Friday, February 10, 2006

Store Wars

This little video about organic food is so totally cute and hilarious

Click here or on the picture to be taken to the video.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup: Recipe

Getting a really rich broth is key to the success of this classic French soup. That's not always easy to do with veggie broth, but I think I've come pretty close. Mine uses a combination of vegetable broth, wine, butter, miso, mushroom soy sauce and nutritional yeast.

There's not much work to the recipe, but it does take a long time to cook the onions slowly, in the right way. The flavors just get better over time, so it's a good idea to make the soup a day or two in advance.

To make the recipe vegan-friendly: substitute equivalent amounts of olive oil for the butter and soy cheese for the cheese. You can make it lower in fat by decreasing the amount of butter and cheese: just don't tell me about it.

French Onion Soup

8 large onions (or equivalent, ie 10 medium, 12 small, etc)
6 ounces butter
2 quarts of the best vegetable broth you can get your hands on
1/2 cup dark miso

1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp mushroom soy sauce
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Stale loaf of good, crusty Euro-style bread, such as French baguette
Lots of cheese--such as Gruyere, Comte, Emmanthaler or plain old Swiss--for putting on top
Oven-proof bowls

1. Peel and thinly slice the onions.

2. In a big soup pot, melt the butter over very low heat.

3. Keeping the heat very low, cook the onions partially covered for five or six hours, stirring occasionally. At the end they will be totally soft, very light brown and smell incredible.

4. Throw the broth, miso, red wine, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast into the soup.

5. At this point you can let the soup stand for a day or two to let the flavors marry. (Flavors can marry, and we can't?!!!) Put the soup in the fridge once it's cool.

6. When you're ready to serve, heat the soup, slowly bringing it to a boil. Taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Preheat your broiler to its highest setting. Slice the cheese, so that there's a LOT to put on the top of each bowl. You're trying to make a little crust of cheese up there. (Hmmm. Crust of cheese. That doesn't sound good, but--trust me--it is.)

8. Put a piece of bread in each soup bowl. Ladel the soup over the bread, and then lay the slices of cheese on top of the soup.

9. Place the soup bowls on a baking tray and then slide them under the broiler. Keep them there until the cheese on top is bubbling and has picked up some brown spots. Remove from the oven and let sit for a minute or two. Use hot pads to put the bowls on plates and serve.

Monsieur Fromage dit, "C'est si bon!!"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fosse: DVD review

All together now... from the top, people... With jazz-hands!

The DVD Fosse (2002) is a record of the recent Broadway show of the same name, a tribute to the legendary choreographer Bob Fosse. As with any such recording of a live show, there's a bit of immediacy and intimacy--particularly important when it comes to dance--that's lost.

I have mixed feelings about musicals, too. I suppose deep down I love them, but there's something about them that makes me deeply uncomfortable. I always feel embarassed when people start dancing or break out into song (even if I'm just sitting in my own living room watching them on the screen I can start to blush). And though my tendency is to sit back and try to enjoy the spectacle, I can't always quiet the suspiscion that there is something cretinous, or even cretinizing, about watching people who are looking excited and smiling broadly, shimmying across the stage with a bowler and cane to the tune of "Hey, Big Spender" or whatever.

Nonetheless, I was slowly won over by the movie. Fosse was a real artist. As one of the dancers says during the interviews that appear between the acts, his work was full of paradoxes: lightness and weight, elegance and earthiness, jerkiness and fluidity. Some of the numbers, taken out of context of narrative, seem almost avant-garde. I also admired the way he wasn't afraid to use stillness and silence--as opposed to the noise and commotion we associate with most Broadway shows--for dramatic effect. A line of dancers whispering a verse of a song, arranged in a tableau or simply rotating one foot at the ankle or sitting in parlor chairs backwards.

Fosse's material didn't always match his talents: a few of the numbers lifted from the late 70s show Dancin' I thought were pretty weak, at least musically. At three acts, the DVD may be a bit too long. (It's a good one to have playing while you're doing something else, though.) And there's not a lot here that's modest or subdued, which is usually how I like things. (The nature of the beast, I suppose.) But despite its limitations, the DVD record of the show is worth a look. Fosse's creativity seemed pretty prodigious, and like all great artists, he made it look easy and totally natural.

