vegetarian recipe: Chickpea Curry

Indian spices I love going out for Indian food and have been craving it, but it’s so expensive here so I’m attempting some simpler dishes on my own. My love affair with curry flavor began at a young age when my mom used it as her “secret ingredient” in the housewife favorite tuna casserole. I made this chickpea curry dish tonight and it was delicious; I should have photographed but at the end of a workday I’m starving so I ate it in a hurry. I looked at other recipes for inspiration, but this is what I came up with. You can play with it and add or subtract ingredients based on what you have on hand at home. (Many chickpea curry recipes include onion and cooked potatoes, which would go nicely.)

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1/2 cup water
1 bouillon cube*
pat of butter
extra virgin olive oil (organic)
1 ripe tomato, diced
curry powder
ground cumin
red pepper flakes
tiny spoonful minced garlic (I use jarred)
pinch cornstarch
2 heaping tbsp sour cream

In a small saucepan add water, olive oil, chickpeas, bouillon and butter (I suppose butter is optional, but I wanted the flavor; Indian cooking requires ghee, which is similar to butter except it doesn’t burn at a high heat). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to blend the bouillon flavor. Then I added the red pepper flakes and garlic, followed by the diced tomato. Keep stirring. I waited for the “stock” to boil down a bit (you don’t want it watery). I added cornstarch as a thickening agent and stirred thoroughly. I added a dash of cumin and a generous pinch of curry powder. By this point the tomatoes should be soft and lovely and you should have a rather thick sauce. Lastly I added the sour cream to make the sauce nice and creamy, just like what you would be served at an Indian restaurant. (The smell cooking this was divine, by the way.) Stir, stir, stir and serve hot over a bed of rice (I used Near East rice pilaf, which was tasty but too salty, next time I’ll try jasmine or plain white rice).

*Next time I plan on using chicken or vegetable stock because bouillon is much too high in salt.

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trendwatch: floral prints

Guess what? The 80’s are back. In case you haven’t noticed, floral prints are back in a big way. This time around though, there’s a new take, and new ways to make the look your own.

Above: Whitney Port (The Hills, The City) rocking a [vintage?] floral dress and a tee from Wildfox Couture. To avoid looking too much like a little girl, pair sweet florals with an edgy accessory, like Whitney’s studded black leather bag, or some lace-up sandals, or a spiky accessory. It’s all about mixing hard and soft.

Above: Lauren Conrad looking adorable in a blue floral top; fellow Hills hotties Stephanie Pratt and Lo Bosworth going out on the town, both rocking floral prints. (Personally not a fan of Lo’s blue quilted bag–it clashes with her outfit and looks kind of cheap.)

Above: A ribboned floral hair accessory from Diane von Furstenburg’s spring 2009 line, and then on DVF employee Whitney.

Above: More DVF floral looks from the runway. I love the styling for this show; it’s pretty and feminine but with lots of punch and color. I’m a big fan of long, flowing hair, too. Another new twist on the bohemian look. I think the cascading flowers and ribbons look amazing on the models, but unless you’re Carrie Bradshaw I think it would be hard to pull off even with the most basic of outfits. As a self-described conservative dresser, I personally would prefer to interpret the trend in a much subtler way.

Before Sunrise; Before Sunset (1995/2004)

[Editor’s note: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are a pair of films done so delicately and perfectly. They must be watched sequentially, preferably back-to-back, with an open mind. This review will spoil the surprise.]

Before Sunrise (1994) follows a serendipitous night of two young people, adventurous American backpacker Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a headstrong but demure French girl, Celine (Julie Delpy) who happen to meet on a train in Vienna. Celine is en route to Paris and Jesse is headed home to the States. But first, they delay. They have a conversation that takes them on a winding trip around the city, talking and exploring and sharing everything the way that only two strangers can. They both know they are from different worlds and can’t be together, yet don’t want the night to end. Instead of exchanging numbers (for fear of things “fizzling out”), the two part ways after agreeing to meet each other at the train station in six months. The movie’s ending leaves things open ended for the viewer to imagine. Delpy is effervescent as Celine and Hawke is earnest as a wholesome young boy from Texas. They have incredible chemistry onscreen and their conversations are riveting and authentic. The entire movie consists of these two actors, talking in every scene, very little action and the city of Vienna as a backdrop as the only notable change; it’s all done on a rather linear time frame. And yet Before Sunrise succeeds on every level on which a film can succeed.

