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Top Food Books and Movies: Recommendations for the Hungry

Top Food Books and Movies: Recommendations for the Hungry

There are so many great books and movies that tell stories of relationships through food. So many, in fact, that it is truly hard to know where to begin. This is why I have decided to just begin by making a listing of all those that I have read or seen and then I will slowly work my way down the list, one at a time, to describe them in snapshot. If they are on these lists, I assure you, I have seen or read and enjoyed them.

Cover of "Fatso"

Cover of Fatso

Of course there are some movies and books that others may feel belong on these lists, but to me, food does not just have to make appearance it must be used as a character, a plot device or central theme. Therefore, for example a movie like Fatso, starring Dom Deluise, which is funny and charming and sweet and does have food in it, would still not appear on my lists. The food is a minor element (it’s not even yummy to look at nor is it intended to evoke anything other than disgust at its heaviness and in the overall gluttony of it all) it is instead a story about acceptance, which I love but it does not qualify as foodie territory for me.

Then there are movies at which others cringe like, The Cook, Thief, His Wife and Her Lover for being on my list. I can understand the trepidation some others may have at inclusion of this movie because the  unappetizing, yet well-deserved finale, leaves some stomachs turning. But this for me is one of the finest movies there is, not only for it’s beautiful presentations of food as well as the phenomenal lighting and artistic direction that make this film truly a visual feast but because food is integral to the story —  not just as setting but as device and quite literally, in the end as character. This one knocks it out of the park, especially for someone like me, who both enjoys reading and cooking. The idea of falling in love through one’s love for food (and books ) is utterly sumptuous. Plus, it stars the incomparable (and sumptuous in her own right), Helen Mirren. This one is a MUST SEE on my foodie list.

FOOD PORN

A good food story makes you hungry, inspires you to make new dishes or even order in a certain type of food. It is, in effect, food porn. It ignites your fire for the epicurean delights that await you in this wide world, with it’s presentation, focus, writing or dialogue about the food. Really good foodie movies and books do this through the eyes of one or more culinarily impassioned characters and imbue you with the fever of their love, inspiring you to greater heights.

When I did my cleanse a few weeks back and certain glorious foods were off limits to me, movies and books like these helped me to feel a bit less deprived, satiating my desires through the sights, sounds and tastes described therein.

So, if you’re looking for some foodie approved recommendations for your reading and viewing pleasure, check out my newly posted list of books and movies in the Groo-V Books and Groo-V Movies sections of the site.

Feel free to post your own favorites for me to explore and add to the list.

Like good food this site is meant to be shared.

Thanksgiving’s Unconventional Turkey: au Francais

Thanksgiving’s Unconventional Turkey: au Francais

Anyone for leftovers? . . .Not me.

This year, unlike those in the past, I will not be cooking for a roomful of people. Nor will I be bringing a large amount of oyster and chestnut dressing or pumpkin custard pies, as a guest, to someone else’s shindig.  No, this year’s Thanksgiving will be quiet and intimate with just my hubby and our 2-year-old son.

Which made me think, why do we need a big bird hanging around in our fridge after the festivities? We are not huge on leftovers in my household. There are, of course exceptions.  I’ll always take leftover salmon kedgeree (for breakfast with some  sliced, freshly boiled eggs), homemade soups or stews and enchiladas. Other than that, no one much cares for leftovers in my household.




The thought of coming up with a host of new and stupefying ways to use leftover turkey meat (whose flavors degrade rapidly after it’s initially served) seems  a bit like torture to me.  If you love it, I’ll leave you and the thousands of other Foodpress bloggers out there, as they are sure to tickle your fancy with their astounding homages to this thankful beast.

I, however, will not be taking part because I have come up with a stunning plan for those of us who A) are hosting a smaller and more intimate gathering B) are more adventurous in our cravings and do not need to adhere to strict codes of tradition in our fare and C) who are loathe for the leftover adventure.

