistence starts to feel like courage, his desire an unconscious declaration that he, too, is worthy of wanting. As an adult, Chiron adopts the guise forced upon black men in our society — of swagger, criminality, and threat. He dons his chains and puts in gold grilles over his teeth like a boxer, ready to do battle with a world that would punish his sensitivity, his desire and love for other black men who are as reviled as he is. 

Chiron’s life matters. This is the film’s bedrock, mere fact, no fuss or fire behind it. You could call the film subversive or radical or any of those things, but that would imply that the film is making a point, trying to convince viewers that Chiron is worthy of our attention. But through its interiority, rhapsodic use of music and color, and unwavering empathy, Moonlight refuses to waste time justifying its focus and goes about introducing us to someone who is impossible to forget. What is Chiron doing now? He seems as real as any of us. One can only hope that he is daring to take whatever small, tentative steps he can towards becoming who he already is.”

 OJ: MADE IN AMERICA

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In 1994, I watched over 90% of the OJ Trial live… “why” is is a therapy session we need not concern ourselves with at present. Suffice to say, though, I know about as much about OJ and his trial as anyone. What else is there to know about the trial? OJ: Made In America proves one helluva lot. Wow.

This 5 part documentary, part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series (released theatrically for Oscar consideration) starts in the 50’s to provide enormous and important historical context to the events of 1994. It is as much a look at the city I love, Los Angeles, as it is “The Juice”. As riveting as the last two brilliant true crime docs, The Jinx and Making A Murderer, O.J.: Made in America revealed many facts and events even I myself didn’t know.

Start this doc and you will watch until you finish.

NOTE: Before we get to TV, a few other favorites: American Honey, Fences, A Monster Calls, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Nice Guys, The Hollars, The Edge of Seventeen and Rogue One. I still need to see Sing Street, The Handmaiden, 20th Century Women and Moana.

TELEVISION

My TV favorites? Mostly favorites you have read about here before but there is one new show I loved. I wish I had time to watch the shows I keep hearing so much about, such as Atlanta or This Is Us. I barely can keep up with the shows I already love.

My two favorite shows could not be more different, yet both are as good as anything on TV and both somehow keep getting better and better: Game of Thrones and Veep. (My other favorite, Homeland, did not have new episodes this year.) 

Catastrophe, the amazing comedy on Amazon, is so good I’ve watched all 12 episodes twice and will definitely watch them a third time before season three appears next year. Funny, funny show.

Finally, I thought Westworld was terrific. Beautifully crafted with some of the best acting on TV (it will be a crime if Thandie Newton doesn’t win every acting award next year), Westworld is mind-bending storytelling at its best.

Let me know your thoughts and favorites in the comments section! And Happy New Year everyone!

 

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Best Books of 2016

14 Dec

My annual review of my favorite books of the year. You cannot go wrong with any of these Best of the Best.

The City of Mirrors

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Justin Cronin’s finale to his magnificent ‘The Passage Trilogy’ is everything a fan of the series could want and much more. Heartfelt, suspenseful, emotionally gripping and ultimately uplifting, The City Of Mirrors devastates in the best of ways. The characters Cronin creates are rich, complex and beautifully human. I’ve rarely cared so deeply about the people I follow through a series. I loved the first two novels so much I was a little worried: as wonderful a writer as is Cronin, could he actually pull the finale off and write something that would satisfy the enormous expectations he set up? Oh my. Did he ever.

If you’ve read the first two, do not miss this book. If you haven’t read the series, get The Passage and start now.

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Scott Frank is one of the best screenwriters working today. I teach every year two of his masterworks, Out of Sight and Minority Report. This year, he published his first novel. Wow. Your first novel is this good, Scott Frank? What’s with these talented people? I’d be annoyed but damn did I love this book.

It’s hard to define Shaker. The novel is a mystery of sorts and kind of a thriller, yet it is literary in many ways and often very, very funny. I love how hard it is to describe in one word. Perhaps the best single word to use is original. Shaker also ranks with the best of narratives that explore and celebrate Los Angeles, a city I love passionately. The novel begins with an earthquake. Frank’s sharp description of the quake and its aftermath is both scary and hilarious. Perhaps most surprising to me was the emotional weight the novel had by the end. I gasped out loud a couple of times in the final pages and was appropriately shaken for days afterwards. I’ll say it again, I love this book.

(BTW, please find and watch another movie written and directed by Frank, his slam dunk adaptation of Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among The Tombstones. Few people saw this movie when it was released, which is such a shame. The movie is so rich and detailed you still feel as if you are immersed in a novel. This guy Scott Frank is going places.)