Flash forward nine years and you have Before Sunset (2004), the beautiful sequel. Jesse, now joylessly married and with a four year-old son, has written a bestselling book inspired by his chance meeting with Celine, and is on a book tour in Paris. Celine is now working for Greencross and has a mostly absent photographer boyfriend. Although we soon discover that circumstances prevented their reunion that December nine years before, Jesse and Celine are walking and talking again like no time has passed at all. And yet, so much has happened. Lives have changed, lovers have come and gone, they have matured, moved, married and otherwise transformed. Or have they? Jesse and Celene’s witty yet leisurely conversations pry back superficiality and probe at the surface of what motivates us all. They gently philosophically question their own choices and passions and teasingly hint at the allure of “what might have been.” The binding thread seems to be that their fateful night has shifted their worldview and remained ingrained in them, regardless of the events that have transpired since; simultaneously begging the question: Do we ever really change that much?

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke helped write the screenplay for Before Sunset. It’s easy to see why Delpy was given an Oscar nod for her screenwriting for this film. Onscreen she is charming and magnetic, neurotic and heartbreaking. Set against the luscious backdrop that is Paris, the movie moves along languidly, and yet your heart can’t help but race and wonder: Will they? Oh please, let them be together. The focus isn’t on the romance per se, but more like the delicious longing that comes with unfulfilled desire. The heart of both Sunrise and Sunset is the connection between Jesse and Celine and the genuine truth their easy conversation evokes. How fucking beautiful. We ache for these two to get together sometime, in spite of their obstacles. Marriages, oceans, flights to catch–seem insignificant when you’re talking about fate.

Of course, Before Sunset exercises a great dose of restraint, a sugar-free approach to movie romance if you will. The authenticity of these characters is what makes the film so believable, so worthwhile. Jesse and Celine gently probe viewers to turn inwards and ask themselves about their own memories. (“Memories are great, as long as you don’t have to deal with the past.” –Celine) What about “the one who got away?” Before Sunset more than fulfills the promise made in the first film. It displays characters who have grown substantially and now have remarkably more to say, to each other, about each other, love and life. Juxtaposed by the lovely Paris scenery (Sacre Coeur, the Seine), the film is like an illicit peek into these character’s very private lives. The film ties up with Celine sharing a waltz on her guitar for Jesse in her Paris apartment. Be warned, your heart will catch on the last frame…

drama in the dark: Gaga’s Monster Ball concert review

We arrived for the Monster Ball expecting to be thrilled, and thrilled we were. Lady Gaga is the epitome of a perfect pop star: Irreverent, talented, alluring, grotesque, shameless and unique. (Among a slew of other adjectives…and somehow, Gaga evades description.)  After suffering through the agonizing gender-bending glam-rock performance by the Semi-Precious Weapons, Lady Gaga Herself finally emerged after much teasing for “Dance in the Dark.” Her appearance itself was climactic and ecstatic as she slowly emerges from behind a multicolored screen and sheds her sequined jacket and giant sunglasses (if you could call them that). The energy of the audience pulsed along with the electro-dance beats. Gaga’s show is much more than smoke and mirrors: It’s a mishmash of Cirque du Soleil meets Phantom of the Opera, with a bit of the gay-transgender-centric Priscilla, Queen of the Desert thrown in. Add epically catchy pop beats and scale the drama up exponentially, add lights, sensational-surreal costumes and Gaga herself and you have an instant phenomenon, a lavish feast for eyes and ears.

Lady Gaga notoriously adores her fans, and the love sparks back and forth throughout the evening, audience to pop star and back. She perpetually thanks her “little monsters,” declaring that she has the best fans in the world. Gaga crumples on the stage, saying she is like Tinkerbell and needs applause to live: The crowd roars in response, urging Gaga back to larger-than-life. Toward the end of the concert, she ardently screams “no one will ever love you more than I love you, goddamnit!” Crazy thing is, you can’t help but believe her. Gaga plays to sold-out stadiums and arenas all over the world and it feels like she is crooning for you alone. Lady Gaga loves me. Even the most jaded person will have a difficult time not feeling personally connected to Gaga at the Monster Ball; she embraces her fans of all orientations and sexual varieties and has become a tremendous icon in the gay-lesbian-transgender community. Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball is a place for all the freaks to be themselves, she declares, to be free.

Costumes didn’t disappoint, and Gaga was avant garde as ever. Almost all of Gaga’s outfits showcased her enviably lean legs (top to bottom), and there was no shortage of pleather. Female concert attendees paid homage to the star in their own renditions of Gaga-inspired attire; ranging from Telephone video soda-can hair rollers to the iconic giant hair bow made of actual hair, ripped leggings and fishnets, glam rock gone supercharged. Anyone who has ever heard of Gaga or explored her on the Internet will know that her outfits are legendary and her concert costumes were indeed phenomenal. As I took it all in I wondered how on earth I would find adjectives with which to describe her outfits. Some were quite simply beyond description. Lady Gaga has shifted her look a bit in recent months, edging into something darker and more classic; milky skin and blood-red lips in contrast to her formerly fake-tanned and frosted look.  Best of all was her outfit during “Paparazzi” that spits sparks from her chest and crotch, to me was so powerful it made my eyes well with tears.

Lady Gaga is an epic performer and an accomplished musician. Throughout her show, she maintains consistent energy, saving enough for the euphoric encore performance of “Bad Romance.” Other noteworthy highlights: A heartfelt rendition of “Speechless,” with Gaga playing piano (some backwards) and a brand-new song called “You and I” from her newest album (insert squeals of delight here) and a dramatic rendition of “So Happy I Could Die” in which Gaga sports a fully-automated ice queen outfit and rises up towards the crowd. And of course, my personal favorite Gaga song, “Paparazzi,” with its infectious chorus: “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, paparazzi/Baby there’s no other superstar, you know they love me, paparazzi/Promise I’ll be kind, but I won’t stop until that boy is mine/Baby you’ll be famous, chase you down until you love me, paparazzi.”

Lady Gaga hates the truth (even more than she claims to hate money, apparently). During her set she declares “I’d rather have a giant dose of bullshit every day than the truth.” And so we spend our time with her in a suspended reality; a wall of fantasy and magic. Even as Gaga took short breaks offstage, the monitors showed uber-artsy videos and poses featuring Gaga. She’s a chameleon-like performer who keeps her fans guessing. It’s hard to imagine that to her friends and family, she is still Stefani Germanotta. To the world, she is “Lady Fucking Gaga” (aptly introduced by Semi Precious Weapons’ Justin Tranter), worldwide superstar. Gaga is perpetually in character. It seems to be her reason for being on this planet. Her transformative veneer is endlessly fascinating to me. Gaga’s inspirations are often transparent: She draws from high fashion as much as it draws from her, she’s an “art whore,” she loves David Bowie, old horror films, and although some say she’s reminiscent of Madonna’s reign in the 80s–Lady Gaga has forged her own brand of performance art, infused with too many influences to count and marked with her own creative brilliance. She’s on top because she does it better than anyone else who’s out there; accept no imitations. I’d venture to say that although she isn’t always going for it, Lady Gaga is universally beautiful. And her show is sensational and well worth the megabucks; so see it if you can.

I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me

Josh and I are taking our “bad romance” to Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tomorrow night at Boston’s TD Garden. I am super ultra stoked and cannot wait to kick off July 4th weekend with a huge bang. I’m sure it’s going to be phenomenal. I’ve heard good things and I’m sure nothing will compare to being there in person.I adore basically everything she does, no matter how far over the top. Lady Gaga is one powerful woman. (Even my mom isn’t immune to the magnetic vortex that seems to surround Gaga.) So tonight, I’m listening to The Fame Monster nonstop and honoring my love for Lady Gaga by sharing a few of my favorite photos. Enjoy.

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