Sunday, April 12, 2009

How dinner made itself AKA the advent of summer!

Since we finally made it to our local Farmers' Market today, I knew that summer was finally here! I tasted some sweet ripe California strawberries, the tiniest little clementines, and inhaled the delicately heady aroma of green garlic. Given the relative short season for green garlic, buying them was a no-brainer, but then my brain ached as I worried about how to showcase them without overwhelming them. But inspiration soon hit and it all fell in to place: I found some fresh oyster mushrooms and asparagus, and on the way home, I stopped by Trader Joe's (how did I ever cook before TJs?) to pick up some dried pasta, goat cheese and mache.

Our good friend Michele was over, and we went to work. We roasted the oyster mushrooms with some thinly sliced green garlic, tossed in extra virgin Olive oil, Salt, Pepper and some thyme from the backyard at 350 degrees for about 17-18 minutes - watch to make sure that it does not burn, and use your tongs to move the mushrooms around the cookie sheet a few times. Then we cooked about 1/2 a cup of diced pancetta, poured out the excess, added 8 oz of mascarpone to the pan, and heated it through, adding the cooked mushrooms to the pan at the very end. In the meantime, the dried pasta (pappardelle in this case, but fettucine or orichette would also work) was cooked al dente and added to the mushroom sauce and served with some grated pecorino romano at the table. Accompanied by a 2001 Scherrer Pinot Noir, it made a sublime dinner!

We also had a warm goat cheese salad and roasted asparagus, but the pasta was so incredible (and so simple!) that it warranted a blog post, at least IMHO.

And thank you Michele, for sharing in the inspiration, the cooking and the eating, and most importantly, for being my friend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

My friends Dola & Laura asked me what I thought of this much acclaimed film... Frankly, I did not think much of it, and I fail to understand why it has become such a critics' darling. On second thoughts, maybe I have an idea why: it's timing - Slumdog set in Mumbai happened to be released just before the Mumbai massacre in November 2008. And with the world's attention focused on this city and its misfortunes, it is easy to fall in love with this vibrant hopeful movie set in Mumbai, even if it is seriously flawed as a film. Yup, the sympathy factor.

First and foremost it suffers from an identity crisis - it cannot decide whether to be a fable, a fantasy love story or a gritty art house film. It tries to be all of these, plus throws in a healthy dose of Bollywood Music for good measure and mass appeal. Granted, many movies combine genres with great panache, but in order for a such a combination to be successful it has to do so seamlessly. And have a heart. And for me, this is where Slumdog fails. The present day story is inter-cut with events from the Protagonist's past: These flashbacks are intended to explain his current predicament and advance the narrative - however, they end up feeling forced and the back and forth slows down the story significantly, and create a disconnect from the main characters.

If you have heard that is extremely violent, you've heard right. And the violence is excessively graphic - so bad, that ultimately I felt numbed by it. In spite of it though, or perhaps because of it, this film succeeds in one very big way: it brings to light the awful and very real living conditions of the slum dwellers in India. And if this helps even a small handful of these children escape those conditions it would be worth it. They don't need to become millionaires, they just need a real lifeline out of there...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

That moment in time

My afternoon was pleasantly unremarkable by the standards of most people, but for me it was a very special time. Perhaps the stars had aligned: I happened to be working from home today, on an unseasonably warm January day (~ 69 degrees in the sun) and I happened to be reading a heartwarming book about love and wine Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage while taking a very late lunchbreak in our backyard. And my feet were being warmed by our lab Sammie while our sun worshipping dachshund Masala snoozed on her little bed right next to me.

It felt like spring had sprung early: the birds were chirping loudly enough to drown out the traffic outside, the sky was a brilliant cloudless periwinkle, and the callas that had just come into bloom were being ravished by a couple of butterflies. And the best part of all was that my two favorite girls were curled up side by side at my feet. Sammie and Masala are not known for their affinity for each other and it is a rare sight to see them sleeping close enough to touch! I desperately wanted to take a photo to preserve this tableau for posterity, but I knew that getting up to get the camera would ruin the moment. My only choice was to record it in my mind's eye.

And that's when it hit me - this was one of life's most perfect moments - the kind you wish you could bottle and preserve forever. And although I am lucky enough to have experienced a few of those moments with my amazing Sweetie, I cannot say I have ever wanted to freeze time while I was alone (minus other humans that is). And here I was today, experiencing a perfect moment of profoundly peaceful solitude, literally in my own backyard. True self-contentment. It was an enlightening and quietly empowering moment, and I have my dogs to thank for it.