Goh-T-Yay. Gotye

Just to clear the air…:

 

Four months into listening to this genius of an artist and I’ve finally figured out how to pronounce his name. For those four months it didn’t really matter that we said “Got Yay” (hear the college kids snicker from here to Sacramento. Or high school kids? Because they sure do start young these days), as anyone that I mentioned the artist to hadn’t yet heard of him. Probably because the people I mentioned him to probably consist of my sister in med school who doesn’t have time to blink let alone listen to music and the squirrel that lives in our wall. But even if I’m not hip or avant garde, Gotye sure is!!

I was so into his behind-the-scenes making of an album, I nearly caused us to miss the $267-per-ticket blowhard Mission Impossible For Tom Cruise to Give Up the Ghost IMAX 3D DLP Projection. Or something along those lines. The main takeaway here is don’t bother with an aging Tom Cruise. (Ok, I’ll give you the Dubai skyscraper scaling scene). Watch this instead. Not only is it free, but it will have you imagining what you could do with a few thrift store LPs and the rusty xylophone you’ve had since kindergarden. That, my friends, is priceless.

 

The creative process on display is just so cool – the mix of the old and the new, building respectfully on others’ creativity – all described in a really approachable, normal way. His sound is Peter Gabriel plus a more respectable Guster plus solo-Sting on a leash plus Beck, slightly tempered. Kind of?  At any rate, I’m looking forward to seeing him live at the intimate venue that is The Paradise. The tickets are basically the same price as Mission Impossible, but I’m sure it’ll be ten times the show.

Of Half-Sour Pickles and Reubens at Sunrise

If you ever find yourself driving on 84 just north of Hartford at the front or tail-end of a hefty road trip, shore up your stomach with a little detour in Vernon, CT to visit Rein’s Deli.  Over the past decade of making multiple annual hauls between Boston and Philadelphia, I’m sure at least sixty friends, strangers, acquaintances, people on the 86 bus, people on the next treadmill, etc., urged a stopover at Rein’s. But somehow we never made it happen.

This year I remembered, just at the crack of dawn as we barreled down the highway trying to beat the inevitable Thanksgiving rush. While visions of matzoh balls danced in my head, Google maps showed that by maintaining our current semi-illegal speed, we’d hit Rein’s just as it opened at 7 a.m.  And arrive we did, to a line of ten inexplicably cheerful people already waiting outside the shuttered building.

The place is by no means a well-kept secret. That the on/off ramp of the highway deposits you into the front entrance probably doesn’t contribute excess anonymity either. But the lights came on, the door was unlatched, and we rushed in with the other ten to see a straight-faced staff three times our number clearly preparing for battle. To their credit, they didn’t blink at an order of 7 a.m. Reuben, potato knish, and breakfast bagel with a huge bucket of half sours to wash it all down.


It might not have been the best thing to start what is already an indulgent holiday, but it was worth it. So worth it that we stopped by again on our way back to Boston to see the midday crush waiting in a DMV-sized line for lunch. Now wily veterans, we skirted the crowd, and instead grabbed some frozen pints of matzoh ball soup and another bucket of pickles to enjoy later in the week.

We’ve since decided to make the Rein’s Deli stop our new family tradition.  So we’ll see you there in December, other 79% of the holiday highway traveling population!

Homemade Nut Butter & the Holidays

It’s getting real cheery up in here. Annie Lennox is earnestly urging merry gentlemen to God rest themselves, the mini-tree is decked out in kitschy colored lights, seasonal cider is being imbibed, and nuts are a-roasting (for the biweekly batch of nut butter that Matt makes, but let’s consider it part of the holiday melange).

 

After a few attempts at shopping more than three days before Christmas – responsible! foresight! we’re grown-ups! – we soon realized that a lot of people do this and perhaps we’re better off waiting until the mad Eve dash when the eggnog overdose aggression kicks in, and instincts for gift-finding and crossing names off lists are honed as razor sharp as the end of the candy cane you’ve been whittling down for the better part of an hour.  I’m quickly realizing not to discount the wonderful thing that is online shopping, especially when wandering around Bed Bath & Beyond means encountering this:

That’s right. Snuggies have somehow generated enough revenue for offshoots and ripoffs. Such as the “Forever Lazy,” the “one-piece lie around, lounge around, full body lazy wear that covers you from head to toe!”…. HuffPost beat me to this scoop by about 11 months, but I bet they never expected to see the miracle display of displays that some enterprising employee cooked up with a Forever Lazy and 27 foam-stuffed soccer balls.  But I like lounging around and being warm. And if I hadn’t been so afraid of the creature becoming dislodged and suffocating the fifteen small children gaping up at it, I just might have grabbed one of the boxes for a closer look.

All in, this display has nothing on the one that Eggton saw in Home Depot. Try reading that post without shooting milk through your nose. The milk that you’re drinking while eating a Fuji apple spread with Matt’s homemade nut butter, of course.

Al-hew Nut Butter
By The Mr. but tweaked off of Alton Brown’s recipe for cashew butter

8 oz. raw almonds
8 oz. raw cashews
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Put half the almonds and half the cashews on a cookie sheet. Roast at 350 degrees, keeping a close eye on them, until the oils start to appear on the nuts and they just start to turn brown on the edges.

As the other nuts are roasting, put the remaining almonds in a food processor and pulse until they create a coarse meal. Add the cashews and process these for a few seconds. Let the processor run while you add a tablespoon of walnut oil, then a tablespoon of honey. Once these are mixed in, stop the processor and with a spatula, clean down the sides of the bowl.  Put the lid back on, turn the processor on and while it’s running, add the second tablespoon of walnut oil and then the remaining honey.

Once the other nuts are finished roasting, turn the processor back on and add them to the mix. Process this, cleaning down the sides of the bowl from time to time, until you have the approximate consistency you’d like for the nut butter.  We process it until the butter starts to “glisten” from the oils coming out.  We’ve never tried to go all the way to really creamy because we like the crunchy consistency.

Once you’ve reached the consistency you like, pour in the salt, pulse a few times, then stir the mixture by hand. This means that some of the salt crystals don’t melt in, making for little bursts of saltiness when you eat the butter. Which is delicious.

TGIF, Lidia Bastianich – Bread & Cabbage Soup

Growing up without cable made for a lot of pop culture miss-outs and PBS-watching. We still had TGIF, obviously, but unless mom and dad were out, we weren’t allowed to watch Perfect Strangers (too…uh…sexy?), Step by Step (divorce!!!), and some episodes of Dinosaurs (the demanding baby, I think, and the episode where the teenage son does drugs. Oh, and the tarpit). I’d like to say I was uninfluenced by my childhood TV watching, but seeing as how I now work in documentary film, it’s clear at least some of the PBS stuff seeped in.  Guess my parents were smarter than I thought at the time.

We still don’t have cable, and despite missing the occasional sports game or Food Network marathon, don’t really miss it. Matt hooked up a MacMini to the TV screen, so Netflix gets us movies and documentaries, Hulu gets us TV shows, and iTunes fills in any gaps.  But every now and then, when an open Saturday morning or afternoon presents itself, I’ll flip over to our basic TV and hope for the best.

Oh baby, just gimme a smorgasbord of Jacques and Julia, flirting like crazy despite the age difference, a dusting of the eternally stuffy-nosed Simply Ming, a tantalizing hint of Rick Steves washing his underwear in a sink in some German hostel, and the maraschino cherry on top – Lidia Bastianich, lording over her kitchen and her cooking guests with Italian grandmama pride – I’ll be in commercial-free bliss for hours.

Last year Lidia treated us to this heavy gem, and it’s become an annual tradition to make it when the temperatures dip. If you can catch the episode, do watch it, and shout like we did as she adds more cheese, more bread??, MORE cheese???!?, more broth?, even MORE CHEESE?!.  The book recipe is marginally less decadent, but regardless, it’s a warm, cheesy, broth-y, filling dish where you pack on one layer of food-comfort after another.

Gallurese Bread & Cabbage Soup
Recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy 

Approximately 12 slices whole-wheat country bread, cut 1/2 inch thick
Small head of Savoy cabbage
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound chunk mild provolone (she says not aged, but we mixed mild and aged at a ratio of 3:1, and it was good. We also didn’t use a full pound…)
1 tablespoon soft butter for the baking dish
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino
4 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toast slices of bread in the preheating oven, turning them when one side starts to brown. When they are fully toasted, remove from oven and set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Slice the cabbage head in half, cut out the core completely. Discard all rough and torn outer leaves, lay the cabbage cut side down, and slice crosswise into 1-inch strips.  Drop these into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Pour into colander, rinse with cool water, and then put in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Toss.

Slice the chunk of provolone into slabs about 1/3 inch thick. Butter the sides and bottom of a large baking dish.

Assemble the casserole: layer bread slices at the bottom, trimming the pieces as needed to fit snugly and fill any gaps. Spread half the cabbage strips in a layer over the bread. Lay the provolone slabs on top of the cabbage in one layer. Sprinkle on half the grated cheese. Next, layer the remaining cabbage, and top with the remaining bread.

Press down gently on the layers with your palm to compress them. Slowly pour the stock all over the bread and down the insides of the pan, so everything is moistened. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese over the top.

Cover the dish with a tented layer of foil so it doesn’t touch the surface of the food, put the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking until the top of the casserole is golden brown.

Serve hot.