Category Archives: Film

Minestrone Soup | “Moonstruck”

by Blake

New York in the 80’s seems to be like the New York of today, except a little dirtier, more Italians, and fewer minorities. Personally, I feel as though Hollywood just doesn’t make old Italian people like they used to. In fact, this movie is like a celebration of Italian New York, complete with food, from start to finish. The movie even opens with Dean Martin’s That’s Amorewhich you have definitely heard. My actual favorite food seen in the film was the Egg-In-The-Hole being made by the best Greek-playing-Italian Olympia Dukakis, but is really too simple to require a recipe, right?

breakfast

Awesome.

Cher is Loretta Castorini, a 37-year-old widow who looks 26 (even with gray hair) because Cher ages backward, very very slowly and who lives with her parents in an area of Brooklyn with no cars and no minorities. Her fiancé, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) flies to Sicily right after proposing to Loretta in a restaurant.  But he wants his angry, estranged brother Ronny Cammareri (Nic Cage, who appears to work as a coal shoveler at Cammareri Brothers Bakery in Brooklyn) to attend, and asks Loretta to get him there while he’s away.

The scene where Cher goes to the bakery to convince Ronny to come to the wedding contains what might be the first over-the-top Nic Cage speech scene in film history, a harbinger of the Nic Cage to come, the Nic Cage we all know and love. I would have checked, but it’s been a long time since I saw Raising Arizona and we all know what happens when you watch too many Nic Cage films.

So, Spoiler Alert: How awesome would it be for a strange woman to show up at your job, tell you she’s marrying your brother and then cook you a medium rare steak? Beautiful Cher is having dinner with Raising Arizona Nicolas Cage. And it becomes exactly the kind of relationship beginning you’d expect from a Nic Cage baker character with a wooden hand. After not nearly enough scotch to make me believe Ronny could just get a woman like Cher into bed after a steak and conversation, especially when she’s marrying his brother, I had to tweet my assertion to the world:

No way does Cher (seen here):

Cher

Fall for Raising Arizona-level Nic Cage:

Cage

Cher tweeted back at me, which was awesome. Then her fans started to, which was overwhelming. They’re pretty big fans of Nic Cage in this movie. So you decide the feasibility of this romance. In my opinion, it must have been one hell of a moon that night.

And it was. The day after Loretta meets Ronny, she’s doing her rounds as a bookkeeper at her uncle’s deli, where he asks her about the moon. The moon got into everyone the night before, apparently. As she goes, her uncle, walking off, yells to the back: “Hey Frankie! Make me a bowl of Minestrone!” Minestrone is what you eat when you’re in love.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 8.58.47 PM

Or when you’re having dinner with Frasier’s dad.

So let’s start this soup which celebrates love, Minestrone is not going to choke a pig, but its a great way to start a meal that could.
Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup carrots, scrubbed, 1/4-inch dice
1 cup onions, 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 quart water
1 cup plum tomatoes, diced
8 ounces fresh pasta
1 cup zucchini, diced and blanched
1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach
Fresh cracked pepper

Garnish
Grated cheese (such as Parmesan or Romano)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into little scraps

IMG_1671

I grow my own basil, and so should everyone else.

 

* If you don’t have white wine on hand, chicken or vegetable stock will do in a pinch!

Instructions

• In a large saucepan, heat olive oil for 1 minute on medium-high.

• Add  carrots and sauté for 1 minute.

• Add the onions and sauté for 1 additional minute before adding the garlic, celery, and rosemary.

• Sauté this mixture for 5 minutes, or until the ingredients are caramelized.

• Add the white wine and bay leaf, bring to a boil, and add the water and tomatoes.

IMG_1682

• Bring to a boil, add the pasta, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked.

• Remove the pan from the heat, fish out the bay leaf, and swirl in the zucchini and spinach.

• Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

• Call Frasier’s Dad out for being too old to sleep with college girls and/or enjoy the zest love brought to your life.

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FYI – Cammareri Brothers bakery at Henry and Sackett Streets in Brooklyn still open!

 

 

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Shark’s Fin Soup | “Clue: The Movie”

by Blake Stilwell, in the kitchen, with the knife.

Long before Charles Carson taught me what being a butler really meant, I learned that the Butler buttles. He is the head of the Kitchen and Dining Room and likes to keep the kitchen “tidy.” In 1985’s Clue: The Movie, that role is played by Tim Curry in what is in my opinion his best role ever, and Rocky Horror fans can think of that what they like.

So can Stephen King.

So can Stephen King.

Clue might be the first movie based on a board game (or perhaps… the only one that isn’t unwatchably horrible), Tim Curry plays Wadsworth, the most charming butler since Irene hired Godfrey. Wadsworth gathers a group of seemingly unrelated guests to dinner. Their only common element is they all received a letter. Which read:

“It will be to your advantage to be present on this date because a Mr. Boddy will bring to an end a certain long-standing confidential and painful financial liability.”

