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Indian Fried Rice with Roast Cauliflower and Chickpeas

You can pull together a quick meal if you have brown rice (precooked and frozen), and the cauliflower already roasted. If you haven’t yet tried roasting cauliflower, what are you waiting for?

For this dish, take half a head of cauliflower, broken into smaller pieces, toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and about 1 tsp tumeric, and then roast it on a baking sheet (or a casserole dish could work as well) at 375 or so for 20 minutes or until toasty brown. You can do this days before you make the fried rice dish and just keep the cauliflower in the fridge until some weeknight when you need dinner quickly. If you can keep from snacking on it until then.

Cook the brown rice as per your favorite method. I like Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice method but regular boiling is fine too. You can definitely do this ahead of time, and then pack and freeze the rice in handy portions for easy use later.

Now, once you have your rice and cauliflower prepped, you can pull together this dish very quickly. Which I did like so:

In a hot pan (a big one), melt some ghee (clarified butter; but if you can’t get that you could use coconut oil or some other, neutral oil), add a few fennel seeds and cumin seeds, let them roast for about 30 second, then add the (defrosted) rice, and stir well. Add the cooked cauliflower, and a big can of chickpeas (drained of course), and stir until heated through. Add in something green, like dandelion greens (yum) or maybe chard or spinach. Salt to taste. Serve with yogurt, or maybe some cheese, and naan or some other flat bread, if you have it.

Curry for Cold Nights

Icy winter nights, the kind you get when the day’s temperature barely goes above 19F (-7C) – if that, and never mind the wind chill – and you’ve spent hours shoveling snow or navigating ice-slick streets, well, those kind of cold nights call for something to warm you up from the inside out. And no, bourbon isn’t always the answer. Try a curry instead. It’s flexible comfort and warmth in a pan.

You can really pull a curry together from almost any vegetables and proteins you have in your kitchen, and with just a few basic spices on hand, you control the level of heat too. Add more jalapeno if you like things spicier, or overindulge on the garam masala if you love the slow build of heat in the back of your throat (that’s how it gets me, anyway). Along with some curry paste or powder, keep a can of coconut milk in your cupboard to help make a rich, complex dish that can nourish the winter-weary body and soul.

Anyway, here’s my most recent curry variation:  Continue reading

Movie Marathons: Korean Revenge Trilogy

South Korean director (and writer – he’s credited as a screenwriter on all three of these films) Chan-wook Park’s trilogy of revenge movies packs a punch, especially if you watch them all in a row. Things get intense when you mainline these in one sitting, so consider spreading them out over three evenings. Or three weeks.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) – In a way, this one hit me the hardest. It’s the least stylized, and its greater degree of realism makes the gut punch of the story even more effective because you can follow everyone’s intentions into the abyss. Events unfold in unrelenting order, step by terrible step, inevitable and unstoppable, like sand in an hour glass. You understand why each of the two main protagonists is doing what they do, and you sympathize and recoil at the same time. Psychologically, you’re twisting in the wind here. Plus, some pretty horrendous deaths are served up, in a terrible, low-key manner. Of the three, this one is the bleakest one, without any nod at redemption.

Oldboy (2003) – Probably the best known of the three outside of Korea, and with reason (that hammer, for one). Sadly, I had to see this dubbed, and the English voices distracted me since they didn’t seem to fit with the actors. On the other hand, maybe this gave me some needed distance to what was happening. The mystery of the imprisonment keeps you interested, and the horror is slow in mounting, so that you’re only realizing your throat is tight when things really escalate to that final leap into pure psychological horror. This one has some real over-the-top gory scenes, of which the one at the sushi place with the live octopus is only the beginning. This one is a real mindf–k.

Lady Vengeance (2005) –  The final installment is the most stylish, starting with the beautiful credit sequence. And also back to subtitles, to my relief, even if it made things a bit confusing at times. It also seems slower to build, and less hardcore – if you don’t think about it – until a fantastical sequence towards the end, where suddenly the absurd and the horror hit you smack in the face thanks to the cinematography and the loving attention to detail. Clear plastic raincoats, oh my. Very beautiful shots, masterfully composed. And a story that’s just as twisted as the other two. Also, a stunning Yeong-ae Lee (both in her appearance and performance) as the lady bent on revenge.

