Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Karhi" Indian Yogurt Soup: Recipe

Karhi is an Indian dish made from spiced yogurt, usually served with rice. It's not often seen here, either in Indian restaurants or on American tables... And that's a shame. It's inexpensive, simple to make, nutritious and, most importantly, very delicious.

Kahris really run the gamut, from tangy to sweet, from a thick, almost pudding-like consistency to creamy soup, depending on the whim of the chef, and more importantly, the regional style.

My personal favorite is a spicy, tangy soup, which is what I've offered in this recipe. The recipe calls for chickpea flour which is available at Indian--and sometimes Middle Eastern--groceries.

The recipe is 100 percent vegetarian. A comparable vegan version might be possible with soy yogurt, but I have never tried it. (If anyone gives it a shot, let me know how it comes out!)

Creamy Yogurt Karhi

5 tablespoons chickpea flour, sifted
2 3/4 cups water
2 cups high-quality organic plain yogurt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
6-8 curry leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
3 Tbsp ghee, butter or oil
1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1-2 tsp crushed dried red chili flakes or to taste
Salt to taste

1. Put the sifted chickpea flour in a large bowl. Whisk in the water until the flour is totally dissolved.

2. Now whisk in the yogurt, and then pour the mixture in to a soup pot. Add the cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, turmeric, curry leaves and half the coriander.

4. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. In a frying pan, heat the butter, ghee or oil over medium heat. When it's hot add the red pepper and cumin seeds and fry until the seeds are brown. Stir into the soup.

6. Salt the soup to taste and add the remaining coriander, reserving a pinch to sprinkle on top of each serving.

7. At this point some chefs "mix it up" with whatever they have on hand.. stirring into the soup a little kofta (spicy fried dumplings of chickpea flour or vegetables); sauteed vegetables; bean sprouts; roasted root vegetables. But I think it's great on its own, simply ladled over fresh Basmati rice.

Brokeback Mountain: The Lego Version

Every so often a film comes along that touches audiences in such a way that they recreate the most memorable scenes with Legos.

I guess this guy has a lot of time on his hands. And a lot of Legos. And he uses them to recreate scenes from Brokeback Mountain.

More Legos here.

By the way: If you haven't gotten a chance to read Annie Proulx's excellent short story "Brokeback Mountain" on which the movie is based, you really should. It's posted here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Le Parkour: A Film Stock Special

Is it just me or are the Olympics especially boring this year?

Those phony "guts and glory" athlete profiles that NBC has included as part of its spotty, fragmented coverage of the games are nauseating. And so many of the athletes they've been promoting have bombed or acted deplorably.

That's why I was so excited to discover my new favorite spectator sport on the Internet a few weeks ago. You can't really see it on your TV much yet (Gil Scott Heron was right), but it's widely available on the Internet.

It's called Le Parkour and it's a new sport that developed in the concrete canyons and deserted urban structures of the modern housing projects on the outskirts of Paris and quickly spread to other similar places in Europe and throughout the world.

It's part gymnastics, part martial arts, part performance art, part modern dance, part philosophy. The basic idea is that the human being should decide where he/she would like to go and not be guided by modern concrete and metal barriers. The object of Le Parkour--or l'art du deplacement as they say--is to overcome such barriers as quickly, as elegantly and as gracefully as possible. It's way interesting and totally thrilling to watch. (It doesn't hurt, either, that most of the great traceurs, as practitioners of Parkour are called, are totally gorgeous, even standing still).

If you're as bored with the Olympics as I've been, watch some really thrilling sport with our special Film Stock ParkourVision below.
(The video may take a sec to load. If your connection is slow hit pause and give it a few moments to load the video before hitting play again.)

For more Parkour videos go here.

Or read about the sport at this site.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dogville: DVD Review

I don't usually like director Lars Von Trier's film, and I almost always loathe Nicole Kidman (I think she ruins just about every film she's in) which is why I was so surprised to find that I liked Dogville (2003) so much.

Dogville tells the story of Grace, played by Kidman, a woman on the run from the mob who takes shelter in a small, poor town in the mountains. Slowly, Grace is able to get past the town's initial suspiscion of her and win them over by working for them in exchange for keeping her hidden, but as the mob, the police and the FBI circle in closer, the townspeople become crueler and demand more work until she's practically a broken slave.

The film was made entirely on a bare sound stage, suggesting the play "Our Town," or an any-town. The setting of "small, isolated town in the American mountains" is typically bathed in so much sentimentality and nostalgia it's practically pornographic. Von Trier removes everything-- walls, mountains, trees--so all we have left is the human interaction, which is the focus here. And the film pretty much crushes any notion of sentiment or nostalgia (some Hummel figurines are literally smashed midway through the film).

Nicole Kidman was great here, though I usually don't like her at all. She delivered some surprisingly well-considered line-readings, that also--unlike her usual breathy, self-conscious, actorly delivery--seemed perfectly natural, too. The film rests on her shoulders, and she carries the rather difficult emotional transition and a surprise ending very well.

I liked the twist at the end, but Grace's final decision takes too long and seems too talky: it didn't seem like it should have been that way. Maybe with a second viewing I'd understand it better. I also thought that the pictures and song played over the final credits were a mistake in tone, although I do love David Bowie.

When I was watching the film, I thought for sure that Von Trier had based the script on an American literary novel, maybe something that had come out in the 90s. I was surprised at the end credits when I was looking for the author to see that Von Trier wrote and directed it. He's pretty talented, that Von Trier.

Dogville is three hours. It's so good it doesn't seem that long, but that's still pretty long. Fortunately, the film is divided up into "chapters" which are divided by titles so it would be easy to break your viewing of the film up into several evenings.

The film was originaly released in the McCarthy era of the mid-1950s, and it was accused of being "anti-American." Just kidding. The film came out just a few years ago, released into the PRESENT nightmare, though today's nightmare has elements of yesterday's. The movie was roundly accused by film critics as being "anti-American." That accusation is beneath mention, other than to say that those film critics should know better than to engage in that sort of nonsense.

It may be too early to say, but I think Dogville will one day be viewed as a foolishly-overlooked classic.

FilmStocker Rating: B+