This letter from “A friend” was read to the guests over dinner, a dinner that included Monkey’s Brains (Mrs. Peacock’s favorite) and a delicious shark’s fin soup. While researching this article, I found what looks like a great recipe for the soup from a 1982 New York Times article. But as I further researched the dish, I became a little bit worried about recommending it to people to actually eat.

Shark’s Fin Soup is  made from the stock of a shark’s fin. But since the shark fin itself has very little flavor, especially for a stock, it is usually helped along with chicken stock. The fin is more for texture than flavor. But it is still seen as a delicacy and can cost upwards of $80-$100 per bowl. If that wasn’t enough, shark fishermen actually catch sharks just for their fins and leave the rest of the carcass. Moreover, shark fins contain a LOT of mercury, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and other toxins. FDA studies show almost 80% of sharks fins contain significant levels dangerous substances that cause Alzheimer’s and impotence (which sucks, because so many cultures think it’s and aphrodisiac.) To make a long story short (TOO LATE), Shark’s Fin Soup just isn’t that good for you or for sharks. We’ll give Clue a pass because it was set in 1954, but for us, we’re gonna need something better.

Lucky for us, supernaturally gifted and nationally acclaimed Chef Peter Pahk concocted a sustainable Faux Shark Fin Soup recipe that he (rightly) claims is better than the real thing. Because arsenic is a terrible soup ingredient.

Dying at a dinner party wrecks everything.

Dying at a dinner party wrecks everything.

Be advised: This recipe require 4 hours of soaking the ingredients. And that is not a red herring.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce Chinese black mushrooms (shitake)
  • 8-10 pieces of dried tree ear mushrooms
  • 2 ounces cellophane noodles
  • 2 ounces skinless raw chicken breast
  • 2 ounces lean raw pork
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • Dash of sesame oil
  • White pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

Soak the black mushrooms, tree ear mushrooms and cellophane noodles separately in hot water for 4 hours until they soften. Drain well.

IMG_2219

Remove the hard stems of the black mushrooms (you can save them to cook with other Chinese soups) and cut the remaining pieces into small strips. Chop the tree ear mushrooms into small pieces and cut the cellophane noodles into 1-inch pieces with scissors. Set aside.

Slice the chicken breast and pork into thin strips.

Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the chicken, pork, black and tree ear mushrooms, and cook until all ingredients are cooked through and softened. Add the cellophane noodles, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and salt to taste.

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to make a thick slurry. Return the soup to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and beaten egg and mix well. Remove from heat and serve in small bowls. Serves six.

IMG_2229

Besides making the song “Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom” and “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” remind me of murder and blackmail, Clue gave me a what is probably the biggest influence on my sense of humor and timing it was one of the best comedies of the 1980’s and maybe of all time and I almost felt bad for Lee Ving (Mr. Boddy), being included in a cast of comedy legends that included Madeline Kahn (Mrs White), Christopher Lloyd (Prof. Plum), Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Martin Mull (Col. Mustard) and Leslie Ann Warren (Miss Scarlet), not to mention the legendary Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock) and oh MY this soup’s delicious isn’t it?

But really, it is one of the best soups I’ve ever made or eaten. This is one dish where the quality of the recipe really lives up to the quality of the movie, even though Clue had to add some characters to the game to smooth the plot of the movie (FYI – Mr. Boddy is a real character. He’s the game’s murder victim). Though Wadsworth, the cook, and Yvette are not in the game, their inclusion is both necessary and hilarious.

You might agree.

You might agree.

Can I interest anyone in fruit or dessert?

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A Special, Secret Sandwich | “Dave”

By Blake Stilwell

Midnight snacking. We all do it. Or… we WANT to do it. Most of us are unfortunately limited to our meager refrigerators, woefully underprepared for any cravings we have in the middle of the night.

I disappoint myself constantly.

I disappoint myself constantly.

Can you imagine the unbelievable snacking capability and access to material the President of the United States must have? Obama could have anything he wants at any time. This is perhaps the most incredible power with which any head of state could be entrusted. I know I could not be trusted with this power.

taftbuffalo

Neither could William Howard Taft.

If I had 24-7 access to free hot waffles, I would also be big enough to get stuck in the White House bathtub. In Ivan Reitman’s (remember him?) 1993 comedy Dave, Dave Kovic showed a little more restraint. Dave (Kevin Kline) had just been hired to be a stand-in for President Bill Mitchell (also Kevin Kline), who looks exactly like him. Unfortunately, the President had a stroke and the country needs Dave to sit in for a while in this charming, heartwarming story of pre-9/11 White House antics. It was almost as charming as President Clinton playing Battleship against Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton in the White House Situation Room. Were the 1990’s great or what?

So he spends days at a time preparing for this new job (to put it lightly). Eventually, Dave takes a time out from learning how the American government works to make a late-night sandwich, sharing half with his Secret Service bodyguard, played by Ving Rhames, who would probably look nice in a sweater.

Dave later shares a sandwich with First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) and tells her the sandwich is both very special and a secret.