The menu at my house this year will consist of turkey breast only (it’s what we fight for in my household anyway.) But when you make the decision to work only with turkey breast, you have to ensure that the breast meat will remain juicy and flavorful, not drying out. This is why I have decided to look to the French in their infinite culinary wisdom and am making Turkey Roulade (rolled up, stuffed meat) using caulfat to seal in the juices and add extra flavor. My recipe is inspired by the Chicken Roulade made by Vitaly Paley at the extraordinary Paley’s Place restaurant, here in Portland.

Paley's Place restaurant in Portland

Caulfat (sometimes called lace fat), for the uninitiated, is the fatty abdominal membrane that encases the internal organs of animals like cows, sheep and pigs. The French use this on ballotines, crepinettes and pates and when wrapped around lean meats, it melts away as it bakes, infusing the meat with moisture and flavor. The caulfat from pigs is prized for its flavor and the fineness of its webbing and it’s what I will be using in my Turkey Roulade. If you doubt the power of caulfat, I have but one word for you — bacon. Just as bacon kicks everything up a notch with a pizzazz that only pork can bring, so too, does caulfat.

The wonderfully savory, lacy filigree that is caulfat

Now that you know what it is, where do you get your hands on it? Caulfat can usually be found at ethnic grocers and full service butcher shops, though some may need to special order it for you, so be sure and allow a few days lead time when checking with your local butcher.

I will be filling mine with a savory mixed mushroom and meat stuffing along with that boneless turkey breast and topping it all with pear cider gravy. But you can take the basics here and come up with your own unique spin on the Roulade. Vitaly Paley’s delectable Chicken Roulade recipe can be found here in his Paley’s Place Cookbook.

Cover of "The Paley's Place Cookbook: Rec...

Cover via Amazon

Turkey Roulade

1 whole, skin on, bone in turkey breast

1  large sheet of caulfat

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, chopped

2 bunches fresh thyme (one left whole, the other de-leaved and chopped)

1 bunch of fresh sage (a handful of which you should de-leave and chop)

4 cloves of garlic

8 ounces of fresh crimini mushrooms, brushed and chopped

1/2 pound of ground turkey, dark meat

Olive Oil

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

Soak the caulfat in cold water for an hour or so to remove any blood from the membrane (this will allow it to have the lovely white color instead of a pink pallor.) If the water becomes discolored, change it to continue leaching the excess blood from the membrane.

De-bone your turkey breast and carefully pull back the skin from the breast, removing it in one whole sheet. Lay the skin down on a clean cutting board, so that the inside of the skin is facing you. Carefully remove any excess fat and discard, leaving a fairly clean-looking, thin layer of turkey skin. Refrigerate it along with the breast meat.

Saute the shallots and mushrooms in 2 tbsp of olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, until the shallots begin caramelizing along the edges and the mushrooms are browned. This gives the mixture a sweeter taste, perfect with the pear gravy. Set them aside to cool. (HEALTH AND SAFETY NOTE: do not stuff poultry with hot or warm food as this could promote foodborne illness.)

In a bowl, fold together your chopped onion, garlic, and the handfuls of chopped sage and thyme with the ground turkey meat, along with 1 tsp each of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Squeeze your caulfat dry, spreading it out on a clean cutting board, and cut it in half. Set it aside.

Remove your turkey breast and skin from the fridge, spreading the skin out flat (again with the inside facing you) and cut it in half, vertically, as well. Generously season the skin. Take a portion of your ground turkey mixture and place it flattened and even upon the chicken skin (about the same width and length of your turkey breast.)  Season the turkey breast with salt and pepper on both sides and place it on top of the flattened mixture, pulling the excess skin around the edges of the breast.

On the bottom half of one of your flat, stretched caulfat pieces place more of the ground turkey mixture, (again, approximately the length and width of the breast) and then place the turkey breast with it’s mixture and skin carefully in tact (skin side up) on top of the ground turkey mixture on the caulfat, patting it down to flatten it. (If you have any of the ground meat mixture left you could use this in a side dressing or for breakfast the next day.)

Carefully pull up the edge closest to you of the caulfat and pull it up as far as it will go up the side of the chicken breast. Then carefully begin to roll the chicken and it’s mixture up in the caulfat, tucking the ends in and creating a tidy package. Remember not to wrap it too loosely (your filling will fall out) or too tightly as it will crack the caulfat as it cooks. Repeat on the second breast.

Then in a large skillet, with 2 tbsp of olive oil,  saute your roulades (one at a time if your skillet is smaller) over medium heating, bringing them to a golden brown on all sides. Move them to a roasting pan lined with your remaining thyme and sage and let them cook in a 400 degree oven  until done, about 40 minutes. Using a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 165 degrees.

Once done, remove from oven and let sit for five minutes covered, to seal in the juices before slicing. Serve with your favorites.

We’ll be having ours with roasted chestnut soup, savory bread pudding, baked yams with cinnamon butter, Gruyère popovers, kale with almonds in orange muscat champagne vinegar and cranberry and clementine relish. For dessert there’s always room for mini-caramel eclairs and a tunnel of fudge cake.

Caramel eclairs -- What a mouthful!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding this Holiday Season

Pumpkin Bread Pudding this Holiday Season

 

So many pumpkins, so little baking time.

I love bread pudding. I am haunted by the smell of that cinnamon laced, raisin-laden, custardy treat and have been since my childhood, when my mother often made this warm and comforting dish. I had no idea, as a child, that mom did so because it was a super affordable dessert to make for us kids, clamoring for sweets during a Reagan-era recession.

Affordable and easy to make, all you really need for a basic bread pudding is some stale (or toasted fresh bread), a few eggs, some milk, sugar and spice and you have a delectable dessert for the whole family.

Over the years I have experimented with my bread pudding recipe and created quite a high brow repertoire using ingredients like currants instead of raisins, pannetone or croissants in place of week old white bread. I have added chunks of dagoba chocolate, flecks of lavendar and lemon rind. I have also topped it with homemade ice cream — hard, chocolate and caramel sauces and savored the tart juxtaposition of raspberry liquor poured straight atop a deep, dark chocolate bread pudding.

But for this time of year when the comfort food reigns — I remain simple in my offerings with this straight-forward pumpkin version, topped with fresh whipped cream and maple candied pecans.

Best of all, it’s delish for breakfast the next day. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/candied maple pecans and whipped cream

1 15 oz of mashed or canned pumpkin
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 loaf lightly toasted and torn into pieces Challah
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup of butter
2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear or cube the bread of your choice into small pieces (if you would like add raisins, dried cranberries or currents to the bread, put into a buttered or greased casserole or large baking dish and set aside. Be sure that whatever dish you choose can fit easily inside a larger baking pan filled halfway with water for baking. Slightly beat eggs just until mixed not foamy and set aside. Put butter, milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted and milk mixture is heated but not scalded- set aside. Cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl pour pumpkin, milk and butter mixture, sugars, salt, spices, vanilla and eggs- whisk together. Pour mixture into the bread taking care to fold the bread and pumpkin mixture together to coat all pieces of bread. Set the larger pan in the oven on the rack and then place the baking dish with mixture inside the larger pan. Using a tea kettle or large pour measuring cup, carefully pour hot or boiling water, into the larger pan (be sure not to get water in the bread pudding) until the larger pan is half full. Carefully slide pans back into the oven making sure not to dump the hot water into the pudding or onto your self. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Candied Maple Toasted Pecans (or walnuts)

Heat a small skillet and dry toast 1 cup roughly chopped pecans continuing to move the nuts so they do not burn (about 1 minute) add ½ teaspoon of butter let it melt as you continue to stir the nuts into the butter- take care that it does not brown, add 3 Tbsp of dark maple syrup and continue to stir mixture as syrup bubbles and carmelizes onto pecans. Once mixture has thickened and nuts are coated remove from heat and let cool on a plate.

Serve pumpkin bread pudding warm or cold with fresh whipped cream and topped with candied pecans.

Yields: 8-12 servings

Katy Perry: A Visual Feast for your Foodie Eyes

Katy Perry: A Visual Feast for your Foodie Eyes

I have to admit I wasn’t much of a Katy Perry fan. At first, I judged her as just another teen queen coming down the pike. Her first hit, “I Kissed a Girl,” I felt was not shocking in the least, with it’s revelations about the taste of cherry lip balm and anyway, quirky 90’s balladeer, Jill Sobule, already covered that territory. “Been there done that, ” I thought.

Even Rosie the Riveter would approve

But then Katy started showing up at awards shows dressed so retro-gurly cute (I know it sounds vapid — I swear I’m a feminist!) that I just couldn’t look away. I loved her sense of style and her tongue-in-cheek behavior. Her videos had that same feel, a return to glamor with a touch of Lucille Ball and a heap of ball-breaker Bust gal mentality. Still, living in a ultra-feminist city (Portland, OR) home of the last non-profit feminist bookstore in the country, surrounded by Rosie the Riveter wannabes, I couldn’t help but feel like I would be shunned. I kept my curiosity about Ms. Perry on the DL, as they say. Then came “California Gurls.”

Katy Perry baking up treats in California Gurls

I first heard it on the radio and honestly, at first blush, I didn’t think much of it but then I saw the video. I was both kind of horrified (at the cherry topped cupcake bras and whip cream canisters bazzooms) and thrilled by it. But as I found myself sneaking off to YouTube to watch the video again, like a late night raid of the fridge, I realized I wasn’t really horrified at all — I was sort of counter-culturally programmed to detest anything that objectified the female form. But this was different — I finally relented to my inner girlie pop goddess and “got it.” And while I’m sure someone like Camille Paglia is off writing a book about why and how Katy Perry is corrupting the girls of today — I have this to say, Bravo Katy Perry.

Those things are loaded weapons

Katy’s videos, persona and outfits are a sort of a Shangri-la for foodies, a feast for the eyes and in a culture obsessed with dieting yet trapped in a cycle of fast and fake foods, just looking at this stuff can, well, frankly, turn you on.

Katy Perry's Candy Wonderland

Herein lies Katy Perry’s genius — she is a cultural lightening rod. Her songs are catchy pop perfection laced with saccharin sweet vocals, urging you further with ripe innuendo, stunningly luscious visuals and bubbly beats. She “gets it,” and she lets you in on the joke with sly grin and wink. Sure, we gals are still objectified, even in this day and age, but Katy’s pulling the strings here with something for everyone. The whip cream canistered bazzooms may be a thrill for the men at home but the farce of it all cannot be missed either. By owning and taking it to over-the-top heights, she somehow manages to rescue female sexuality from the everyday drab of jeans and t-shirts.

Old World Glamor a la Katy Perry

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love jeans and a t-shirt (I practically live in them) but I also love to dress up in my knee-length, A-line cherry-print dress with matching cardigan, roll my hair, glue on the false eyelashes and punctuate it all with bright red lipstick and my vintage candy-apple-red purse. I also like to be taken seriously, even if I’m showing some cleavage.

Serious Sucker - Katy Perry

I guess that’s what speaks to me about Perry’s style and music, the ability to have choice. Isn’t that what our foremothers fought for? For women to be able to choose what they wanted whether it’s to stay home with the kids or work in the world (or both), to be taken seriously in the boardroom and objectified in the bedroom, to map your own destiny based on your own unique tastes for life?

The whole world's a candy store

To top it all off, Perry is unabashed about flaunting her love of food, especially the sweet stuff. She wears it, eats it, dives into it — not always considered ladylike behavior folks. But there are close ties between sensuality, food and sexuality and Katy doesn’t miss that.

Cake DIVE!

Visuals aside, I still would not laud her, if I thought her music was garbage. Her latest album Teenage Dream, in which Perry lies beautifully nude, atop a bed of fluffy pink cotton candy, looking every bit the 1950’s pin-up, is a stellar pop work.

Cotton Candy Cloud Goddess, Katy Perry

On the title track, she sings of going, “all the way tonight, no regrets, just love,” shedding both the old puritanical baggage of “good girls don’t do it” and the overly sexed-up, “girls can do this casual sex thang too,” leaving her younger listeners with a pendulum that is clearly wavering in the middle. Because casual sex may seem exciting but as anyone who’s ever been in love can tell you, it’s so much better when you’re in love.

Katy and Russell in love.

Though some have criticized Perry’s work as just a rehash of others that came before her, overall the album does something that few other albums of late have done for me, it brings me back to my youth. A youth spent in John Hughes painted, bubble gum belly of the 80’s, wearing neon-colored t-shirts, a slew of rubber bracelets up my arms and candy-colored jelly shoes on my feet, bouncing to the jitterbug of Wham and collecting sugary scented Hello Kitty erasers and pencils. Teenage Dream has obvious influences from the likes of Madonna and even evokes thoughts of Pat Benatar on grittier ball-buster songs like, Circle the Drain.

Peacock dress, cupcake purse -- so Katy

The cheeky, “you show me yours,” anthem of Peacock flips the roles in the pressure-for-sex dynamic and Perry’s staccato chant of, “Peacock-cock-cock,” sounds reminiscently of Tony Basil’s Mickey.

Perry’s album is chock-o-block with delectable treats that will leave even the most ardent foodie satiated. Perry, in the centerfold of the album’s sleeve, is adorned as Princess Cupcake and looking a bit like a naughty Glinda the Good Witch, surrounded by teetering stacks of brightly buttercream frosted cakes and YES! just like Kitty, My Melody and the Little Twin Stars, the jacket is scented like cotton candy.

It's Katy's world, you're just a kid trying to get a cone

Can You Still Eat Well and Do a Cleanse? Oh Yeah!

Can You Still Eat Well and Do a Cleanse? Oh Yeah!

It's gonna be alright -- we have figs!

It’s gonna be alright — we have figs!

 

In effort to feel (and be) a bit healthier, I have embarked on a cleanse. It’s a three week cleanse and it’s based on the anti-inflammatory diet (an elimination diet that requires you leave inflammatory foods like dairy, wheat, sugar, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, red meat, processed foods and rice by the wayside.) In addition, I drink a nutritional supplement powder recommended by my Naturopath, called ClearVite. (It works to help your liver detox while feeding your body vitamins, minerals, fiber and good gut bacteria.)

You should know — I’m NOT a diet girl. Never have been, never will be. I don’t believe in diets because they set you up for failure and because I love food. Not in an overeater kind of way but in an appreciation for life, sharing meals with friends and family and discovering new flavors kind of way. Food, of course, is a passion of mine.  I write about it, I review it, I cook it, explore it, share it and obviously eat it. I can remember meals that shifted my world: the first bowl of Pho; the first bite of Kitfo; noshing on baquette, cheese and grapes in the shade of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the orgasmically satisfying chevre marinated in herbs d’ provence I had for dessert in a Bistro in Avignon that was so startlingly flavorful it flushed my cheeks and left me unable to finish more than two bites and gnocchi in Sienna that melted like butter in my mouth found in a tiny mom and pop joint. These were unforgettable meals and unforgettable times.

So, while I am excited about having more energy and improved digestion (and a revved up metabolism to boot) as a result of this cleanse, I must tell you that hell on earth for any foodie worth their Fleur de Sel, is a cleanse. Just the idea that ANY food is off limits to your discerning palate can instantly throw one headlong into panicked cravings. I am proud to say, I am no exception.

But I am resolved to see this cleanse through to the end and in a show of support, my hubby has joined me in the deprivation. But of course, if you have to be deprived, you know you have to do it in style. I’m looking at this cleanse as a challenge of my culinary skills. Working to consistently design meal combinations that provide the nutritional heft (read veggie and fiber rich), exquisitely delicious and filling, sans the carbs is a bit more difficult than you might think. Especially when chocolate is your ultimate weakness. But onward and upward.

The first three days were extremely difficult. As with most cleanses, we battled mood swings, cravings, constant hung pangs and various aches and pains. Today, I am on the first day of Week 2, getting the hang of my new food routine and how to manage all the other issues that are a result of toxins being released and working their way out of my system.

