The artichoke is one of the undisputed queens of the winter garden. This fleshy green flower is delicate inside but can be laborious to prepare (before you read this article, of course). With a peculiar taste that is simultaneously sweet and bitter, you can decide whether you want to dedicate time to the ritual of pulling off the leaves one by one, or to scoff down their hearts in one bite. We not only have a lot of ideas on how to cook them in every possible way, but also how to select those that are at their best, tips on how to make the most of every part, and a technique that will satisfy even the laziest cooks. Long live the artichoke!
How to pick them
First you have to choose the right artichokes: go for those that are relatively heavy in comparison to their size, with well-attached, closed leaves and an intense dark green color (not tending towards brown). The leaves that are attached to the stem and the hardness of the stem can also offer a lot of information about freshness: the lusher the leaves and the harder and fleshier the stem, the better.
Eating artichokes raw is a delight that does require some work. You have to completely remove the top of the artichoke and the fibrous part of the leaves, almost right down to the heart. Remove any smaller leaves close to the stem. Then cut them into very thin slices so that they are pleasant to bite into, using a sharp paring knife or a slicer. Quickly place them in a bowl of water with lemon or parsley stalks so they do not brown.
They are delicious drained, well dried and then seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, but I like to add a touch of acidity with a few drops of lemon or apple cider/sherry vinegar. Let the dressing marinate for about 10 minutes so it loses some of its potency. In addition to eating them as a starter or side dish, you can also pair with anchovies, fried lardons or slices of mature cheese. They also work scattered on top of a vegetable soup, beef or cod carpaccio, or salmon tartar.
Follow the same initial instructions as above, but at the cutting stage slice the artichokes a little thicker, about two or three millimeters in width. Sauté a couple of whole cloves of garlic in olive oil, or cut the cloves in half if you want them to imbue a stronger flavor. Add the prepared artichokes and brown for a couple of minutes. Salt generously, then add three tablespoons of water and cover with a pan so they cook in the steam. Let them sizzle for two and a half minutes and repeat with more water. If after the second round they are still too hard, go for a third time.
There are many variations to this recipe. You can substitute the water for sherry or another white wine, or add chopped nuts, diced bacon or chopped mushrooms. Serve them over mashed potato or sweet potato with a boiled or fried egg, and you will be guaranteed success. You can also turn them into a warm salad if you take out the cooked garlic and crush it with oil, salt, pepper and a few drops of vinegar or lemon. They are also great with chopped hard-boiled egg and a vinaigrette with onion and bell pepper, like the one we would use for steamed leeks.
You can fry artichokes in many ways, and it all depends on how you want to serve them afterwards. It is always advisable to use plenty of olive oil, to have the heat up quite high and not to put too many in at once — this lowers the temperature of the oil and they end up going soft. To make very light chips as an appetizer or to use as a garnish on any dish, follow the same initial steps as for raw artichokes (it is very important to dry them well before they touch the oil).
If you want to bread them you can simply dip them in the flour of your choice (sift it first), and then shake them well so that they do not stick together. You are looking for a light and crunchy texture. However, the coating takes less time to burn than artichokes take to cook, so they are not very recommendable. A thicker coating like beer batter presents a problem: if you cut the artichoke thin, the dough drowns the vegetable; if you leave it big, it doesn’t cook. If you want to complicate your life, you can always steam them and then batter them to get the perfect texture.
Begin in the same way as you would to make them raw or braised, and then remove —if they have them— the fibers and leaves from the inside. The most important thing with confit is to keep the temperature of the oil low, ideally at about 70ºC (158º F) and no more than 80ºC (176ºF). To achieve this, you can use a Thermomix-style food processor, a ceramic glass hob on very low power, a gas ring set to the minimum (remove from the stove when bubbles appear) or a Roner-type low-temperature thermal circulator (with the artichokes placed in a vacuum bag with the oil). They are usually ready in about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. It is important to let the artichokes cool in the same oil before eating seasoned with salt, on toast with labneh, or stuffed with shredded hard-boiled egg. You can also try fresh parsley and anchovies or anchovies in vinegar; the possibilities are almost endless.
