Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where Am I?


Yes, I inadvertently took a few days off. I will resume my posts tomorrow after I eat all of my Halloween candy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Slow Cooker

When I walked into the house tonight, I was greeted by the aroma of my dinner. No, G didn't cook tonight. Beef Stew simmered in the slow cooker all day.

I love my slow cooker. What a brilliant invention. I can be in class or at the library or at the car wash and guess what? I'm making my dinner at the same time.

This morning I seasoned some stew meat and browned it in a skillet. (I deglazed the pan with some port. Pretty much a household rule now.) Then, along with the beef, I added stock, tomato paste, spices and herbs, potatoes, carrots, onions, and peas. I gave it a quick stir and turned the slow cooker to low.

So after a hard day in the kitchen over a hot stove, I don't have to come home and stand in the kitchen over a hot stove.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Michael Clayton


We chose Clooney's latest effort for Tuesday night movie night and we were not disappointed.

Screenwriter Tony Gilroy makes his directorial debut with Michael Clayton. Who would've thought that a man who started his career with The Cutting Edge, a 1992 ice skating movie, would ultimately pen the Bourne trilogy and adult fare like Michael Clayton? Gilroy acquits himself well. The opening scenes grabbed me immediately--shots of the interior of law offices with narration from a character we don't even meet for another twenty minutes.

George Clooney heads a stellar cast as the title character, a seen-it-all former attorney who now acts as a fixer at a prestigious law firm. HIs latest problem involves lassoing in one of the firm's most successful lawyers, Arthur Edens, played by Tom Wilkinson (mark my words, a future Oscar nominee). Edens, a manic depressive, suddenly has a crisis of conscience while defending U/North, a chemical company accused of producing cancer-causing agents. The firm believes that Edens has stopped taking his medication and wants him committed, quickly and quietly. Michael Clayton's boss (the superb Sydney Pollack) sends him to keep a lid on the situation, but things become complicated. Actress/chameleon Tilda Swinton plays U/North's lead counsel who finds herself making some uncomfortable decisions. She doesn't trust Michael Clayton's ability to fix the problem so she takes matter into her own hands.

The storytelling is superb, the acting is top notch. Michael Clayton is a must-see.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Class Menu - Week Three

This week's menu:

Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo

Vegetable Cannelloni

Sea Scallops en Papillote

Shallow Poached Fillet

Pan Seared Salmon

Beurre Blanc

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

$5 Movie Night

I just discovered that the movie theater right around the corner is offering $5 movie nights every Tuesday. Has Christmas come early this year?

Which one should I see?

The Assassination of Jesse James
Gone Baby Gone
Rendition
Michael Clayton

Friday, October 19, 2007

Favorite Duets from my iPod

Seems like all of my fave duets are a little bit country-fied.

Funny How Time Slips Away - Al Green & Lyle Lovett
From a CD called Rhythm, Country & Blues released in 1994. Trisha Yearwood & Aaron Neville won the Grammy for I Fall to Pieces, but this gem from Green/Lovett has always been my preferred track. Very cool.

Waiting - Deana Carter & Dwight Yoakam
Deana & Dwight share vocals on a song that they co-wrote for Carter's I'm Just a Girl CD. Sort of a country rock ballad. I never would have put these two voices together, Dwight is loud and twangy, Deana is soft and breathy, but this song suits them.

It's Such a Small World - Rodney Crowell & Rosanne Cash
A duet from the formerly married duo off of Crowell's Grammy-winning Diamonds & Dirt (1988). Bittersweet and melodic. (I love these two artists. They're still out there making terrific music.)

My Kind of Woman, My Kind of Man - Vince Gill & Patty Loveless
Written by Gill and on his CD, The Key (one of his best). These two were born to sing together. They've always sung on each other records, but this is their only true duet. Pure and classic country. In a good way.

Jackson - Mandy Barnett & Chuck Mead
A track from Dressed In Black, a tribute to Johnny Cash. I'm a fan of Mead (lead singer for BR5-49), but Barnett is the star here. Not only does she have a beautiful voice, she truly catches the spirit of June Carter Cash and the song itself. Playful and spiteful and a worthy tribute.

Crying, Waiting, Hoping - Marty Stuart & Steve Earle
Another track from a compilation CD, this time honoring Buddy Holly (Not Fade Away-1996). I absolutely love this rockin' version. The raw guitar solo is a great start and a great intro for the impending raucousness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Deborah Kerr


Classic film actress Deborah Kerr died Tuesday in England. She was 86.

Kerr was nominated for an Oscar six times but never won. In 1994, the Academy presented her with a well-deserved honorary award. Possibly best known for her role in An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant (thanks to the plot of Sleepless in Seattle), Kerr's iconic moment in film was her racy beach scene with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity.