Hillbilly Elegy

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This at times heartrending book about an important aspect of American culture is insightful, beautifully written, quick to read, often quite funny and will appeal to and affect readers of any political stripe. How many books can you say all that about? Just about none. J. D. Vance is a former marine and Yale Law School grad. In Hillbilly Elegy he writes personally and vividly about the collapse of the white working class and in doing so captures the feelings and despair of many Americans. If you want rich insight into much of what is going on in our country presently, this is a must read. But it’s a wonderful read for any occasion.

Last Days of Night

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Another immensely enjoyable novel by a talented screenwriter. Graham Moore won a well deserved Oscar last year for the fact-based The Imitation Game, another screenplay I teach given its triple narrative/triple mystery structure. In The Last Days of Night he tackles another real life drama, the brutal battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over the light bulb. That may sound a bit dry but this thrilling novel is anything but. It has everything: gripping suspense, numerous mysteries, towering real life characters, a wonderful romance and cliffhangers at the end of almost every chapter. Moore struggled mightily to keep the facts as true to life as possible so I actually learned a lot reading the book along with having a great time. The Last Days of Night is a quick, fun, thrilling read. Oh and as someone who attended Thomas Edison Junior High School and only knew Mr. Edison as “that amazing guy who invented the light bulb”… wow, did I have a big slap in the face coming!

The Crooked House 

9781427271167If you like a dark twisted gothic suspenser, look no further than The Crooked House.  Atmospheric and filled with dread, this novel was often compared to Daphne Du Maurier upon its release, given the setting and mood and also because it is a psychological thriller as much as it is a mystery. The main character, a 27-year old woman with two names (I will give away nothing) is a complex and compelling character forced to revisit her tragic past. Kent is a master at revealing information and will make you think twice before ever visiting small coastal towns of England. 

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I was a big fan of Blake Crouch’s insane, violent and very fun Wayward Pines trilogy. (I did not see the TV show.) But there was no way Wayward Pines could prep me for the mind-bending dance of Dark Matter, a terrific thriller that while gripping and suspenseful throughout also morphs into a novel more weighty and philosophical than I ever expected. Crouch is nothing if not daring. He will try anything in his plotting and as far as I can tell, he always gets away with it. Combining the best of metaphysical science-fiction with killer thrills, Dark Matter is a blast of a novel with powerful emotional payoffs.

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I saw David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive on a Monday night the week it opened in 2001. For about three-quarters of the film I was completely entranced. Then it took a narrative left turn that by the end of the movie made me so angry I wanted to hurl my empty popcorn bucket at the screen. I fumed and railed for days about the movie and the ending… but I could not get it out of my head. Four nights later I had to return. I left the theatre the second time hailing the movie as the masterpiece it was and remains.

I had a similar experience this fall with Ian Reid’s brilliant novel I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsWhen I first finished this book, so slender it is basically a novella, I was irritated: it was so compelling I tore through it in one sitting yet a wild narrative left turn toward the end, as well as events seemingly left unexplained, made Ending Things seem obtuse and maddening. Yet like Mulholland Drive Reid’s book stayed with me for days, I could not stop thinking about it. Given it is not very long (you can read it in a long afternoon) I had another go. As I read it a second time I began to realize what a magnificent accomplishment Reid pulled off. With the final pages he blew my mind.

I will admit this is not the most audience friendly novel. Even though short with easy to read prose it takes work to process and much thought afterwards to piece it all together. But the effect is dazzling and heartbreaking and so worth the effort that goes into reading the book.

Oh and at times I’m Thinking of Ending Things is as scary and unnerving as hell. Sign me up.

Moonglow

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Last on the list only because I haven’t finished it yet! I guess Moonglow could go completely off the rails in the second half. But the new book by one of my favorite authors is so far as dazzling as usual. Check back later if you need more assurances but I trust Chabon completely and am having a wonderful time.

Drop Dead Drop Biscuits

9 Dec

Those who follow my blog regularly are well aware I don’t bake. I have no patience for precise measuring nor, even worse, weighing anything. (So ridiculous! Not gonna happen.) Which means if I post a recipe that involves dough and baking, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt the recipe is easy as can be. And near impossible to screw up. And pretty damn good!

I present to you, Drop Biscuits.

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Drop Biscuits

I stumbled across this recipe a few years ago, tried it, tweaked it and have been throwing these together ever since. While they may not be the most beautiful biscuits ever created, they are a breeze to make, they taste great and are quite fluffy inside!

Depending on how you flavor them, they are wonderful with butter and/or for mopping up delicious juices on your plate. Another plus is that they freeze beautifully. So you can make a big batch in an hour or so, freeze some and then during the holidays whenever you’d like warm biscuits with a meal just pull a few from the freezer, rewarm them in the oven and in minutes you will have what people will think are fresh biscuits. 