The unanswered question here is why I assume the two sandwiches are the same, and thus important. I am of the opinion this must be the same sandwich because Dave is going through a very stressful situation at both points in the movie (no spoilers). In order to comfort himself late at night, I assume he makes this special sandwich. I think he has no problem making the sandwich in front of the Secret Service agent because Dave probably assumed the USSS could pretty much be trusted to take care of Presidential secrets. Luckily for us, we are privy to the secret by virtue of two distinct shots of the sandwich being made:

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Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 11.17.04 PM

There you have it, a very special, secret sandwich. And considering the size of the paper bag Dave carries out from the Deli and the comment Ellen makes about how much food he’s packing, I think it’s safe to assume he made her one of these guys. Based on what we see in the film…

Ingredients:
Lemon Wedges (for the juice)
Cucumber
Turkey
Tomato
Pickles
Shredded Carrot
Olives (stuffed with pimento)
Pickles
Mustard
Mayo
Leaf Lettuce
Provolone Cheese
Ham
Cheddar Cheese

Slap these on a Sub Roll and you’ve got yourself the President of Sandwiches. Perfect for any social situation: football games, parties, or chatting late night with the Secret Service agent assigned to you while you’re pretending to be the President of the United States while the real President recovers from a stroke he had while cheating on his wife with a White House secretary. The usual things.

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Hail to the Chief, he’s the one we all say hail to.

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Pasta Puttanesca | “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Pasta Puttanesca ("Whore Pasta") was named for the prostitutes who cooked this cheap, quick meal between clients.

Pasta Puttanesca (“Whore Pasta”) was named for the prostitutes who cooked this cheap, quick meal between clients.

The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket, who is actually Daniel Handler.

The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket, the pen name of Daniel Handler.

By Katrina Tulloch

I first read about Pasta Puttanesca in one of my favorite childhood books, “The Bad Beginning” from the The Series of Unfortunate Events. This series was my addiction for two preteen years. I collected 11 of the 13 books in the series, until “The Penultimate Peril” and “The End” came out. They picked the worst possible colors for those book spines and I wasn’t about to spend my allowance on a terrible turquoise/burnt sienna clash. Good design is everything.

So no, I never finished the series. I have no idea what happens to intrepid orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. Blake says it’s because I literally judged the books by the covers, but he’s wrong. I judged them by the colors of their book spines and that godawful movie made with Jim Carrey. Carrey himself and the graphic credits were cool, but everything else was not. Try not to judge the story by this depressing YouTube clip.

“The Bad Beginning” begins with Count Olaf reluctantly taking in the orphans and treating them terribly. In an effort to make the Count like them, Violet, Klaus and Sunny whip up dinner for Olaf and his theater troupe. Luckily, Pasta Puttanesca is easy enough for children to make it.

From a street vendor, they purchased olives after tasting several varieties and choosing their favorites.  At a pasta store they selected interestingly shaped noodles…Then, at the supermarket, they purchased garlic, which is a sharp-tasting bulbous plant; anchovies, which are small salty fish; capers, which are flower buds from a small shrub and taste marvelous; and tomatoes, which are actually fruits and not vegetables as most people believe…Perhaps, the orphans thought, if they made a delicious meal, Count Olaf might be a bit kinder to them.  (The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket)

Later I learned Pasta Puttanesca has a fascinating pseudo-history in the boudoirs of Italy.

From The New York Times Diner’s Journal:

“Ostensibly a sauce invented and made by prostitutes, it is said that pasta puttanesca was designed to lure customers with its aroma. Other explanations have more appeal to the minimalist cook: that the prostitutes were too busy to cook much, or that they had no storage for fresh ingredients and cooked entirely from the pantry. My favorite legend has it that it was a favorite not of prostitutes, but of women who wanted to serve a quick meal at home in order to move on to other things. Whatever the origin, no better wintertime pasta sauce has come down to us.”

Ingredients for Pasta Puttanesca

Ingredients for Pasta Puttanesca

Ingredients, adapted from Mark Bittman

  • 1 35-ounce can of Tuttorosso Italian-style peeled plum-shaped tomatoes
  • 3 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 3 or more anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 cup pitted, oil-cured black olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt, chili powder and berbere (not pepper)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound “interestingly-shaped” pasta (I used both thin spaghetti and rotini)
  • Chopped fresh parsley and basil leaves for garnish

1. Bring pot of water to boil and salt it. Warm 2 tablespoons oil with garlic and anchovies in skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden and anchovies are brown and melty.

2. Drain tomatoes and crush with fork. Add to skillet with a light sprinkle of berbere. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes saucy, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and chili powder, and continue to simmer.

3. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is tender. Drain quickly and toss with sauce and remaining tablespoon of oil. The fresh basil is highly recommended, if only to make your kitchen smell like a dream.

The aroma is peppy and sharp, lending credit to the the legend of luring customers. The salty anchovy-caper-olive combination packs a punch, so don’t over-salt without tasting. For extra authenticity, prepare the Baudelaires’ chocolate pudding for dessert.