To honor Kerr, TCM is showing Eternity and Separate Tables Sunday night (10/21) starting at 8pm. Other Kerr films to catch:

Black Narcissus
The King and I
The End of the Affair
The Night of the Iguana
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Herbs











I was so proud of my homegrown herbs this year. Whenever I cooked, all I had to do was walk out the back door to find Italian parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil...

Probably because I know that herb season is at its end, I've gone herb crazy. Fresh, chopped rosemary on my homemade focaccia bread. Chives added to scrambled eggs. Earthy sage in my stuffing experiments. Herb infused butters. Batches of pesto to keep me going throughout the winter. Roasted chickens with sprigs of thyme inside and out. Chopped parsley as a garnish on every dish that heads to the dinner table.

I asked a couple of my wise cohorts about preserving my herbs. Now that I have this bounty, I don't want to squander it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fifth Inning

The Indians just scored seven runs in the fifth inning. Oh, the Red Sox? ZERO.

I'm clapping, I'm cheering. It's so strange to be a gleeful Cleveland sports fan.

(p.s.--The Sox did score three home runs, they still turned out to be losers. Ha!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Class Menu - Week Two

This week's assignments:

Consomme
(A strong, clear, clarified stock that is often served as the first course of French meals.)

Roast Chicken with Gravy
(I was assigned chicken; other students are roasting pork loin and lamb.)

Risotto

Veal Scallopini
Spaetzle

Roasted Tomato Coulis
(This will be the base tomato sauce for our homemade pastas next week.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Tryouts


After I typed the title of this post, I had this vision of a line of turkeys waiting to audition for me. But they'd perform badly on purpose because they really don't want the job, right?

The true subject today is that G & I are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I started my menu planning this week and tried out a couple of recipes for taste tests. I also don't want to make things for the very first time on Thanksgiving day (recipe for disaster anyone?)

I've made up my mind that I'll brine the turkey. Brining adds an infusion of flavor and keeps the meat moist during roasting. I brined a turkey breast last year and was happy with the results.

Stuffing is the true test for me. Of the entire meal, the stuffing is something I've made the least. I really want to succeed here. I tried a sourdough bread version with sausage and pears. I liked the taste, but G didn't expect so much sausage flavor. Should I try a cornbread version? Looks like we'll be eating stuffing once a week 'til the end of November.

I made a creamed corn gratin this weekend as well. It was topped with bacon and fried red onion rings. I liked it and it definitely looks impressive, but I'm not convinced that this is any better than an old fashioned corn casserole. I'm planning on making two vegetable sides, green beans with caramelized shallots and...corn? Carrots? Hmmm...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bob Dylan Concert Review

I thought I'd recreate my concert experience in my review.

Opener Amos Lee was impressive. His songs were memorable and his backup band was great. Elvis Costello performed solo. He came out on stage in an all black suit, trademark glasses, and silver sequined rock star shoes. He rocked out, hit the high notes and amused with his between-song-banter.

Bob Dylan djeirjcaj adskr; qoewiusldk af jdenew. sfajksf fjer adrjel fkjsot josad lwq'lc c kasdoep kncncoweirn wjhcl keio z,cn ksjfu. wekdjf kj joaiesrl jnckel l,am kdfl Everybody Must Get Stoned. safew adjewp fkjdsli jfrnnt. wje,rlsiw kh ljho jdsfoamc,e e ekgj fjl;b jn,cwptut gjl. thcpem ajt jeoulgm,sfn ewhtljllkdie dmclle. ikk dkrkjeppwq, lc.bnibbblan, kdjdjktd. telkw.cndkslp sjtj kth sktosj jdkl.

jlaf fjslauwoeir, oafk hrwqpcbna dhgk thewosc,. algjljkda,nc with the Memphis blues again. thweroizvc,d aghmc,na drqo jfadsjf hthtw thekzopc dnckmle afjwe jakuriwaad fjdlkt jssk kuyowrmc,n klarj.b.oppppp.

(My apologies to diehard Dylan fans. I just couldn't resist.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Radio Everywhere

Our local radio station, 107.1, is broadcasting live from various coffee shop locations around town every Friday. I haven't been able to make it to a remote until today.

I don't have many kind words for radio these days. In the car, I'm listening to CDs. At home, it's homemade playlists via the iPod. But 107.1 is an exception. The station plays a multitude of artists (not just the same fifteen or twenty over and over again). The morning DJ, Martin Bandyke, is a cool guy and after today, he's my new best friend.

