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Friday, December 9, 2016

Chicken Korma


Once again, our eldest son is making food that is more complex than what we are mustering at home!

    For the Chicken Marinade
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Sauce
  • 2 white onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (packed)
Instructions
  1. Drizzle the chicken with the oil and sprinkle on the garam masala, curry powder, salt and pepper. Massage into the meat and cover, leaving to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce: place the onions, garlic, and 1 cup of water in the bowl of a blender. Puree until smooth.
  4. Measure out the spices (curry powder through cumin) into a small bowl.
  5. In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the pureed onion mixture and cook for a 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it begins to darken in color.
  6. Add the tomatoes, ginger, ground almonds, coconut milk, yogurt, red chili, pre-measured spices, and brown sugar. Stir well.
  7. Turn the heat down to low and simmer 30 minutes. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan; simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with steamed basmati rice and/or naan.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Money Monster (2016)

I was a bit worried about this movie after watching the trailers.
  In the end, it was very well done, and entertaining.  George Clooney plays a self-centered obnoxious cable TV host of a financial advice show, where he does everything big.  The recommendations are no fail, the mistakes of others are unforgivably stupid, and everyone exists to please him.  What's not to like?  Pretty much everything.  His producer is played by Julia Roberts and she is in contrast everything that you would want in a co-worker, including that she sticks with you to the bitter end.
Clooney gets taken hostage on national TV, and is being held accountable for a bad tip that he gave.  As the crew look into the allegations of wrong doing, they begin to feel that there really was something fishy about a company that seemed like a sure fire thing tanking over a matter of hours.  The script is smart and funny and you even manage to like Clooney by the end.  Watch for entertainment, not to think too much.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Maccheroni Restaurant, Rome

 This restaurant was a short (and flat) walk from our apartment, and recommended by a friend.  Such a nice place, in a  low key sense.  the pasta dishes are the stars.  We had the Roman signature pasta dish, which is cacio e pepi.  The ingredients are very simple and include pecorino romano, black pepper,  nd stirred in pasta water to make a creamy sauce.  Sounds straight forward, but the devil is in the details.  Mixing in the pasta water needs to be done into a warmed bowl and slowly so as to get just the right consistency.
The results are worth it.  My favorite dish was the ravioli with zucchini flower sauce.  So rich!  Our son who ordered this was very unhappy about the prospects of having to share it, so we had to order another one.  The pasta with truffles was also quite good and the salads are delicious.  Skip the house wine and order something a little bit better, it was worth it. The service is swift and the wait staff were a lot of fun to interact with.  A great choice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Red Rooster Short Ribs

This is the dish that the chef Marcus Samuelsson made for President Obama when he visited the restaurant Red Rooster Harlem.  And what is good enough for Obama is most definitely good enough for us.

  • 8 (6-ounce) English-cut short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed, smashed and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef or chicken broth
  • ½ cup plum sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly grated horseradish, for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat meat dry with paper towels and season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat grapeseed oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add short ribs and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
  3. Add onion, carrot, celery, lemongrass, garlic and ginger to the pot. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Pour in wine and cook, stirring to dissolve any of the brown bits that may still be on the bottom of the pot. Add broth, plum sauce, soy sauce, thyme, parsley and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.
  4. Return short ribs to pot, along with any juices, cover and slide pot into oven. Braise until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.
  5. Transfer meat to a plate. Strain braising liquid into a fat separator. If you don't have a fat separator, use a ladle to skim the fat off the top of the braising liquid; then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
  6. Discard bay leaves and thyme stems and transfer vegetables to a food processor. Process vegetables until smooth, then add 1 1/2 cups of the defatted braising liquid to the processor and pulse to combine.
  7. Return sauce to Dutch oven and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add short ribs and turn to coat in the sauce; set aside until you’re ready to serve.  Make sure the sauce is thinned, and put ribs on top, sauce on the bottom, and reheat.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Central Intelligence (2016)

Weirdly, I am now a Duane Johnson fan.  I watched this on a recent transatlantic flight, which is a situation where I could be very forgiving about the quality of the movie.  No need in this case.  Johnson plays a guy who was a bit bullied in high school but now is a bad ass CIA agent who has gone rogue in order to figure out who within the agency has been selling secrets to the enemy.  He enlists the only person who was nice to him in high school, a guy who was Mr. Everything who is now a bored numbers guy. Together they form a team that prevails in the end.  It is funny, mixed with a little action and nothing objectionable.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Trajan's Roman Legacy

 The market that Trajan built in 112 AD is remarkable in and of itself, and I am sure it was a marvel in Trajan's time.  The Romans had been building with concrete since Nero erected his Golden Palace in 64 AD, after the great fire that decimated housing throughout the area around the Roman Forum.  Vespasian, the emperor who came out on top of the power struggle that followed Nero's forced suicide, literally drained the lake on Nero's property and built the Coliseum, also with concrete.  Vespasian literally obliterated the vestiges of a bad emperor.
Trajan was a go big or go home kind of guy.  Trajan's column, built as both a triumph and a funerary monument is enormous and detailed.  The column contains over 150 scenes with 2,500 individuals carved in a continuous historical relief up into the air.  The conquest of the Dacians brought lots of gold into Rome and with it he built a modern marketplace as well as a large forum and this column.  The market, built right into the hillside, was the first known modern mall.  Rome was a city of about a million people by Trajan's time, and the market offered shop fronts and office space to conduct business in a compact and central area.  It is a marvel, even now.  Trajan used the best architect of the day, a man named Apollodorus of Damascus, who left his mark on the ancient world.  This is a must see sight that may get left off your travel schedule in Rome.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ham with Cherry Port Sauce

Thanksgiving weekend was an orgy of food for us, which is saying something given that we had been in Rome the week before!
Ham is one of my favorite poet-turkey meals, and we served this with a traditional macaroni and cheese as well as non-traditional sides like eggplant with chickpeas and pomegranate molasses and roasted asparagus.

1 spiral-sliced, bone-in ham (7 to 10 pounds)
1 large oven bag (plastic)
3/4 cup ruby port
3/4 cup cherry preserves
1-1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. It is important that you do not unwrap your ham. Leave it fulled wrapped in plastic, but remove any outer wrapping (such as plastic mesh). Discard any glaze that comes with your ham, after reading the list of ingredients so that you understand how disgusting it would be to actually use it.
  2. Put wrapped ham in a large tub (or small ice chest) and fill hot tap water. Allow to sit for 45 minutes. Drain the water and fill with more hot tap water, and allow to sit for another 45 minutes. This will allow the ham to gently come up to temperature, and significantly reduce the amount of time that the ham spends in the oven.
  3. Set an oven rack to the bottom of your oven and pre-heat to 250-degrees. Unwrap the ham and remove the plastic disk covering the bone from the bottom of your ham. Put in an oven bag, and close the bag snugly over your ham. Put ham in a roasting pan (or Pyrex casserole) cut-side-down. Use a paring knife to make four 1″ slits in the top of the bag, which will prevent the bag from inflating (and popping) during baking.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes per pound (e.g. 11-pound ham took 110 minutes). The center of the ham should reach 100-degrees; measure only in spiral slices, not the unsliced top portion. Remember the ham was fully cooked at the factory, you are only re-heating it; not re-cooking it.
  5. With 20 minutes cooking time remaining, put small saucepan over medium burner and reduce 3/4 cup port to 3 tablespoons; about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue cooking over medium heat for 10 more minutes; until it reduces to 1-1/2 cup.
  6. Remove ham from oven, and increase your oven to 350-degrees. Cut the oven bag open and roll down the sides to that the ham is exposed, and brush the ham evenly with 1/3-cup of the glaze. Bake for 10 more minutes.
  7. Remove ham from oven bag, reserving the juices to loosen the glaze. Again, brush the ham evenly with another 1/3-cup of the glaze. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Add 1/2-to-3/4 cup of the ham juices to the remaining glaze. Place over medium burner until it becomes a thick sauce.
  9. Carve your ham, serving with the sauce passed separately.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hole in the Wall (2015)

This is maybe a little bit too much of an independent film to be absolutely entertaining, but it is a good concept that is competently conveyed.  The story is about an immigrant who has a wonderful salsa that he has brought from his homeland.  He and his sister come to the United States and open a small tacqueria that has a loyal following.  He dreams of expanding it, making something of himself through his food and his passion for flavor.  He stumbles a bit along the way, he is subverted, he makes some friends, he has a little bit of luck, and he works very hard.  He is honest and likable and not everyone is.  I feel that the basis of this is a pro-immigrant story, about what we have as a result of our immigrant culture that other places lack, and what may be undergoing a bit of undue criticism.  So in a way this is a perspective that can maybe be part of the solution.  Or maybe it is just about a guy trying to make his way.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Pervasive Harrassment of Women

Sadly, we will do anything to avoid talking about the public harassment of women.  It seems that no one really talks about men who touch women's genitals in public.  Until we all heard Donald Trump brag that he does it all the time and no one says anything about it at all.  Now we hear about it all the time, that now that he is the president elect that it appears that some men think this makes it okay to invade women's genitals.  And to talk about them sexually when they don't even know them.In the wake of Trump's recorded behavior, I have asked a lot of people if it has happened to them.  Well, it turns out that is true of a lot of women and they really pretty much don't talk about it.  It isn't only that he is rich and famous and powerful.  It appears that the casual and intrusive touching of women goes on silently, and many men feel they can do it.  So can something good come out of all this?  Can we now start talking about it, calling men out when they do it, and get some public support for the effort?  Because we are rapidly devolving and it is up to each and every one of us to prevent it from going further. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spaghetti Squash and Potato Gratin

We had this Thanksgiving weekend, as an alternative potato dish that incorporated some of the squash of the season (we are a family that had butternut squash and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving day and did not have a huge amount left over, so we do like our squash).  The dish really tastes like potatoes!

1  spaghetti squash
2 cups half and half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 pounds potatoes

Roast the squash.

Meanwhile, combine the cream, butter, garlic, thyme, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large saucepan. Peel the potatoes, then slice them paper thin on a mandoline, placing them in the cream mixture as you slice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, then scrape out the flesh with a fork into a medium bowl. Discard the skin and seeds.

Layer the bottom of the prepared baking dish with 1/2 the potatoes. Top with 1/2 the squash, then the remaining potatoes, then the remaining squash. Pour all the liquid from the potato mixture into the baking dish, and press the vegetables down to submerge. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan on top. Put the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden brown and a knife slides easily into the potatoes, about 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.