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Fresh-Baked Kringlors with a Honey Pecan Dipping Sauce | “The Ref”

by Blake Stilwell

There are many wonderful, renowned holiday movies out there. Everyone has their favorite. Some people grew up watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas season. There are those who love the later classics, such as “A Christmas Story.” And a new generation is growing up loving more recent Christmas takes, like Will Ferrell’s “Elf.” For me, whenever someone talks about the perennial Christmas movie, “Die Hard” always comes to mind first. Not just because it is, in fact, a great Christmas movie (which is a post for another pop-culture themed blog), but my love for Reginald VelJohnson is well-documented.

Urkel killed this buddy cop dream team.

Urkel killed this buddy cop dream team.

Today, I’m taking a recipe from none of those, though I could really go for some Chinese food right now. No, this holiday, we’re taking a page from Judy Davis’ character Caroline Chasseur in the underrated 1994 Christmas comedy “The Ref,” with Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and I was surprised to see John Scurti when I went back and watched it again for this post.

"Yeah, I know... It's weird to see me dressed as a cop."

“Yeah, I know… It’s weird to see me dressed as a cop.”

… some of you may better remember Scurti from his role as the beloved Lt. Shea on “Rescue Me.” Some others of you have seven seasons of great television to watch. Good thing binge watching on a snowy day is what the holiday season is all about nowadays. Go, loyal readers, and enjoy the butterscotch pudding that comes with it.

Doooooooo it.

Doooooooo it.

Denis Leary plays Gus, a burglar who has to lay low while he’s waiting for his partner to fix up an escape route away from the small New England town he just terrorized with break-ins. In order to dodge the road blocks and the local curfew, Gus takes the aforementioned Caroline and her husband Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) hostage in their home, but forces the family to play it cool while Caroline’s in-laws come over for Christmas dinner. The problem with the plan is that Gus has hijacked the most dysfunctional family in New England and is forced to rely on the discretion of his hostages and compliance of their a-hole relatives (including the mother-in-law, played beautifully by Glynis Johns), who find a lot of fault with Caroline’s flaws.

Everything almost reaches a breaking point at the Christmas dinner, which has a very Scandinavian theme (one of Caroline’s flaws is that she never finished anything she ever started, including a Scandinavian cooking class). The meal includes roast suckling pig, fresh baked Kringlors in a honey-pecan dipping sauce, seven-day old lutefisk, and lamb gookins.

The reason we’re making Kringlors today, despite the fact they sound more like an intergalactic space lord who is coming to enslave humanity than a baked treat, is because the holidays are the season of baked treats. Everyone has a different opinion on the main course at dinner, be it a ham, turkey or a giant fish stuffed with poison and left out for a week. Lamb Coozins Gookins seem to be so extremely rare, that even the Internet has never heard of them. What I think everyone can agree on, however, is that baked goods of all kinds are welcome at any holiday party anywhere and the more, the merrier. We know you’ll make room for the Kringlors in your pop culture buffet line.

Or you can jump a little forward in “The Ref” and see the Orange Marzipan Cake with Creme de Menthe and Lime Zest.

Kringlors are dessert in three parts. This recipe comes from “The Superbly Swedish Cookbook.”

Part I:
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon water

Mix together (like pie crust) cutting the butter in with 2 butter knives.  Then finish mixing with your hands.  Pat out very thick (1/4”) on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Set aside.

Part II:
½ cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
3 eggs beaten (see note on this)
1 teaspoon almond extract

In a saucepan heat butter and water to the boiling point.  Remove from heat, add flour and add 1 beaten egg at a time, stirring after each (The texture will be unique). Add almond extract and stir well.  Spread the mixture on the dough on cookie sheet, fairly close to the edges.  Bake at 400° for 45 minutes.

Part III:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Mix together all ingredients until smooth, and spread on pastry as icing.  Serve warm or cold, cutting in half the long way and then diagonally to make pretty strips. In the film, Caroline made them into pretzel shapes, which is my personal specialty, having worked two summers at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels as a teenager.

Pictured: Expertise

Pictured: Expertise

The Honey-Pecan Sauce is much easier to make, and where better to get the recipe than the American National Honey Board?

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups – vanilla flavored Greek style yogurt
  • 1/4 cup – chopped pecans, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup – Sage honey
  • 1 teaspoon – ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or processor and blend until smooth. Reserve chilled. Also, I recommend real honey, and maybe throw in some of the almond extract for a nuttier flavor.

And now you can have something to talk about at the family holiday party, where most of us end up looking somewhat frazzled if we don’t.

Kringlors - The Ref_1

“Everybody… just… stop talking. STOP. TALKING. TO ME.”

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Puerco Pibil | “Once Upon A Time In Mexico”

By Blake Stilwell

Before we begin the recap, let it be known that I both love this film and am aware it’s supposed to be over the top. I love Robert Rodriguez’ work. Everything from the camera work to the acting is great. I love this series. BUT let me also say I think this last movie in the Mexico Trilogy might have been a little too over the top. At times I thought of how far the Batman series fell before Christopher Nolan got his hands on it.