Amour

Amour (2012) – A spell-binding, unwavering look at the part of the happy love story we prefer not to see, when the promise of til-death-do-us-part is made real. Here we are at the inevitable parting inherent in any happy couple that has weathered life’s storms and grown old together. It’s the point at which most stories avert their gaze, and it’s where Haneke’s camera refuses to look away. We observe the old married couple, Georges and Anne, in their routines – in health and in its slow deterioration – and the patient camera forces us to see the pain and despair but also the deep love that binds and supports them both. Yes, it’s the untidiness of approaching death played out in full, and an unfolding of the comforts and terrors of intimacy, and finally a glimpse of the dark and discomfitting places love may lead us – but it is also strangely touching and hopeful. This is not an easy movie, and it demands much of you, but it is well worth it. You might even call it romantic. Well, if you like quiet, extremely intense foreign art house movies. About love, commitment and death.

Caveat: This is the first Haneke movie I’ve seen, so while I’m aware of his reputation for cruelty and manipulation, I have no history with it.

Two Foreign Movies – Gritty Love Story Department

Rust & Bone (De rouille et d’os) (2012) – This French-Belgian film has been described as a gritty love story, which seems about right. Perhaps a bit predictable at times, it is a beautiful film with very honest acting, delving into the ugliness and brutality as well as the beauty and tenderness humans can share with each other. Overall, it feels hopeful, and I liked it a lot. Considering the material, it could have been overplayed into melodrama and mawkishness and terrible sentiment, and it avoids that. It is, for the most part, brutal and honest and bare where other stories might be overfull. Unless you have a deep fear of whales, or really hate subtitles, the remarkable aftermath is worth getting past the terrible accident for.

Addendum: As I was reminded by NPR’s Linda Holmes, Rust & Bone is also a movie that focuses on the physical, and especially on human bodies, and how we use them and live in them. Plus, the treatment of sex is wonderfully matter-of-fact.

Head On (Gegen die Wand) (2004) – Love stories do not come any grittier than Fatih Akin’s tale of a young Turkish woman and an older Turkish man living in Germany (in Hamburg), who meet in a mental institution where they are both under observation for attempting suicide. See Roger Ebert’s review for the details, but along with a very fast marriage proposal, you get blood, sex, drugs, and drinking, and two lives careening wildly together and apart. As a side note, it is refreshing to have sex be shown as just another thing humans do together, something that can be meaningful but can also be just a way to pass time together. As far as romances go, this one does away with the romantic part quite quickly, and takes a turn down darker roads. So, if you like your romance predictable, sentimental, and tied in a neat little bow at the end, find some other movie to watch. This one is for those who like to be kept off-balance, fascinated, and at least a little bit disturbed. The two leads especially make this one worth watching.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – If you’re looking for a holiday of a different kind, try this Finnish Christmas tale of the original Santa Claus. He’s not as kindly and jolly as the later stories claim, and you should really watch out for his elves. A December archaeological dig in the outer regions of Finland, on the Russian border, unearths something that should have best stayed hidden, and it’s up to one studious and determined little boy and his father (a butcher) to ensure that their tiny community doesn’t lose all its children by Christmas morning. Don’t swear, don’t drink, and wash behind your ears, or else, watch out! An instant holiday classic that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

The Inescapable Past

Among the things I love about living in DC is that one Friday you can go see a movie for $10 and be part of an international film festival. In this case, I attended a showing of Es kommt ein Tag (The Day Will Come), as part of Filmfest DC, Washington’s International Film Festival. The movie, released in Germany in 2008, was written and directed by Susanne Schneider, who as it turned out was at the screening for a Q&A after the film. Yet another thing to love about art events – sometimes you get to interact with the artists involved.

To quiet my nit-picky side, I feel compelled to mention that the title really translates as: A Day Will Come, with the overtone of a warning…a day will come when the past will confront you. Continue reading