Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

Fall is in the air. That spells comfort food for me, and what is more wonderfully warm and creamy and comforting than risotto? It takes some time and fussing, but it is really quite easy. If you have a cooking partner, have him or her make a big green salad while you are stirring the risotto and you each enjoy a nice glass of wine. If you have a meat eater who won’t go for this vegetarian meal, grill up some Organic Sun-Dried Tomato or Organic Sweet Basil & Roasted Garlic Sausage as well.

Risotto with Caramelized Onions

4 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-salt chicken broth

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
1 cup Carmelized Onions see below (about 3 cups uncooked)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep the broth warm over low heat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, and sauté 1 minute. Add rice, and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth, and cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next.

Stir in Caramelized Onions, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Caramelized Onions
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Cooking spray
3 cups vertically sliced onion (sweet, yellow or white onion)

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Continue cooking 15 to 20 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently.

Yield: 1 cup

Gran Torino
(2008) (run time 116 minutes)

Walt Kowalski is a Korean War veteran who worked the assembly lines in Detroit after returning home from the war, bottling his demons up tight as he got married, started a family, and settled down in a nice house.

Over the years, Walt's close-knit community gradually began to change, and as his neighbors all died or moved away, their homes were purchased by low-income families and immigrants, the latter of which were largely Hmong families from Vietnam, seeking to escape persecution for aiding American forces during the war.

His next-door neighbors are just such a family, and Walt begrudges them not only for being "zipperheads" and "yammering gooks," but even more so for the fact that their dilapidated, ill-maintained home sits directly adjacent to his perfectly manicured lawn.

He's not a very likeable guy, though he largely keeps to himself until one night when he notices someone with a flashlight snooping around in his garage. Walt grabs his rifle and heads down to investigate. Once inside, he confronts bumbling would-be thief Thao, who has been pressured into stealing Walt's vintage Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation rite.

Thao is hardly the gangbanger type; he lives in the house next door, and he's more apt to be caught doing the dishes or gardening rather than roaming the streets looking for trouble. Later, when the gang returns to pressure Thao, the conflict quickly spills over into Walt's yard, prompting him to come barreling down the front porch, rifle in hand and ready for action. As a result, the gangsters beat a hasty retreat, and Thao's family begins showering Walt with gifts as a means of thanking him for keeping the boy from falling in with a dangerous crowd.

Little does Walt realize that his instinctive action has laid the groundwork for an unanticipated new chapter of his life, a chapter that will teach him not only the true meaning of tolerance, but the value of finally making peace with his past, and letting go of the death that has haunted him ever since returning home from the war.

We watched this on August 30 – we sat in our chairs in the living room and watched it like normal people watch movies! We weren’t on our bikes – amazing.

The last Eastwood film Phil and I watched was Million Dollar Baby
– and I don’t know if Phil has forgiven me yet for not warning him about the plot in advance. Gran Torino also packs an emotional punch. You’ll laugh in spite of yourself and you’ll cringe from time to time, but it’ll make you think.

4.5 Stars – well worth your time.

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