I want to hit him too.

I still want to hit him too.

That being said, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the heartwarming story of the redemption of a man who lost it all fighting the good fight against greed, corruption and the many iterations of Cheech Marin. El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) gathers his gang of two other Mariachi played by Enrique Iglesias and Marco Leonardi, an Italian, for one last big adventure. Why an Italian? Who knows. Cartel kingpin Barillo is played by Willem DaFoe with a tan.

I LOVE THE SUN, ALRIGHT?

I LOVE THE SUN, ALRIGHT?

The only problem is that El Mariachi, who is destitute and in hiding, swore off violence, and is struggling with the loss of his wife, the last bare midriff in all of Mexico.

RIP

RIP

Honestly, even women who dress more modestly in Mexico don’t fare much better. It’s rough out there, even for a waitress.

Unnecessary.

She’d have been better off serving Steve Buschemi in Reservoir Dogs.

This movie is incredibly action-packed, which is a code word for violent. Not that I’m not okay with movie violence, I just think taking the time to stop and aim would be to everyone’s benefit.

Cover is optional.

Also, cover is optional.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico also holds the record for most railing-related and falling-after-being-shot-related deaths.


In the mix, we have an FBI Agent, an American fugitive, a Federale subplot and it’s all tied together… This whole scenario is orchestrated by a CIA agent named Sands, played by Johnny Depp, who’s much better outside of Tim Burton movies than I remember and I probably don’t remember since it’s been a long time since I saw him outside a Tim Burton movie. Yes, I know he did The Lone Ranger, but if no one else saw it, why should I?

Sands’ favorite meal in Mexico is Puerco Pibil, with a tequila and lime. It’s featured in the movie so often, it should get its own IMDB Page.


The recipe for this is simple, but it requires time to marinate, so be sure to prep a few hours before you watch this movie, because halfway through, you’ll want your own. If you don’t know a good recipe, you’re in luck! Robert Rodriguez includes his own on DVD extras.  Here it is:

5 lbs pork butt, cubed into 2 inch pieces
5 tablespoons annatto seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
8 whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 red habanero peppers, diced (remove seeds and membrane)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
8 cloves garlic
5 lemons peeled & juiced
1 tablespoon tequila
banana leaves

Directions
1. Put annato seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, allspice and cloves in a clean coffee grinder and grind very fine.
2. Put orange juice, white vinegar, habanero peppers, ground spice powder, salt, garlic, lemon juice and tequila in blender.
3. Blend until smooth.

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We used a food processor.

4. Place cubed pork and liquid from blender in zip loc bag and marinate for one hour.
5. Line a 9×13 baking pan with banana leaves. (if you don’t have banana leaves handy, aluminum foil works)
6. Pour pork mixture directly on top of banana leaves and cover with more banana leaves.
7. Cover tightly with foil.
8. Bake at 325 degrees for 4 hours.

Incredibly simple to make, even if you don’t have the banana leaves. Don’t forget the rice!

It may not be the prettiest, but it's the most delicious. Please don't shoot me.

It may not be the prettiest, but it’s the most delicious. Please don’t shoot me.

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Shawarma | “The Avengers”

by Blake Stilwell

avengers_poster

I don’t really think this movie needs an introduction, as it raked in enough cash for everyone to have have seen it twice. But here we go anyway… The Avengers: the story of seven strangers picked to live in a floating invisible aircraft carrier, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. The working together part was right. They really needed to work together. They’re going to fight a nearly indestructible alien army and one of their crew shoots arrows while another one brought the world’s smallest handgun.

Why not just bring a knife. Seriously.

That scene always reminds me of this:

Anyway, saving the world is hungry work (I mean, probably). Either that or it’s a good way to transition right to the end of the movie because the fight scene ran long but was too awesome to cut. It doesn’t matter why, let’s just celebrate with shawarma, the Middle Eastern sandwich easily found on the streets of Beirut, Ramallah, and New York City. No sarcasm, it’s everywhere. And for good reason. It’s portable and delicious.

If you don’t recognize the second scene from this clip, you need to remember not to leave during the credits of a Marvel movie.

It’s kind of understandable that Tony Stark never tried shawarma. He probably spent more time blowing up parts of the Middle East than getting a feel for its cuisine. But it’s never too late to catch up! Our recipe is for chicken shawarma, but the lamb is really good too.

FYI: This recipe has to marinate overnight, so don’t put off the prep for it.

Ingredients Assemble!
2 lbs of thinly cut skinless boneless chicken breast

The Marinade:
½ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
4 tablespoons plain (Greek) yogurt
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 head of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1  teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground ginger
pinch nutmeg

Instructions
Rinse the chicken in cold water then cut into thinner cuts of about ½ inch. Set aside.

Mix all other ingredients in a blender. Blend. It’s not going to look pretty.

picstitch

It’s delicious, though, I promise.

