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Showing posts with label Events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Events. Show all posts

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July Dinner and a Movie: Breakfast at Tiffany's

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For this month's Dinner and a Movie event, I've selected another one of my favorite films of all time - Breakfast at Tiffany's. Released in 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany's is an utterly delightful, yet occasionally dark film about life, love and following your dreams. It was directed by Blake Edwards and stars the heavenly Audrey Hepburn and the hunky George Peppard. The movie was based on a 1958 novella of the same name written by Truman Capote.

Played by Hepburn, the film's main character Holly Golightly, is a charming and madcap gadabout working her way through cocktail parties (and men) on Manhattan's swank East Side. She lives in partially furnished apartment, owns a cat with no name and earns her living collecting "powder room money" from the the wealthy men she dates. She also gets rid of the "mean reds" by visiting Tiffany's jewelry store, where she says, "... Nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets....".

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Holly is a nomad, ever seeking a place that she can call home. She never allows herself to care too much or get too attached to anyone or anything, because she is always searching. Almost everything she says and does in the film illustrates this outlook on life, and her inability to settle down. For her, the famed Tiffany's represents security and a sense of belonging. Yet, these are the very things that Holly runs from.

Enter Paul Varjak, or "Fred", as Holly calls him. Paul is a struggling young writer who moves into Holly's apartment building one day. Paul is everything that Holly is not - staid, conservative and responsible. Still, the two become fast friends and ultimately fall in love.

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The psychological struggle between the need for stability and the desire for freedom is evident throughout the film, and is perhaps the central theme of Breakfast at Tiffany's. This conflict defines the relationship between Paul and Holly, who are opposing forces drawn together, each pulling out what they lack from each other. Holly Golightly's story is perhaps in some way a part of all of us. The part that is constantly searching for our place in the world.

Aside from its subtext, Breakfast at Tiffany's is all at once quirky, funny, stylish, sophisticated, and bittersweet. And, Audrey Hepburn is sublime! What more could you ask for in a movie?

I hope you'll join my co-host Marc from No Recipes and I in this month's Dinner and a Movie. I think there's lots of inspiration to be found in Breakfast at Tiffany's from breakfast dishes to cocktail party fare.

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If you want to play along, visit our Dinner and a Movie page to get the rest of the details. Try to get your submissions in by the 20th of July, but a day or two later is okay. I'll post the roundup by the 25th.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dinner and a Movie: Shirley Valentine Roundup

Ack! I'm finally getting around to posting the roundup for this month's Dinner and a Movie! I apologize for getting this up so late! I've been playing catch-up ever since I returned from my Great Seattle Adventure, and unfortunately, DaaM suffered for it. I hope you all subscribe to the adage "Better late than never", because this is late, late, late! That doesn't mean, however, that these Shirley Valentine entries are anything less than awesome - because they most certainly are!

Shirley Valentine is a fortysomething housewife from Liverpool wondering what has happened to herself, as she feels stagnant and in a rut. She has become a proverbial doormat. Her family pays her so little attention that she's taken to talking to her kitchen walls in order to keep a conversation going. She's always dreamed of going to Greece, and when her friend wins a trip for two to Mykonos, Shirley uncharacteristically puts herself first and accepts an invitation to go along. She packs her bags, leaves a note on the kitchen table, and takes off on her dream vacation!

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Immersed in her stunningly beautiful surroundings, Shirley takes stock of her life after years of marital neglect and mundane domesticity. What she discovers there is a new awareness of who she is and what her existence can be with just a little effort on her part. (A little tryst with a hunky Greek doesn't hurt matters either!) When her nice, but complacent husband Joe arrives on the island to bring her back to Liverpool, Shirley is forced to make the most important decision of her life. I'm not going to tell you the ending. I don't want to ruin it for you if you do decide to watch the movie.

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I was very excited to get such positive feedback from so many of you regarding my movie choice for this month. Shirley Valentine is one of my all time favorite films, and many of you feel the same way. The first time that I watched it, I really felt like I could identify with it. It has become my "go to" movie whenever I find myself sinking into a rut and questioning my purpose in the universe. I am fortunate to have a family that is much more supportive of me than Shirley's is of her, but as I edge my way into middle age, I have definitely felt a lot of the same feelings that Shirley has. I think she is incredibly brave. She hightailed it all the way to Greece! All I did was run away to Seattle for a few days!