FilmStocker Rating: B-

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sparkling Vodka Lemonade: Recipe

Spring comes early to Atlanta. Sadly, we're not there yet, but Jeff said he saw some Canadian geese flying back north today. And the other day when we were on the traffic island in front of our building harvesting ginkgo nuts (Mary, don't ask) he said he saw a dandelion.

What better way to get ready to welcome the spring than to drink one of these sparkling lemonades?

For a non-alcoholic kid's version, just skip the vodka.

I'm a purist when it comes to vodka, but if you want to try some of the flavored types then the citrus, cherry, or other fruit flavored vodka would probably go well in this recipe.

Sparkling Vodka Lemonade

1 shot (1.5 ounces) quality vodka
2 shots (3 ounces) lemonade

Club soda or sparkling

Fill a tall glass with ice, then pour in the vodka and lemonade. Fill the remainder of the glass with the club soda. Garnish with a lemon slice or mint sprig.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Castle in the Sky: DVD Review

Castle in the Sky (1986) is an early animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, who later went on to create the films that made more of a mark in the international market, including Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and, of course, Spirited Away.

Castle in the Sky shares some the of the features of those films: incredible animation; inventive storyline; detailed, invented worlds; an environmental theme; and a more complicated conception of good and evil than is usually seen in most animated kid's films.

The film tells the story Sheeta, a girl who mysteriously falls from the sky, into the arms of Pazu, a young apprentice at a mine. She's lost a great deal of her memory, but she knows she has to find the legendary floating kingdom of Laputa--an idea which also obsessed Pazu's father--and that it's somehow related to the powerfully magic pendant she wears around her neck. Pazu helps Sheeta to escape from a gang of pirates and the military, who are also after the pendant as a way to get to Laputa.

The animation and artistic conceptions--some of the flying machines and the castle in the sky itself--are very impressive, but Japanese anime, and cartoons in general, have a sort of sameness about them. The main characters are always drawn in the same style and the color is filled in in the exact same way, just as most American animated films are done in the Disney style. You'd never see an animated feature film in which the characters resemble Aubrey Beardsley pen-and-ink drawings, for instance, or Matisse paper cutouts or anything substantially different from what's been put forward as the Japanese and American styles. I'm not sure whay that is: maybe it has to do with the way the films are put together. Perhaps variations in style are difficult.

I thought the film was a little too violent. I was watching with very young kids: they didn't mind, of course, but to my tastes, there seemed to be a few too many explosions and fist-fights for a family film.

But the film's inventiveness and energy are almost endless. There are enough new and thought-provoking and interesting (and cool) ideas to keep kids (and adults, too!) thoroughly entertained.

FilmStocker Rating: B

Monday, February 06, 2006

Chocolate Fondue: Recipe

Here's a surprisingly easy vegetarian dessert. Vegans can substitute soy milk for the cream and milk.

You can make the selection of things to dip into the fondue as simple or as complicated as you'd like. Just a few strawberries are great, but you can also have on hand: plain, unfrosted sponge cake, pound cake or butter cake cut into cubes; chocolate chip, sugar or peanut butter cookies cut into quarters; sliced kiwi fruit; sliced mango, cantaloupe, apple, orange, banana, papaya, pineapple. Everything goes great with chocolate.

You can use any chocolate chips (or equivalent amount of chopped or grated bittersweet, semisweet or milk chocolate), but my favorite is Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Chocolate Chips.

Chocolate Fondue

1 cup half-and-half (or 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup milk)

3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter
8 ounces chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

1. Bring the half-and-hald, sugar and butter to a rolling boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and throw in the chocolate chips.

2. Let stand for one minute, then stir in the vanilla with a whisk. Continue stirring until smooth. Transfer to your fondue set-up. Enjoy!

The sauce can be cooled, stored for up to two weeks and reheated later.