Mix well with the chicken, cover and let marinate in the fridge overnight. When it’s properly marinated, grill the marinated chicken using a panini grill for about 15 minutes on medium heat. I don’t have a grill, a panini press or a Foreman Grill. So I had to improvise.

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Waffle Iron Man

Grilling is the important part. Don’t bake or fry the chicken, you’re trying to recreate the style of a rotating roasting spit. If you’ve never been to the Middle East or a Middle Eastern restaurant, it looks like this:

Shawarma Spit

Once cooked, shred the chicken into bite sized edible chunks. Spread the chicken shreds on pita bread, add some Lebanese Garlic paste ( aka Toum – visit your friendly neighborhood Middle Eastern grocer, specialty store or make your own) or Tahine, and add some salty Middle Eastern-style pickles (also available at a specialty store, but regular pickles will do). Many times this is served with grilled or roasted tomatoes. In the Middle East, it’s served with 7,000 different kinds of pickled vegetable options, a really weak hot sauce, and/or fries. In the sandwich.

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Earth’s Mightiest Sandwich

I didn’t add tomatoes because I hate them and didn’t add fries because I spent so much effort in cooking the meat this way to lock the juices in, why would I add a condiment that would just sap them from the meat? That being said, fries are not a condiment. They go next to the sandwich, not on it (looking at you, Primanti Bros. of Pittsburgh).

Toum, though. Seriously.

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Lisa’s Pizza | “The Room”

Ingredients Purchased by Blake Stilwell

Pizza Cooked by Blake Stilwell

Eaten by Blake Stilwell

Blog Post Written by Blake Stilwell

No movie has enjoyed cult status quite so hard or fast as Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” It is exceptional to the world of cult film for a number of reasons, the main being because it is arguably one of the worst movies ever made, yet still draws a considerable crowd at every screening. Another reason is that the Writer, Director, Producer, and Star (but not caterer) will appear in person at many of them. He even took it on a world tour that saw screenings in Europe, Australia and India, among other places. There is even a communal ritual to watching “The Room” in a theater and this involves a lot of yelling, drinking and throwing of cutlery.

Spoon

Spoons play a large part in the scenery of The Room. For some reason.

The cult status of “The Room” eclipses “the Toxic Avenger” in its campiness, “Troll 2” in its difficulty to watch or take seriously, the Rocky Horror Picture Show in audience engagement and “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” in unintentional hilarity. And that movie has Nic Cage. Yes, the Room is a very powerful movie.

Also unrivaled in “The Room” is the absolute worst idea for a pizza ever. In the movie, Lisa (Juliette Danielle) orders a pizza as a way to make Johnny (the aforementioned and ubiquitous Wiseau) either feel better about not getting promoted or celebrate his promotion, I’m never quite sure (he doesn’t get promoted, but she didn’t know that, though she makes it sound like she does… whatever). Maybe Johnny is just easy to please and a pizza would cover both outcomes. I guess Lisa would know.

Her pizza order, to me, is one of the most incredulous things about this movie. I was not surprised to find that what she ordered is not the pizza Johnny and Lisa end up eating in the movie, either. Some believe this is what we in the industry call a “continuity error.” I don’t think so.  The guys at Rifftrax perfectly sum up this situation:

That’s right. Lisa’s pizza is half pesto and artichoke, half pineapple and Canadian bacon: the Domino’s WTF Special. This is a terrible idea, not just because pineapple on pizza is an abomination and God will surely punish humanity for it, but because it is the mortal sin of going halfsies on a pizza: you can’t mix two sauces. White pizza, Alfredo, Tomato, or Garlic Butter just don’t mix. The sauce is the one thing you have to agree on.

Maybe this is Wiseau’s purpose. Maybe this pizza is a metaphor for Lisa and Johnny’s torrid love affair. Maybe the symbolism is deeper here than we know. Today, I make the pizza slices that were the first wedges in the cracks of Johnny and Lisa’s perfect romance.

Its ingredients are pretty simple, with not much work or costs involved. It is really easy to make pizza crust from scratch (bread flour, yeast, sugar and a little salt). It’s also easy to make pizza sauce from scratch (tomato paste, water, olive oil, spices). The only issue with this is that the crust is time intensive and the sauce will be hit or miss. Buying pre-made crust and sauce is really inexpensive and there are a lot of delicious kinds out there, so you get the good feeling of scratch cooking without the time or cleanup costs. And after watching the Room, you’re going to want to feel like the night wasn’t a total wash.

My ingredients:

– Instant pizza crust mix

– Pesto

– Artichokes

– Garlic butter

– Pizza sauce (I bought Furmano’s Original… not spicy, but good. I also added garlic, because garlic is the bacon of spices and seasonings)

– Pineapple tidbits

– Canadian bacon

Make the crust as directed. It will instruct you to bake it a bit before adding toppings. Please don’t ignore this step, your pizza will be come a muddled mess… I mean… more so. On the pesto-artichoke half, use a thin layer of garlic butter before spreading the pesto. It makes the pesto spread smoother and distribute more equally. Not that it’s terribly difficult to spread pesto in the first place, a little garlic butter will also make that side of the pizza more saucy and prevent the crust from getting too dry.

