Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cinema with Comestible Accompaniments: Serendipity

A safe place for lovers of movies and pun-based food recipes with a fondness for TBS's Dinner and A Movie.  Oh yeah, and all the classic Dinner and A Movie recipes will be veganized. 

The Movie
Serendipity (2001)
Leonard Maltin Review:  *** D: Peter Chelsom.  John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, Eugene Levy, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Lucy Gordon.  A chance meeting in N.Y.C. leads to a romantic evening for Cusack and Beckinsale, but she chooses to leave it to fate to decide if they should ever see each other again.  Several years later, on the eve of his wedding, Cusack decides he simply must find her.  Endearing romantic comedy with appealing stars and wonderful support from Piven and Levy.  Buck Henry appears unbilled.

Spoiler Alert:  There may be spoilers peppered though the movie portion of this post, consider yourself warned.

Keep in mind this movie came out in theaters a month after 9/11.  Before it was released, they digitally removed the World Trade Center towers from the skyline.  (Never Forget.)  What better movie for our United States in a time of great sorrow and need then a John Cusack rom-com.  Eugene Levy took a break from making American Pie sequels, John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan took a break from Sex and the City playing three-dimensional characters that get cheated on to playing two-dimensional characters that get dumped in a feature film (always the cheatee, never the cheater), and Molly Shannon shows up to wrap you in a warm blanket of friendship.    We all need more Molly Shannon in our lives.

"Our hero, Jonathan goes out in search of black gloves and in a perfect act of "serendipiocity" or "serendipaciousness," he runs into a beautiful, attractive English girl with a boyfriend." - Jonathan

Classic meet cute, Christmas shopping is at its peak in a crowded Bloomingdale's in Manhattan and two people grab the same pair of black cashmere (not vegan!) gloves.  Apologetically trying to hand the gloves to the other person, when the unbilled Buck Henry shows up and takes the gloves.  To get the gloves back, they fabricate a story about Cusack's trans-gendered future girlfriend, which is a plot to a movie I would like watch.

After a magical night of frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3 and ice skating, they part ways but not without releasing their name and numbers into the universe for the other to find if they were destined to be together.  Flawless plan.  Jonathan's contact info goes on the back of a five dollar bill and Sara's on the inside of a first edition Love in the Time of Cholera

Flash forward a few years later which at some point Piven states it's been seven years, Jonathan is a few days away from marrying the lovely Halley and Sara has just been proposed to by Lars and about to join him on tour to support his weird Viking murdering music career.

Let's go over the signs that bring them together after seven years.  Jonathan is doing his ESPN job thingy at the golf range when he hears a man page 'Sara Lawson' and waits to see her approach the desk (which begs the question, does this happen every time he hears the name Sara because it's a fairly common name).  Turns out it's not her.  After work he goes to get his hair cut before the wedding, but it's Lauren's day off and a girl named Sara is replacing her.  He runs out sans haircut.  While in a cab, he hears a bike messenger singing Hall & Oates' Sara Smile.  With the fates working overtime to bring him and Sara back together and rekindle their irrefutable connection he runs to his best friend Dean (Piven) at the New York Times for help. 

Sara, on the other hand, sees a Cool Hand Luke poster and buys two tickets to NYC for her and her friend, Eve (Shannon), for Eve's Birthday but mostly completely selfish reasons. 

"Let's just pray he's a bald fascist who picks his nose and wipes it under the car seat." -Sara

The search begins...

"Kids your age.  Pimple-faced college dropouts who have made unhealthy sums of money forming internet companies that create no concrete products, provide no viable services and still manage to generate profits for all of its lazy, day-trading, son-of-a-bitch shareholders.  Meanwhile, as a tortured member of the disenfranchised proletariat, you find some altruistic need to protect these digital plantation owners?" - Dean  (FYI, this movie came out almost 3 years before Facebook was founded and 6 years before the first iPhone was released.  He's referring to the dot-com bubble from 1995-2001 for which I know very little, but what a lovely Piven rant.)

They eventually find their respective five dollar bill and book.  Dean uses his New York Times resources to find Sara's address while Sara just calls information.  This is about the time in the movie where things stop making sense for me.

First, Sara runs into the ballroom where presumably Jonathan is marrying Halley yelling "Stop!"  Who does that?
Thankfully, the only person there is a hotel employee packing up the chairs, who's exposition informs us that Jonathan and Halley called off the wedding, so that Jonathan could walk around the city thoughtfully reading his own obituary written by his best friend.  

After Jonathan's obit stroll, he ends up at the ice skating rink from before and sits a bench where he finds a jacket (Sara's jacket, but he doesn't know that yet).  He walks to the center of the ice and sits down.  (I always thought at this point he would ask the people ice skating around him if they had lost a jacket, but he doesn't.  Not that it would serve the story, it just bothers me.  What's he going to do with a woman's jacket?  He doesn't even have a fiance anymore.)  It starts snowing, so obviously he decides to lay down in the middle of the ice using the jacket he found on a park bench as a pillow under his head.  Then this happens...
A second black cashmere glove hovers in the air above him and lands right on his chest.  

And I'm suppose to believe she threw it from the edge of the rink.  She's at least 10 feet away and it's snowing.  Did she ball up the glove?  Did she stand above him, drop it and then run back?

The Recipe
When Life Hands You Lemons...Make Lemon Risotto
(for original recipe click here)

As fate would have it, here's a tasty little treat courtesy of the incomparable Claud Mann.
(also pictured sauteed shishito peppers)
  • 6-8 cups "homemade" vegetable stock (I used store bought because I'm lazy)
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil (or vegan non-hydrogenated margarine like Miyoko VeganButter)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups Italian short grain rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 1 lemon juiced (2-3 tbsp) and its zest (2 lemons if you're feeling extra zesty)
  • 5-6 stalks asparagus, rough ends discarded, cut into 1-inch-ish pieces (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh herbs (optional, but strongly suggested)
  • sea salt, as needed

 1.  Bring the stock to a simmer.  (I like to pour it into a microwave safe measuring vessel or bowl 2 cups at a time and heat it up in the microwave so I don't have to clean another pot.)

 2.  In a large, heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 tbsp of the coconut oil, olive oil, and shallot.  Sweat the shallot without browning for 5 minutes, stirring often with a flat edged wooden spoon until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the garlic, saute another 3 minutes.

 3.  Add the asparagus and cook until tender.
 4.  Add the rice and stir well to moisten the rice grains thoroughly with the oil in the pan.  Continue toasting the rice 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

5.  Add the wine and stir until evaporated, and then begin adding the hot stock to the rice one half cup at a time, all the while stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with the wooden spoon.  Allow each addition of the stock to be absorbed by the rice before adding more hot stock.

6.  After 20-22 minutes, begin testing the rice for doneness.  When it feels creamy, not yet completely tender and still is slightly firm in the center (but not crunchy), remove it from the heat.
7.  Stir in the remaining coconut oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh herbs.  (Life had handed my two lemons on this particular day so I juiced a second one and I don't regret a thing.)  Season to taste with sea salt.  

Happy New Year!

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