Here in photos, is a sampling of the what we’ve been eating at Groo-V household:

 

Salmon in broth with fennel tops and french green beans, topped with spring pea, watercress and mint puree

 

Sauteing mirepoix for 17 bean stew

Homemade mayo (red wine vinegar instead of lemon) for tuna salad, salad

broiled chickenswordfish-1024x682

Feeling under the weather? Soup is a cure-all

Feeling under the weather? Soup is a cure-all

The end of our short-lived summer here in Portland came with a whiplash-tastic weather change, that brought with it the bug from hell. Headaches, sinus congestion, body aches  and a lingering cough were the maladies that struck our humble abode, a little over a week ago now.

Because I view food as medicine, as well as comfort in my home, I cleared out all sugary treats, alcohol and congesting dairy from our food stuffs. In our weakened state,  we embarked on a journey filled with the immune-shoring properties of garlic, ginger, orange juice, watercress and other mind-blowingly powerful and delicious veggies and herbs.

Drinking tons of water (close to 200 ounces a day) and herbal teas (Echinacea/elderberry, dandelion and peppermint), we kept the diet light. Eating whole wheat toast, fresh fruit like apples, oranges and red grapes (great for strengthening your lung tissue) plenty of hot homemade soups and meals of brown rice, veg and grilled fish, tofu or chicken. I also used jalapeno peppers liberally to open sinus passages.

Here are a couple tried and true soup recipes for when you’re illin’.

Easy Curried Carrot Ginger Soup

Easy Curried Carrot Ginger Soup

1 bag of carrots (full size not minis) peeled and chopped into chunks

1 whole apple (cored, peeled and chopped)

1 cup orange juice

1   32 oz aseptic container of free range organic chicken broth

3 inch knob of ginger (peeled and smashed)

2 to 3 tbsp of Trader Joe’s Yellow Curry sauce

Put all ingredients (except curry sauce) in a deep sauce pan or in a Dutch oven letting it boil until carrots are soft enough to mush with a fork. Once carrots are soft, pour soup into a food processor or blender (about half at a time) and puree until smooth. If broth has evaporated and puree is too thick, add additional broth, water or orange juice (depending on your tastes) until you achieve desired thickness and consistency. Pour back into pan and add curry sauce to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt or soy sour cream (if you’re avoiding dairy during a cold, like I was.) Delish! Makes four HUGE bowls of soup.

Garlic, Chicken and Watercress Soup

Garlic, Chicken and Watercress Soup

1 whole organic chicken (2 to 3 pounds)

1 4 inch knob of ginger (peeled and smashed)

1 medium yellow onion (peeled and chopped)

2 shallots (peeled and chopped)

4 garlic cloves (peeled and finely minced)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 32 oz aseptic of free range organic chicken broth

2 heads of watercress (washed and leaves de-stemmed)

(Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste)

Fill a dutch oven or deep stew pot with water (enough to cover the chicken.) Place the chicken, breast side down, in the pan along with the smashed ginger and let boil until meat falls off the bone and water turns into a flavorful broth. While the chicken cooks prep onions, garlic, shallots and watercress. Once chicken is ready remove chicken from the broth, taking care to remove all fat, bones and debris from the broth (strain, if necessary.) Replace broth in pan and skim any liquefied fat from the top of the broth and return to a boil.

While the chicken is cooling a bit, heat a skillet with a tbsp of olive oil and cook shallots and onions until transparent, throw garlic in last, letting it release its flavor and fragrance (about one minute.) Once the onion/garlic mixture is soft and translucent ladle out  about a cup of the boiling broth to the skillet to deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any caramelized onions and flavor that may be on the bottom of the skillet. Pour all into the boiling broth, turning the heat down to the -of medium. If your overall broth level has reduced through evaporation, add free range organic chicken broth to desired amount.

Turn your attention to the chicken, removing the skin and discarding and picking all the chicken meat from the bone. Tear or chop the chicken into bite size pieces and add to the broth.  Then add the watercress, letting the soup cook until the leaves turn vibrant green. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool for a few minutes before serving. Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder. For extra zip, add sliced jalapeno peppers before serving. (Makes 8 to 10 servings)