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And you know what to use to use to spread the pesto around, don’t you?

Then arrange your artichokes. Looks pretty good right? Now comes the heart-wrenching part (that was not an artichoke pun)… Adding tomato sauce to the other side. Also, pineapple.

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You’re tearing me apart, pizza!

If you’re going to be true to this recipe, like Johnny was to Lisa, go light on the cheese. Some of us can’t have cheese anyway. I had to be true to the recipe like Lisa was to Johny and use a cheese substitute. Veggie Shreds’ Mozzarella is actually a really good one. Pop it in the oven for about ten minutes at 375, and it comes out a nice golden brown.

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I honestly thought the combination of sauces was going to be a terrible, terrible mix… like they would mix together as the pizza dough rose and create some ungodly mix of pesto, garlic, tomato, pineapple juice, hot ham water, and whatever the artichokes were soaked in (brine?). The two sides actually were able to stay distinct (for the most part) and left me with two impressions:

1) Pesto-Artichoke is a great combination that I am definitely coming back to.

2) Only nondescript Franco-Belgian Creole-Cajuns would like pineapple on pizza.

It would probably be best for you and your on-again, off-again lover to settle on a cheese pizza, just like the cast did in the movie. Cheese pizza is something everyone can get behind.

Friends

Cheese pizza for all your friends!

Also, do not wash this pizza down with Lisa’s  “Scotchka.”

Do not drink “Scotchka” at all.

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Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster | “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

by Blake Stilwell

The Drink of Drinks, the Drink of Presidents,  the “Alcoholic Equivalent to a Mugging; Expensive and Bad for the Head”… It could only be:

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According to the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is an alcoholic beverage invented by ex-President of the Universe Zaphod Beeblebrox, and is largely considered to be the best in the Universe. The effects of drinking one will soon become apparent.

Luckily for us and the world of theatrical comedy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has been given the  screen treatment twice in the past thirty-odd years.

The actual (fictional) recipe for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (don’t worry, like the Hitchiker’s Guide says: There are many voluntary organizations which will help to rehabilitate you after you’ve had one) is as follows:

  1. Take the juice from one bottle of Ol’ Janx Spirit
  2. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V — Oh, that Santraginean seawater! Oh, those Santraginean fish!
  3. Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
  4. Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
  5. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic.
  6. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
  7. Sprinkle Zamphuor.
  8. Add an olive.
  9. Drink… but… very carefully…

I’ve been drinking for a long time. And I’ve been drinking in a lot of places. I have a lot of experience. Interpreting a beverage that fits the description shouldn’t be too hard, so a liquor store run (or two) and a free Saturday night was all I was waiting for:

  1. The base of the drink. This has to be Absinthe… It’s not just the green (or ungreen) color. The Ol’ Janx Spirit Rhyme went: “Oh don’t give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit/ No, don’t you give me none more of that Old Janx Spirit/ For my head will fly, my tongue will lie, my eyes will fry and I may die/ Won’t you pour me one more of that sinful Old Janx Spirit”… Now, I don’t know what liquor makes my head fly faster, further, or longer than good ol’ Absinthe (Try doing shots of Absinthe for a night. The vivid dreams alone are worth the high price tag). Absinthe had a bout a hundred years of being banned in the US, but in 2007, it made a comeback. The market is a pretty good. Sadly, US absinthe doesn’t seem to be as potent as people in the good ol days used to describe. This is because of limits on distilling, specifically to the content of thujone, the special ingredient in the distilled wormwood that makes absinthe special… and mind bending. Personally, I recommend Turkish absinthe. But if you’re stuck in the New World, good ol’ Canada has the answer. There are no limits to thujone content in New Brunswick or British Columbia.
  2. Seawater must mean the drink has some kind of clam juice… I prefer to believe this means tonic water or selzer. I could not drink a beverage that mixed licorice with clam juice.
  3. If the drink has to contain Benzene, then your only choice is bottled Sprite. It surprised me too that the US government actually has limits on benzene formation, despite the unlimited amount of non-food big business can call food these days. But the Megagin angle tells me maybe this just means the best gin out there, which is of course, Hendricks. For the purposes of experimentation, I picked up both.
  4. The use of Marsh Gas must mean the drink is fizzy, which works with the Sprite or Tonic Water.
  5. There are many flavors that could create a hypermint flavor… Creme de Menth, Rumpleminz, Peppermint Schnapps, or ideally Marie Brizard Green Mint Liquor. I chose mint schnapps, because I went to a few stores and not a one carried Marie Brizard.
  6. Judging by the effects of the ingredient, I’d say the Suntiger’s teeth are best replaced by Angostura Bitters, which was originally used to mask the taste of quinine in the tonic water of gin and tonics, and is a great natural accompaniment to gin anyway. It could also be grenadine, judging by the description of its appearance, but I would rather it be benedictine, which sounds like a great foil to the absinthe. the color of all three will sure spread around the glass, creating that effect (note, when I did start mixing, adding the lemon extract would create the all-around fizzing effect throughout the drink, which, admittedly, was pretty cool).
  7. Zamphour could be sugar, which would make this sort of an absinthe frappe-mint julep (more on that later). Or it could be lemon extract, or lemon zest. I got all three.
  8. God I hate olives, I prefer lemon peel