I served these just recently on Thanksgiving, warmed in the oven straight from the freezer, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. People had seconds. When I made them the week before, I did not have baking soda, I used the wrong amount of yogurt, and they still turned out just as intended. Once all I had on hand was crème fraîche so I tried that… again, they worked perfectly. Friends will be seeing a lot more of these in the upcoming weeks.

Give them a try. You will not be sorry.

Click for the recipe: Continue reading

Thanksgiving Sides

21 Nov

Few things make me happier than Thanksgiving side dishes. I certainly love moist turkey with crisp skin but ultimately a plate of side dishes is all I need. While I gave you some excellent sides in the Thanksgiving post, here are a few more that will wow anyone at your table .

Recipes and at the bottom of the page.

DRUNKEN  MUSHROOMS

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My good friend Elizabeth Boyd, a wonderful chef, shared this recipe a few years ago and I have been making it ever since. And not just on Thanksgiving! I make them any time I want deliriously good mushrooms.

Except for the ridiculously long cooking time, these are also very, very easy. Don’t let the cook time ward you off. You start them and then basically forget them.

Mushrooms don’t come any better.

NOTE: If you have a large pot, make a double batch. They reduce considerably and also freeze beautifully. You really can’t make too many of these mushrooms.

ST. ELMO’S CREAMED SPINACH

rfl_3658I visited Indianapolis for a film festival a few years ago and fell in love. Who knew? What an amazing city. I also fell in love with St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, a killer restaurant with a world famous Shrimp Cocktail. Seriously, this clubby restaurant with martinis and steaks to die for is worth the trip alone. And then there is the house recipe for Creamed Spinach.

creamed-spinachI love greens cooked just about any way but creamed spinach?? (Or kale, or chard or…) Life doesn’t get much better. This is an easy and particularly terrific version, one I’ve tweaked just a little.

CRAFT’S CREAMLESS CREAM CORN

mirage-heritage-steak-creamed-cornThere are a lot of great creamed corn recipes out there. I’ve even posted one before. This year, however, I went to Tom Colicchio’s CRAFT and had his version of ‘creamed corn.’ When I tasted it, I thought it might be what heaven tastes like. If you like corn, this is The Recipe of all corn recipes. And no cream! Just corn, wonderful corn. Damn.

Here come the recipes and links. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

Click for the recipes: Continue reading

Thanksgiving Ideas

18 Nov

Note: This is a repeat of last year since, well, these are some of the best Thanksgiving recipes you can find and I am making them again. I will be posting new ‘side dish’ recipes on Monday for more ideas…

Below find my personal Thanksgiving favorites. This is a bit of a ‘best of’ but there are a couple of recipes new to the blog and I stand behind each, they will not do you wrong. 

GRAMERCY TAVERN’S CRANBERRY DAQUIRI

Cranberry Daiquiri

I wrote about this one for Christmas but it is perfect for Thanksgiving as well. Make the cranberry syrup now, it will keep in the fridge all through the holidays. I love this because it is not too sweet. Divine.

For the recipe, click here.

THE JUDY BIRD

Russ Parson's "Judy Bird"

Russ Parson’s dry brined turkey is justifiably famous. The ‘Judy-Bird’ is hands down the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. Perfect crisp skin, delicious moist meat. It is also the easiest recipe imaginable. NOTE: It needs to sit three days with the salt brine so get your turkey now!

For the turkey recipe, click here.

FOR THE REST OF THE THANKSGIVING RECIPES, CLICK HERE > Continue reading

A Movie for the Political Season Vol. III

6 Nov

In June of 1979 I was in Dallas, Texas visiting one of my best friends, Lauren Linn. We were dropped off at the movies by our moms who wanted some time away from us. Lauren and I wandered into Being There and my life changed. 

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Starring Peter Sellars in his penultimate performance, Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas, the Being There is about a simpleton, Chance the Gardener, who stumbles into the world of Politics in our nation’s capital.

 

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Chance the Gardener walking the streets of D.C.

 

It’s a remarkable movie with a genius screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, based on his short novel by the same name. New York magazine called the stye “deadpan slapstick” which is not far off. It’s a very subtle movie yet at the same time outrageously funny, not in a Bridesmaids / Hangover kind of way but in that the situations that develop are outrageous and then funny. Yet as ridiculous as the situations become in the second half of the movie somehow as movie spirals forward and Chance finds himself higher and higher in the political world, everything remains very down to earth believable. What happens to Chance might indeed be ridiculous yet at the same time everything makes rings true. Which is part of the deft genius of the movie.

For the rest of the post, click here: Continue reading