I poured myself a cup of coffee (autumn spice blend for $1.07, of course), found a seat, and watched the sun come up. I could hardly hear the radio broadcast because the place was buzzing with customers. Lots of people hurrying in and out, lots of singles working on laptops, and a really cute group of five older women, in jogging suits, drinking beverages topped with whipped cream in tall glasses.

On a commercial break, I sauntered up to say good morning to Martin. I thought I'd walk away with a mug or a bumper sticker. Bob Dylan's in town tonight for a concert and Martin's a big fan so I brought that up in the conversation. Next thing I knew, Martin asked me if I knew the name of the new film about Dylan (in which he's portrayed by six different actors). Um, Martin, I believe the answer is, I'm Not There.

All of a sudden, I'm holding two tickets to the concert. Tonight. Bob Dylan with special guests Elvis Costello and Amos Lee.

Whoa.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Zing Bar

I've neglected writing at length about Zingerman's, the 25-year old deli here in Ann Arbor. It's a foodie paradise and worthy of many posts.

Last night I found a gift from G when I arrived home from class--a new Zing candy bar. There's a guy named Charlie Frank who has started making candy bars at Zingerman's. His previous creations were the Zzang! Original (honey nougat, caramel, peanuts) and the Cashew Cow (roasted cashews, cashew brittle, puffed rice, milk chocolate). The new bar, What the Fudge!, is made of malted milk cream fondant, milk chocolate fudge, and muscavedo brown sugar caramel. All of the candy bars are hand dipped in Ecuadorian dark chocolate.

Two words: stocking stuffer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Intro to Food Tech

New class, new chef. We actually get to cook in this class. Hallelujah.

Each week we'll have a menu assigned to us. This week the menu includes braised short ribs, roasted pumpkin soup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, vegetable medley, and turkey fricassee. Each student has his/her own station in the kitchen though and works independently.

The biggest challenge so far is gathering the ingredients. As new students, we don't really know where to find anything. "Have you seen the onions?" "Where can I find a lemon?" "Bay leaves? Anyone?"

Being prepared to cook is a Big Thing. Or in chef speak: "Mise en place!" Yesterday we chopped onions, carrots, and celery, roasted the pumpkin, and measured out wine, stock, and butter. Today we'll cook soup, ribs, and veggies and prep for tomorrow's menu items.

My new techniques are definitely spilling over into home life. After a dinner of leftovers last night, I prepped food for tonight's dinner--roasted chicken with fennel and apple hash.

Instead of feeling exhausted after class, I felt exhilarated. No more butchery. I saw the new butchery students across the hall yesterday. I took a second and felt sorry for those poor souls. And then I skipped back to my station with a big smile on my face to roast my pumpkin.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Grilled Steak Sandwiches


I found this great recipe for grilled flank steak sandwiches. Sunday night, I brushed the steak with Dijon mustard and marinated it in red wine. Once grilled, I thinly sliced the steak and topped it with fontina cheese, lettuce, and homemade garlic thyme aioli.

My proudest achievement though was the bread. I'm a firm believer that the key to a great sandwich is the bread and our dinner proved it. The grilled steak sandwiches called for rosemary focaccia. I felt ambitious, I had envelopes of yeast in the cupboard, so I made the focaccia myself. It was a thing of beauty.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Zodiac



I have been waiting to see this film all year. I finally picked up the DVD from the library, but the baseball playoffs have distracted me from my movie watching.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning and couldn't fall back to sleep so I grabbed my pillow, headed for the couch, and started watching Zodiac. One hundred fifty-seven minutes later, I was still glued to the TV. What a story. What a script. What a cast.

David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room) has made a masterpiece. Mark Ruffalo plays Dave Toschi, the San Francisco police detective in charge of the investigation into the late 1960s/early 1970s murders by the Zodiac killer. Robert Downey Jr. is the San Francisco Chronicle reporter who tracked the case and Jake Gyllenhaal is the cartoonist (!) for the Chronicle who eventually became immersed in his own amateur investigation.

The Zodiac killer emerged in the late sixties in Northern California. He sent letters to the press and included cryptograms, most of which have never been solved. The Zodiac killer was never apprehended.

Fincher's film essentially focuses on obsession. The killer is obsessed with murdering his victims, toying with the police and finding some sort of perverse fame. The men who investigate the Zodiac killer are equally obsessed with learning the killer's identity and discovering his motives.

Frightening and fascinating, Zodiac is one of the best films of the year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Go Tribe!

Can't post today...biting my nails as I watch the Indians vs. the Yankees.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cider and Doughnuts and Dessert


I met my mom this morning for our annual cider mill stop. Indian summer is here so Mom & I met right when the mill opened. Who wants hot cider when it's eighty-five degrees outside?