Attempt 1: Absinthe, tonic water, Hendrick’s Gin, mint liquor, and Bitters – This does not taste like lemon. And it is super strong. I was right about the Absinthe, but this tastes more like licorice.

Attempt1

Attempt 2: Lighter on the Absinthe, made up for it in tonic water, extra pull of gin, same mint, and a dash of benedictine. Added lemon extract… Much smoother. Much more lemony. It has a very nice, refreshing citrus-y mint aftertaste.

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Attempt 3:  2 parts absinthe, 2 parts tonic water, 1 part sprite, 1 part mint liquor, drops of lemon extract – Very cool, not as refreshing, but a nice aftertaste. Still has the arak-like flavor of the absinthe as most dominant feature.

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Attempt 4: 1 part absinthe, 2 parts tonic water, 1 parts sprite, mint liquor and full part of Benedictine, drops of lemon extract – This time it had the effect of the lemon drops fizzing a spreading throughout the drink, as described in the recipe. nifty. On the whole, it’s kind of weak but a decent lemony-licorice flavor. Not much mint, though.

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Attempt 5:  Everything, f**k it, just everything, which is more ingredients than what’s listed, but as I discovered…

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This was a lemony-mint dream that hit like a ton of bricks and evoked the proper response:

Seeing as how I am not a 30-ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia, there was a limit to the experimenting I could do. I feel confident this last drink had the appropriate effect and flavor. There are also many terrestrial places in the US and Canada who have come up with various versions of the PGGB, with varying degrees of similarity to Douglas Adams’ dream beverage.

But honestly, what sounds more and more like the intent of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, the tried and true earthbound equivalent, has to be the Absinthe Julep:

Sunday morning update: I’m off to find that rehab. I’m pretty sure it’s a cup of coffee and greasy food.

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Ichabod Crane’s buckwheat flapjacks with honey | “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

By Katrina Tulloch

Katrina van Tassel

Katrina van Tassel

The name Katrina has been overused (and definitely retired) since the 2005 hurricane, but it was always unusual enough that I could never find those personalized keychains as a child. I never knew any other Katrinas, so in first grade, I was overjoyed to discover the beautiful Katrina van Tassel when I rented Disney’s 1949  version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” from the corner Blockbuster (RIP). She was ALSO from upstate New York and ALSO an only child AND she had a theme song! From then on, I told everyone I was named after the blonde and buxom lass, deliberately rejecting my actual namesake: German ice skater Katarina Witt. (Really, mom? Really?)

So began my lifelong endearment to Washington Irving and Sleepy Hollow in all its literary and cinematic forms (even Tim Burton’s). It was a favorite story of mine at Halloween, especially because my friends’ mothers deemed the Disney version too scary.


Before the headless horseman came along, Ichabod Crane had two things on his mind – Katrina van Tassel and his next meal. He eats an entire pie just five minutes into the Disney movie. During one dance with Katrina, he polishes off a huge slice of cake between a sashay and pirouette. It’s one of his many lovable quirks. In one of Irving’s great descriptions of Ichabod, we’re introduced to the character’s dreamy fondness for pastry, despite being skinny as a stork:

Flapjacks“Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn… holding out the promise of cakes and hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the bee-hive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty flapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.”

Wordiness aside, Iring spells out a simple recipe for Ichabod’s daydream cravings right in the text: “buckwheat fields, soft dainty flapjacks, well buttered, garnished with honey or treacle.” Done and done. Sleepy Hollow was written long before the mass commercialization of Bisquick and Aunt Jemima, so I looked for a buckwheat mix native to upstate New York…which is pretty easy to find when you live here.

 

New Hope Mills

Here’s what I used to make Ichabod’s dream flapjacks: New Hope Mills old-fashioned buckwheat pancake mix (made in Auburn, N.Y. Bingo!), pure bee honey (not clover), butter and water. Easiest ingredients ever.

Mix the water and mix together, pop a scoop on a griddle and flip over when bubbles form on the top. Ichabod loves his flapjacks well buttered so don’t skimp on the spread. Drizzle honey (or treacle, I guess, if you have it) on top and and enjoy hot! The New Hope Mills mix makes seriously fluffy pancakes, plus their website says they’ve been around since 1823 (“Sleepy Hollow” was published in 1820). And New Hope Mills serving makes 16 pancakes, so invite some friends over for brunch. Your buckwheat pancakes will be so good that heads will roll.

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