I was also very impressed with the entries I received this month. Apparently, I wasn't the only one inspired by this movie!

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I'm bringing two dishes to the party. Both are Greek classics and both recipes were borrowed from my good friend Peter, whose blog, Kalofagas, is a living testament to the fabulousness of Greek cuisine! The first is Taramasalata with Homemade Pita Chips. Taramasalata is a creamy, luscious Greek dip made from the roe of the carp fish. It is a staple on the menu of most Greek restaurants, and we here at Chez SGCC love it! You can find Peter's recipe for Taramasalata here.

Taramasalata Collage

I never cared much for pita chips until I began making my own. I always found them dry, thick and waaaay too hard. I'm talking tooth cracking hard! My Homemade Pita Chips are light, thin, delicate and super crispy. They are also ridiculously simple to make. All you do is cut regular pita bread into wedges and then split each wedge into two pieces. Lay them all out on a baking sheet and lightly brush them with olive oil (extra-virgin, of course). Then, sprinkle some salt, pepper, and whatever herbs and spices you like on them and bake at 350 deg. F. for about 15 minutes. That's it. Done. They keep well for a couple of days in a zip lock bag. Trust me. You will never go back to the stuff in the bags after you've tried these!

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My second DaaM dish is Souvlaki. Souvlaki is a popular Greek dish consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate, often with fried potatoes or rice pilaf. You can click on the link for the recipe for Peter's Souvlaki

Lisa from My Own Sweet Thyme sent over another popular Greek dip. Who doesn't love a delicious, garlicky, lemony Hummus? I certainly do!

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Lisa says that "Like Shirley, Hummus is a wonderful and exotic recipe that is often taken for granted. Becoming reacquainted with the excitement of making it adds a new appreciation for an old favorite."

Your Hummus looks droolworthy, Lisa. Thanks so much for sending it over!

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Gabi from The Feast Within sent over these lovely Sweet Potato Chips and Egg with Oregano Feta Gremolata. Gabi says that "Chips and Egg" is a pivotal dish in the movie. If you read her post, you'll understand why. It is a classic British dish. She tried to pull Greece a bit closer with the Oregano/Feta Gremolata. It looks wonderful Gabi! Thanks for sharing it!

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Meg from A Dash of Nutmeg made another tempting potato dish. Her Greek-Inspired Twice-Baked Potatoes with Capers and Feta look to die for! Meg says that, "Inspired by Greece in the movie, I decided to make these potatoes. They are nice and creamy and I was happy to taste how well the flavors in the capers and the feta cheese play off one another." Thanks so much to Meg for sharing them!

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I like to call Bellini Valli from More Than Burnt Toast the United Nations of food bloggers. She frequently features the most mouthwatering international dishes on her blog, and has a special place in her heart for Greece. Val made some Pan Fried Halloumi to share with us. Halloumi is a Greek cheese, usually made from a mixture of goat and sheep milk. It has quite a high melting point, and so can easily be fried or grilled. Thanks, Val! It really looks divine!

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Zabeena from A Lot on My Plate says that "The film probably should have inspired something symbolic of transformation and renewal, but all I could think was: Greek Food! Stifado!! We had discovered it either in Crete or Corfu, brought back a cookery book from there, and cooked this dish frequently for a while. And then we forgot about it again. Strange, how that happens. Slipping into routines, getting stuck in a rut. Forgetting all the other things you used to love. A little bit like Shirley."

Zabeena's Moschári Stifado is a beef ragout with onions, vinegar and tomato sauce. I'm positively drooling over that lovely picture! It looks so delicious! Thanks, Zabeena!

Rebecca from Madindex joins us all the way from Denmark. She was so inspired by Shirley Valentine that she created a whole dinner around it!

Check this out!

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Rebecca says that "The film, Shirley Valentine, captures quite nicely the emotions the south of Europe can stir up in us North Europeans. If you have watched "Italian for Beginners" you may know what I'm talking about. The south is passion and sun, and always something we long for and dream about, especially during the long dark winter (no, actually most of the year). Although the film takes place in Greece, I decided to go for everything that reminded my cold, Scandinavian heart about sun, passion and long holidays in the south of Europe. The result is a bit of Greece and a bit of Spain - and despite the touristic touch of the dishes, they also symbolise the simple, and yet rich Mediterranean food - rich in good ingredients and rich in olive oil!"

Well done, Rebecca! Thank you!

Now, what's a fabulous Greek feast without a little something sweet? We've got you covered!

Kris from The Back of the Cupboard sent over some delectable Loukoumathes for us to drool over.

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"Pronounced loo-koo-MAH-thes, these little yeasted balls of dough are deep fried until puffed and golden and then drizzled with lots of honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. A New Years Eve tradition in parts of Greece, I thought they went perfectly with a movie based on change and getting a fresh start."

I completely agree, Kris. Actually, with a plateful of these, I probably wouldn't even mind being in a rut! Thanks for sharing them!

My good friend Cakelaw from Laws of the Kitchen made a lovely and refreshing Lime and Yoghurt Sorbet.

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Cakelaw explains that "As Shirley's adventures centre on her experiences in the Greek Islands, I am naturally inspired to make a Greek-style recipe for this event. During the film, Shirley Valentine rediscovers her zest for life. Together, these elements led me to make a Lime and Yoghurt Sorbet.....Why? It's a Greek-style recipe and its zesty, uplifting flavour mirrors Shirley's new-found zest for life."

I love the way you think, Cakelaw, and I love this sorbet too. It's the perfect finale for our Greco-inspired buffet! Thanks so much for sending it over!

I hope you'll take a few minutes and check out all of these terrific recipes. I also hope you'll play along with my co-host Marc and I next time when our featured movie will be Monsoon Wedding. You can read all about it here.

Ciao for now!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Great Seattle Adventure, Part 2: Friends, Fun and (Lots of) Food

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I started writing this post about five different times, and it has taken forever! I wanted to get it just right! Each time, I'd get a few paragraphs in and then I'd have to stop and start over. It just seemed so overwhelming! How do I sum up those two extraordinary, action-packed, fun-filled days that were the International Food Blogger Conference, or IFBC, as it is called by those "in the know". This has got to be one of the few times in my life that I really just can't seem to find the words! And unfortunately, I can't seem to find most of the pictures either. Shots I thought I took of the conference simply aren't there, and most of what I did get, came out pretty crappy. But, I do want to share my wonderful experience with you, so please bear with me as I suck it up and just do it! And, I warn you. It's going to be looooooong! I'll be blatantly borrowing some great photos I found on Foodista's Flickr Pages to supplement my own meager offerings. Please, nobody sue me!

With my trip to the fabulous Pike Place Market behind me, I turned my attention to the next part of my great Seattle adventure - the actual IFBC. The festivities were to commence on Friday evening with a cocktail party held at the historic Bemis Building in the SoDo district of the city. After I changed outfits three times, I headed down to the hotel lobby to catch the party bus shuttle, where I met Recipe Girl, Pinch My Salt, Cooking with Amy, Eating Out Loud, The Daily Spud (all the way from Dublin!), Simply...Gluten Free, Wild Yeast, Plumpest Peach, The Well-Tempered Chocolatier, My Last Bite, Passion 4 Eating and several other fellow attendees.

Wow! This was going to be fun!

The cocktail party was a low-key, laid back affair, which I think was meant to be a kind of ice-breaker for the attendees. (Believe me, by the time I had gasped, clawed and limped my way up the four fights of stairs to the party room with these guys, the ice was definitely broken!)

Once inside, I encountered a sea of smiling, friendly food bloggers and vendors with.....NO NAME TAGS!!! That meant if you didn't have a photo of yourself on your blog, no one knew who you were. So, in between sampling the lovely assortment of Northstar Wines, sipping the rich and robust coffee from Caffe Vita, nibbling on Theo Chocolates' fine chocolates, slurping oysters from Taylor Shell Fish and munching on the delicious appetizers provided by Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar, we all walked around quizzically staring at each other and saying,

"Hi! Who are you?".

It was hilarious to watch! Navigating my way through the crowd, I got to meet Hedonia, Bring to Boil, Orangette, Discover the word of Artisan Beef, Phoo-D, Seattle Tall Poppy, Simply Recipes and Steamy Kitchen. (I've actually met Steamy Kitchen many times before as we live less than ten miles away from each other. But, it was great to see her again anyway!)

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Our special guest of the night was Renée Behnke, president emeritus of Sur la Table. Renée spent some time chatting with the crowd and graciously gave everyone there an autographed copy of her new cookbook, Memorable Recipes To Share with Family and Friends. It's a beautiful book and I'm looking forward to recreating some of her lovely dishes!

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Bright and early the next morning, we all convened at the conference venue, the lovely and elegant Sanctuary at Admiral. I have to say, it was a little intimidating. I kind of felt like it was the first day of junior high school and as I walked inside, I started asking myself all kinds of ridiculous questions, such as:

"Does my hair look okay?"

"Are my jeans too long/short?"

"What if I say something totally stupid?" (Oh, please God, don't let me say something totally stupid!)

"What if a) everyone hates me; b) everyone things I'm a nerd; or c) everyone hates me AND thinks I'm a nerd?!?!"

I know, I know....not very appropriate thoughts for a grown woman to be thinking, but.....still.....

I needn't have worried, though. Everyone I met was just as nice as could be. We all milled around, chatting each other up as though we'd known each other forever!

We were greeted by steaming hot coffee and a lavish breakfast pastry buffet courtesy of Stumptown Coffee and Bakery Nouveau. There were rich and buttery croissants, chewy, nutty breads and crusty baguettes. Honestly, the almond croissant that I had positively shattered when I bit into it! It was as good, if not better, than any I had in Paris!

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Once we had all loaded up on coffee and delicious pastries (except Simply...Gluten Free, who couldn't eat the pastries), it was time to get down to business.

Instead of giving you a blow by blow narrative of each and every session, I'm going to give you the highlights and direct you to the IFBC web site. The Foodista crew has done a marvelous job of recording each session and is making podcasts of them available so that all of you can glean the same knowledge and great advice for yourselves. Besides, If I tried to include everything here, this post would be endless!

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Here's Molly from Orangette and Jaden from Steamy Kitchen with Kirsty Melville from Andrews McMeel Publishing talking about the "ins and outs" of getting a book deal from your blog, including how to write a book proposal. You can't see her, but Amy from Cooking with Amy was also there as the moderator.

Next, was a very interesting session called "Finding Your Voice", which was all about settling on your blog niche, keeping your writing fresh, relevant and unique and building a rapport with your audience. James Beard Journalism Award Winner, Rebekah Denn, CEO/Founder of Women & Wine, Julie Brosterman and Kathleen Flinn, author of “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry”, were our able panelists for this one.

A fabulous gourmet lunch was provided by Kerry Sears from Four Seasons ART Restaurant, Brian Cartenuto from Cantinetta, Jonathan Hunt from Boom Noodle, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, Theo Chocolate and DRY Soda. While every dish was incredibly delicious, my favorites were those amazing little Bomboloni! Bomboloni are small, round and dreamily soft pillows of fried dough, usually filled with cream or jam, and dusted with sugar. These were filled with an amazing orange-scented pastry cream. Heaven!

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After that feast, what I really needed was a nice, long nap, but instead we were treated to informative sessions on food styling and building blog traffic. Two adorable representatives from Picnik were there to tell us all about the photo editing site, and I have to say, I was really impressed! I'd used Picnik in my early blogging days, but kind of forgot about it after I got Photoshop. Since then, a ton of great new features have been added that are fun and very easy to use. In fact, almost all of the pictures and collages on my Seattle posts were edited using Picnik. I love Picnik!

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The next stop on this great Seattle adventure was the Words & Wine event with special guest, Ruth Reichl. Ruth certainly needs no introduction to anyone involved in the world of food, but for anyone who isn't already familiar with her, she was the restaurant critic for the New York Times for many years before graduating to be the editor of Gourmet Magazine. Ruth is also a best-selling author and the recipient of four James Beard Awards. She is a legend and an icon, and after having the opportunity to chat with her at this event, I can also say a very charming and lovely woman! I am so thrilled to have met her!

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After a delightful evening of "words and wine" with Ruth Reichl, we each received an autographed copy of her newest book, "Not Becoming My Mother", (woo hoo!) and went on our merry way.

Believe it or not, by that time I was actually hungry again! And fortunately, so were many of my new blogger friends. A group of us decided to have a nice dinner at Chef Tom Douglas' signature restaurant, Lola. We had a great time chatting, laughing and eating sensational food!

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Here we are mugging for the camera! From left to right are: Passion 4 Eating, The Well-Tempered Chocolatier, The Daily Spud, MOI, Recipe Girl, Wild Yeast, Plumpest Peach, Simply...Gluten Free and Brownies for Dinner.