We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed the cider, cinnamon doughnuts, and lots of catching up. We left with the usual bounty--apples, pumpkins for the front porch and a caramel apple walnut pie for Mom and pseudo Pop.

After some shopping, we answered our appetites by stopping by a small cafe named after the The French Laundry in CA. Brilliant Idea #1: order one large sandwich for the two of us to share. (#28-turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese, pesto on French farm bread) Brilliant Idea #2: Share a dessert. Hmmm...no chocolate for Mom, no cheesecake for me...double crust raspberry pie with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream was the answer. It was photo-worthy.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Foreign Films

I think I saw my first foreign films in high school French class. We screened Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) as well as Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and its sequel, Manon of the Spring (1986). Those films mesmerized me.

As an adult, I've tried to keep up with the acclaimed foreign films that I've heard about from Siskel, Ebert, and Roeper. I've discovered Amelie, Hero, Run Lola Run, Monsoon Wedding, the early films of Ang Lee and the sublimely colorful world of Pedro Almodovar.

Today I watched The Lives of Others, the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The film takes place in 1984 East Berlin and follows the lives of a playwright, his actress girlfriend, and the Stasi agent (secret policeman) assigned to monitor their lives and work. It's a quiet thriller and heartbreaking character piece; I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Butchery Class Final(ly Over)


Today is my final butchery class. I'm a bit teary-eyed. No more soaking my chef jacket each night to get rid of the, um, stains. No more panic attacks while trimming a $30/pound beef tenderloin. No more fish guts.

I really did learn a lot and have more skills in the kitchen than ever before. But boy, oh boy, the things I've seen.

My most memorable moments:

Chef turned to me one day and said, "There's some mackerel in the sink over there. It needs to be gutted and filleted." I walked slowly to the sink, approaching it unexcitedly, and sure enough, there were mackerel in there. Four whole mackerel that were probably enjoying a leisurely swim the day before.

I became known as the Saw Lady in class. After a demo of butchering a leg of lamb, Chef said, "OK, who's next? You?" He handed me the hacksaw (yes, I said hacksaw) and told me to go for it. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I'd ever held a saw in my hand. I did so well, I got applause. The next day, Chef came over to my station and told me that he had nightmares of me and my saw.

After taking attendance one afternoon, Chef told me and another girl to go to the cooler and get the cart with the pig on it. I remained where I was and chuckled. Chef said, "No, I'm serious." We walked down to the cooler and sure enough, there was a five-tier cart with four sides of pig. I'm talking someone took two pigs and cut them straight down the middle. Averting our eyes, my fellow student and I pushed the cart down the hall. Only when we'd placed the cart in the classroom and returned to our stations did I realize that the pigs' heads were STILL ON THE CART!

And then, Chef said, "Saw Lady, you're up."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

National Dessert Month

October is, yes, National Dessert Month. Doesn't that make you happy even though you could've had dessert every day in September?

I confess that I am not a dessert monger. I never save room for dessert. I'm always so eager for my entree that I gobble it up and then realize, oh yeah, there's probably a dessert menu.

Another reason that dessert and I have not developed a satisfying relationship is that I usually head for the salty snacks if I crave a little something. Put some kind of dip (onion, vegetable, dill, cheese...it really doesn't matter what) in front of me and I will find a way to eat it as fast as humanly possible. Popcorn? Pretzels? I'm there.

So in honor of Dessert Month, I think I will stretch myself and try to partake of some desserts.

Quick brainstorming: Apple pie...pound cake with lemon curd and raspberries...chocolate tart...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

UMMA


The University of Michigan Art Museum is closed for remodeling. In the meantime, the museum has rented some space near campus to host small exhibits. G & I are members so whenever the exhibits change, we get to attend an opening night cocktail party.

The space is intimate and there's live music, either a band or a DJ. The hors d'oeuvres are delicious (tonight we had fresh mozzarella with tapenade on French bread and a yummy Chinese chicken salad in a flaky pastry cone) and the wine is everflowing.

I feel like my hipness quotient skyrockets when I go to these events. I wear a cute outfit, hold my glass of chardonnay, my napkin carrying the crumbs of my last appetizer, and I talk about shadows and light and composition. I love it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Banned Books Week Sept. 29-Oct. 6

According to the American Library Association, Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

Every year there are attempts to remove books from library shelves and schools. Per the ALA, 42 of 100 books recognized as the best novels of the 20th century have been challenged or banned.

Here's a brief list of recognizable titles that have been challenged:

The Great Gatsby
The Lord of the Flies
Catcher in the Rye
The Call of the Wild
In Cold Blood
The Jungle
The Handmaid's Tale
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn