Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SCREEN TIME WITH DEAD CHEF

This might not surprise you, but my greatest passion, right after eating and sleeping, is watching movies. (Yes, I really enjoy not moving.)

This week, I present you with ten mini-reviews of movies I watched recently. I'm a work-at-home mother, so forgive the single movie from the current year, but really, this is all I can do.

Please let me know what you think, and enjoy the new series' logo on the right created by Mr Bee himself!






UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)

The best romantic movie involving orchids, worms, pigs, and identity loss you will ever see. I'm completely obsessed with Shane Carruth's imaginative, haunting, and rigorous filmmaking, and you should be too (watch Primer, too, if you haven't already).

WATCH IT ON NETFLIX (BONUS IF YOU'RE PREGNANT LIKE I WAS WHEN I FIRST SAW THIS)




SAN ANDREAS: AN IMAX 3D EXPERIENCE (2015) 

Great to see The Rock in all of his 3D glory, but I really wished the producer had allotted at least $500 for a coherent script rather than filming straight from the preliminary text messages.

WATCH IT ON A PLANE TRIP, IF YOU REALLY REALLY HAVE TO



UNDER THE SKIN (2013)


Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who picks up men on the streets of Scotland for her mysterious alien purposes. Dreamlike, terrifying, and an unconventional and surprising meditation on gender. I get uncomfortable just thinking about it, and it's a good thing.

WATCH IT ON AMAZON WITH YOUR NEW DATE



FORCE MAJEURE (2014)

A family of four is enjoying a ski-vacation in the Alps, but an avalanche throws everything they know about each other and themselves in the air. The ├╝ber-chill cinematography alone is worth a viewing, but the content is great, and there's some humor, too. Great if you enjoy post-movie discussions and re-evaluating your marriage.

WATCH IT WITH YOUR SPOUSE ON NETFLIX



THE GREAT BEAUTY (2013)

Paolo Sorrentino directs this bitter portrait of contemporary Italian decay in the hopes that the audience has never seen Fellini's La Dolce Vita. And he wins, considering the international acclaim. In my opinion, literally nothing in this self-congratulatory movie has not been said better and with much more depth by Fellini. What's the point?

WATCH LA DOLCE VITA INSTEAD



SNOWPIERCER (2013)

Planet Earth suffered a climatic apocalypse, and the only survivors are found in a self-sustaining train in a perennial circumnavigation of the world. Each wagon belongs to a social strata in the new society. The allegory may be be unsubtle, but it works, and the violence and plot-twists are bold and convincing. Total fun.

WATCH IT ON NETFLIX AND CALL ME WHEN YOU DO



SILENT RUNNING (1972)

I have a vivid memory of myself, elementary-school age, awe-struck and crying as an abandoned lamb at the end of this ecologist sci-fi film. I knew then this was definitely was the best movie I'd ever seen. I watched it again some 30+ years later, and I wished that had staid a memory. The acting, the script, the robots... My God. Never, ever watch again a movie you loved in your childhood without at least three glowing, professional reviews.

DON'T WATCH IT EVER AGAIN



THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Raymond Chandler is my spirit author, and Philip Marlowe is my epic hero. Altman does an impressive job in transposing the novel in the 70s while maintaining the romanticism and irony of the original. I loved everything about this movie except the out-of-character final scene that was not in the novel anyway. Oh, and there's Sterling Hayden, too, the best actor in the history of the world.

WATCH IT AFTER READING THE NOVEL


SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN (1954)

Film version of the Kawabata's novel (and one of my favorite books ever). It's about an aging patriarch in late-40s Japan who deals with the failing of his adult children and his conflicting emotions for his daughter-in-law. The movie is absorbing, but cannot bring itself to contemplate the abyss of fear of looming death that the novel breaks open. On a lighter note, this movie shows the most adorable (and gigantic) baby you will ever see on the screen and possibly in your life.

WATCH IT ON HULU PLUS, AND PLEASE PLEASE READ THE NOVEL


WAYNE'S WORLD (1992)

I'm treating every year since its release like the 50th anniversary, because that's how much I love this movie. A poignant tale of friendship against the pressure of independence, love, and ambition. Alice Cooper makes a cameo appereance. What can I say? They don't make movies like this anymore.

WATCH IT EVERY MONTH FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

FIGS ARE HERE ☞ FRESH FIG AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

Fresh fig and extra-virgin olive oil cake

I love the end of summer for a variety of reasons: Days are getting cooler, the sun is not slapping me in the face at every occasion, the kids are back at school, people have stopped asking me to go to the pool (it's not happening—way too much work), and mosquitoes seem less ferocious after two months of vampirism. My favorite season, fall, is peeking at me from the end of September with its lovely smile, and I feel happy. To make things even better, my favorite fruit has come back to me: Oh juicy, sweet fig, welcome back to my supermarket shelves! I'd plant a tree for you in a heartbeat, but I don't want to share you with my neighborhood rats.

To celebrate, I decided to work my beloved figs into yet another recipe. I looked inside my pantry, and was reminded of a 5-gallon tank of family produced extra-virgin olive oil that my father brought over from Italy, so I thought about a fresh fig and olive oil cake. Perfectly Mediterranean, and perfect for the cool days of summer's end. I used this recipe for a Rustic Olive Oil Cake with Honey Syrup from Serious Eats as a base cake, and made a few modifications. Namely, I cut the sugar amount in half and counted on the fig to provide most of the sweetness. And no Grand Marnier, just Meyer lemons. Finally, I replaced the milk with plain kefir, which worked brilliantly and delivered a fantastic moistness to the cake.

And about this, always (ALWAYS) add yogurt or kefir to your cakes. I've been doing this for almost 20 years now because it works wonderfully in keeping your cakes moist and soft. Did I just say 20 years? How is that even possible?!? Did I really start not only making desserts but willfully tweaking recipes that long ago? I'm shocked. Better have a slice of fig cake to calm myself down.

And if you need more figs ideas, check these old posts:

FIGS ARE HERE ☞ FIG TART
FIGS ARE HERE ☞ ROASTED FIGS

Fresh fig and extra-virgin olive oil cake.

FRESH FIG AND OLIVE OIL CAKE


2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 C plain kefir (or 1 C milk and 1/4 C plain yogurt)
2 Meyer lemons (for juice and zest)
3 eggs
1 C sugar
1 C EVOO
10-12 figs or whatever you have or it takes, halved 
powdered cocoa
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line a 9'' round cake mold with parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl, stir the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix the kefir with the juice of the Meyer lemons, and then stir in the zest from one of them.
  • In yet another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar, and then slowly pour in the EVOO, whisking constantly.
  • Add the contents of the two smaller bowls to the dry ingredient, in batches. 
  • Stir in until combined.
  • Pour the batter into the cake mold, and the top with the halved figs.
  • Back from about 50-60 minutes, or until the cake appears lightly browned on the top, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Dust cake with powdered cocoa.
Best served at room temperature or warm.