Later, as I climbed into bed and pulled the covers over my head, I reflected on yet another awesome day of my great Seattle adventure. I had made so many new friends, learned so much and had such a great time doing it. And, there was still one more day left to go! I'm pretty sure I drifted off to sleep that night with a smile on my face.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of My Great Seattle Adventure, coming soon!

BTW, to enjoy lots more excellent photos of the IFBC, check out Sheri's post on the Foodista blog and the Foodistablog page on Flickr.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spiced Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies: A Little Something to Nibble on While I'm Gone

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By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to Seattle for the International Food Blogger Conference sponsored by Foodista. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! Not only am I going to meet some of my favorite food bloggers and Twitter friends, but I'll be learning some great tips and strategies to hopefully make SGCC bigger and better. Plus, I've never been to Seattle before and I've always wanted to visit there.

I'm arriving a day early so that I can check out some of the sites, especially the famous Pike Place Market. Tomorrow, I'll be out there, shopping 'til I drop and I can't wait!

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I wanted to leave you with a little something to nibble on while I'm gone and I couldn't think of anything better than these fabulous Spiced Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies. I found a version of these little beauties on Smitten Kitchen's web site many months ago and fell in love with them. Deb makes hers with white chocolate chunks, but I've tweaked the recipe to include cinnamon-spiced dried apples and cranberries. She says that they are "scandalously good", and I agree. I think that they are To. Die. For., and I hope you do too!

Hope you all have delicious weekend!

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Spiced Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated via Smitten Kitchen
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup dried apples chopped into small bits*
1 cup dried cranberries*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel for sprinkling)

*Note: I use a dried fruit mixture from the market which is a blend of diced, dried apples and cranberries that is already flavored with cinnamon. It is the perfect thing for these cookies. I think Sun Maid makes it.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt in a medium bowl. Toss apples, cranberries and cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl as needed. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Add rolled oats and fruit mixture and mix well.

Scoop the dough into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place on the baking sheet about 2 1/2-3 inches apart. You should get about 8 cookies on a sheet. Gently press down each ball slightly just to flatten the top a little. Sprinkle a small pinch of flaky salt on top of each cookie.

Bake until cookies are a golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dinner and a Movie: Moonstruck Roundup

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Moonstruck is a delightful and endearing romantic comedy about love and life set in New York City's Italian-American community. In it, Loretta Castorini, (brilliantly played by Cher), an unlucky in love Italian widow (her first husband was hit by a bus) finds romance through the intervention of la bella luna. With her second wedding to stodgy mama's boy, Johnny Cammareri, just weeks away, she meets and reluctantly falls hopelessly in love with her fiance's estranged younger brother, Ronny! Her dilemma and her hilariously eccentric family make for an unforgettably enchanting and irresistible movie experience.

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I chose Moonstruck for this month's Dinner and a Movie, first and foremost, because I love it. I love it not only for its abundant humor, warmth and charm, but also because of its rich ethnic flavor and pervasive theme that love and family are the most important things in life and are meant to be celebrated with gusto! And, there is a helluva lot of gusto going on in that movie!

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As an Italian-American from the Bronx, watching Moonstruck is an emotional experience for me. I can really identify with it. In fact, several of the characters could have come straight out of my own family album! Each time I watch it, a comforting wave of familiarity and understanding washes over me. In the final scene, where the music swells and the camera pans to all of the old family photos, I always spill a few tears.

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Another reason that I love this movie is for its beautiful music, much of which is taken from Puccini's glorious opera, La Boheme. According to both Norman Jewison and John Patrick Shanley, the director and screenwriter of the film, Moonstruck was always intended to have an operatic feel from its conception. Jewison specifically envisioned La Boheme because he felt that its music was the perfect vehicle to enhance the various dramatic, comedic and romantic elements of the film. It worked. Imagine Moonstruck without Puccini's music. It just wouldn't be the same!

Remember this scene? It's the one where Ronny takes Loretta to the opera for the first time to see La Boheme at The Met. Loretta is moved to tears as the singers perform the beautiful duet, Donde Lieta Usci. I think it is one of the most compelling in the whole movie.

Italian opera was the inspiration for my dish, Pasta alla Norma. Pasta alla Norma is a divine concoction of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, basil and ricotta salata, a semi-hard salted ricotta cheese, served over pasta. Legend has it that this classic Sicilian dish was named for Vincenzo Bellini's popular bel canto opera, Norma, which premiered in 1831 at La Scala.

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The most famous and memorable Norma of all time was Maria Callas, with eighty-nine stage performances of the opera under her belt. If you look closely at my photos, you can see a picture of La Divina, herself, as Norma in a 1950 production at La Fenice in Venice.

There are many variations of Pasta alla Norma, but the essentials of the dish are pretty much the same. The traditional preparation is with fried eggplant, although I've seen recipes where the eggplant is roasted. I made the fried version because it is more authentic and.....what the hell? How often do I fry eggplant?

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Pasta alla Norma
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

2 large globe eggplants, diced into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon-1tablespoon hot chili flakes, according to taste
One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
2 sprigs fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta of your choice (I used rigatoni)
6-8 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled or thickly grated
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced for garnish

Directions:

Place the diced eggplant in a large colander with a plate underneath it and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt. Place another plate on top of the eggplant and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Remove the eggplant and dry thoroughly with a paper towel.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes for the last minute or two until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and basil sprigs to the saucepan. Bring to a healthy simmer, lower heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes more, or until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper if needed.

While sauce is simmering, cook the pasta and the eggplant. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.

In a large skillet heat, the 1/2 cup olive oil over medium high heat until almost smoking. Add the eggplant in batches and fry until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.

To serve, toss the pasta with the tomato sauce. Top with the eggplant. Sprinkle the ricotta salata over the top and garnish with the sliced basil.

Enjoy!

And, now for the Roundup:

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Maryann from Finding La Dolce Vita believes that an Italian movie needs Italian Popcorn! So, she sent over this "Italianized" version. Popped in olive oil and tossed with Italian herbs, spices and Parmesan cheese, this looks like the perfect tasty snack to curl up on the couch with! Thanks, Maryann!

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Lola from Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino sent over her Mamma’s Pasta e Ceci. Lola says "This dish is a family legacy, and since most of the comedy’s dialogue scenes take place with the family gathered around the kitchen table, and Grandpa dispensing wisdom and humor with each bite, I wished to honor that homey Italian family tradition by contributing with my mother’s famed Pasta e Ceci soup."

Thank you Lola! We're honored that you've shared a treasured family recipe with us!

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This delicious looking Peppers and Cheese Focaccia comes from Andreas of Delta Kitchen. Andreas says that his dish was inspired by the Italian bakery in the movie. Don't you just love those vibrant colors? Thanks, Andreas!

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Holly from Food and Entertaining - Holly Hadsell - El Hajji calls her dish Moonegg. She loves all the food scenes in Moonstruck and it was hard for her to make one choice. She decided on this egg dish because it was the first time she had seen anything like it. Great choice, Holly. It looks mighty tasty! Thanks for sending it over!

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My incredibly talented and creative co-host, Marc from No Recipes contributed his take on "Pasta Fazool". Marc's inspiration for his dish was the opening song in the movie. He says, "The movie opens to the song That's Amore which mentions Pasta Fazool in one of it's verses. Watching the movie, it's a dish I could totally
see showing up on the Castorini's dinner table."

You're so right, Marc. Your Pasta Fazool, itsa maka me drool! Thank for sharing this with us!

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These luscious Italian Wedding Cupcakes came from Lisa of My Own Sweet Thyme. Lisa says that like the movie itself, these Italian Wedding Cupcakes have a dark sweetness, tempered by a tart glow and a nutty texture that is Oh, So Good! I completely agree, Lisa. They look amazing! Thanks!

Steak-diane-Zabeena

Zabeena from A Lot on My Plate sent over not one, but TWO great dishes! The first, Steak Diane, was actually inspired by that big, beautiful full moon. Zabeena says that the effect of a full moon plays an important role in the film - "she brings the woman to the man" - she referring to Roman Moon goddess Luna. Another moon goddess is Diana, hence Steak Diane. A steak was, of course, also particularly fitting because it is what Loretta cooks for Ronny in the film when they first meet. (I love the way that girl thinks!)

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Zabeena's other dish, Ciabatta Breakfast Starter, was inspired by the kitchen scene where Rose cooks Loretta up some eggs in the hole for breakfast.

Both Dishes look fabulous! Thanks, Zabeena!

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"Moonstruck is not exactly a film about food... it's mostly about love, family and starting over again. But because Nicolas Cage plays a one-handed baker named Ronnie Cammareri and there are subsequently many scenes of his bakery, I think Moonstruck still counts as a food movie." explains Bellini Valli from More Than Burnt Toast. So, in honor of the movie and the baker, she has sent over her Pasta Shells with Shrimp and Garlicky Bread Crumbs - a Parmesan and a lemon anchovy pasta salad with shrimp. Sounds absolutely divine, Val. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Pat from Mille Fiori Favorati was born and bred in Brooklyn, not far from Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens, where much of Moonstruck was filmed. She feels that the movie portrays a true slice of Brooklyn life.

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Pat says, "Because I think Moonstruck's Johnny Cammareri was a "baccala" --which is also known as an Italian slang word for a less than smart person -- for letting Loretta's love slip from his life in the movie to his brother Ronny, I prepared my version of "Baccala Florentine" as my dinner recipe."

I hope that you've enjoyed this month's installment of Dinner and a Movie. I've certainly had a great time putting it together for you. Stay tuned for details about next month's movie. Marc gets to choose, and I'm sure it will be another great one!

By the way, I also wanted to mention that some of these great screenshots came from Echte Tunus of Movie Screenshots. You should check out his site. He does really nice work!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chicken Pepperoncini for Bloggeraid

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About six months ago, a very industrious and passionate trio of bloggers organized an international consortium of even more bloggers and Bloggeraid was born. According to founders, Ivy from Kopiaste, Val from More Than Burnt Toast and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, Bloggeraid is "a growing group of international food bloggers determined to make a difference in aid of world famine. The love of food and community that brings us together drives the compassion of its members to reach out to our world to help those less fortunate than we are. Banded by a mission of helping to make a change in a world where starvation affects such a profound number of people, we will raise money and awareness for the hungry in communities both at home and abroad."

Pretty amazing, huh? Did I not tell you that these three ladies were industrious and passionate? Back in January, Ivy, Val and Giz announced that Bloggeraid will be publishing a cookbook with 100% of the profit from sales being directed to the School Meals program of The World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations frontline agency.

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Why School Meals? Well, in countries where school attendance is low, the promise of at least one nutritious meal each day boosts enrollment and promotes regular attendance. Parents are motivated to send their children to school instead of keeping them at home to work or care for siblings. In the poorest parts of the world, a school meals program can double primary school enrollment in one year. Among the key beneficiaries are girls, who otherwise may never be given the opportunity to learn.

The WFP School Meals program primarily involves providing nutritious in-school meals. However, in its "take-home ration" projects, WFP also provides basic food items, often including a sack of rice and a can of cooking oil, to families who send their daughters to school.

The Bloggeraid cookbook is targeted for sale on Amazon by November/December 2009, and all bloggers have been invited to contribute their favorite recipes to this effort.

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I'm very happy to be a member of Bloggeraid, and even happier that I am able to contribute a recipe for the cause. This Chicken Pepperoncini is one of the first dishes that I learned to prepare after I was married. Both my mother and grandmother used to make it a lot and it has always been very popular with my family.

In case you're wondering what pepperoncini are, they're a small, bright green variety of sweet pepper in the Capsicum annuum family. They are also known as Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers and golden Greek peppers. Pepperoncini are mild, but zesty, with a slight heat to them. They are commonly pickled and sold in jars, which is how I used them in this dish.

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The recipe is not a complicated one. Sliced onions, garlic and fresh mushrooms are sauteed with chicken. After which, the ingredients are braised in some white wine, chicken broth and pepperoncini juice. Then, the pepperoncini, themselves are added to the mix and simmered a little bit more. The original recipe uses a whole cut up chicken, but I always make this dish with boneless chicken thighs. Using boneless chicken cuts down the cooking time quite a bit. Plus, the thighs hold up well to braising without drying out.

This Chicken Pepperoncini is a zesty, hearty and very flavorful main dish. It has elements of sweet, sour, salty and spicy woven through it. The dish is warm and mellow, but leaves a little kick in the back of your throat while going down. Of course, the dish really sings when served over a huge bowl of pasta!

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If you'd like to have the recipe for my Chicken Pepperoncini, I'm afraid you'll just have to wait for the cookbook. I'm such a tease! But seriously, all of the recipe contributors have been asked not to publish their recipes before the book launch.

If YOU would also like to contribute to this wonderful and worthwhile cause, there's still time. The deadline for recipe submission is not until March 31, 2009. Hop on over to this page on the Bloggeraid web site and find out all of the details.