Although they need quite a bit more time, this is actually the easiest way to make them, since almost all the work is done by the oven. It works perfectly for the “leaf by leaf” method that we artichoke fans are so fond of. Start by heating the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and cutting the stems of the artichokes just enough to keep them standing upright (set these aside for later). Without removing the outer leaves or cutting the tips, pick them up by the base and whack them on the kitchen countertop so they open up a little (without overdoing it, you don’t want to squash them).Once they are ready, transfer them onto the oven tray. If it is difficult for them to stand upright, (which sometimes happens with the smallest ones) you can use a casserole dish or container so that they are a little closer together and hold better. Season them lightly with salt, pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You can also toss in a spice mix.
After 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter, depending on the quantity and size of the artichokes and the power of the oven, they should be ready. You can check by pressing their bases: if they yield, they are ready. Season them a little more if you want with a few drops of vinegar or lemon, and take them to the table. The outermost leaves will be very toasted and will have protected the inner part, giving it a characteristic flavor. Don’t have an oven or are too lazy to turn it on? You can get very similar results in a shallow casserole pan with a lid.
Steamed in the microwave
To prepare them you will need… you guessed it, a microwave and some artichokes. Cut the base of between four or six artichokes, depending on their size, wash them and put them in a bowl or container that is suitable for the microwave. Add a splash of water. Cover with a plate or film and set the program for between 7 and 10 minutes at maximum power, depending on how big the artichokes are and how cooked you like them.
Once finished, take tongs or a clean kitchen towel and very carefully squeeze the base of one of the artichokes a little: if they yield to the pressure they are ready, if they are too hard, set the microwave for two more minutes. When they are ready, remove the covering and wait until you can handle them without burning yourself. Remove the outer leaves by pulling from the tips downwards: in addition to the leaves you will remove the toughest outer layer of the stem (you can also cut off the tips to leave only the hearts). Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise, starting at the base of the stem, and they are ready to eat. Don’t have a microwave? Prepare them in a pot of boiling water, in a colander or steamer, tightly covered. It will take between 35 and 45 minutes.
Stews, sauces and spreads
If you add a few chopped artichokes, a simple stew can become a standout. The only thing to bear in mind is when exactly you put them in, so they don’t turn out soft like figs or hard as a rock. Between 15 and 25 minutes is ideal, depending on the size and freshness of the vegetable. If you cannot choose the right moment because you only remembered when the stew was almost ready, you can always play with the size and cut them thinner. I like them in four or six pieces, cut lengthwise, so they are noticeable in the mix.
You can add them to any bean stew, meat stew, or with poultry, fish, shellfish, vegetables or vegetable proteins such as seitan, tofu or tempeh. They are also ideal in pasta sauces or as bases for risotto, rice dishes or stir-fries. They can even be used in sandwiches or turned into a spread by mixing them with chickpeas or beans, with a little oil and a splash of your favorite citrus juice.
Artichoke leaves can also be used to make broth. One way is to cook them in the microwave, peel them, and put the leaves in a pressure cooker for half an hour, then strain them. If you want to give the broth a little more body, you can put the leaves in a blender and then strain them. You can also add a couple of cloves of garlic, onion, the green part of a leek, pumpkin peel or other vegetable trimmings – the green stalks of carrots look great in these broths – to give it more flavor.
The stems are not considered waste but rather a delicacy. If for some reason you have had to cut them and you have them loose, you can remove the outer layer, cut them into thicker or thinner slices depending on what you are using them for and add them to vegetable soups, pasta sauces, sautés or stews. Just like pork, you can use every part (all of them delicious).
U2 concert uses stunning visuals to open massive Sphere venue in Las Vegas | Culture
It looked like a typical U2 outdoor concert: Two helicopters zoomed through the starlit sky before producing spotlights over a Las Vegas desert and frontman Bono, who kneeled to ground while singing the band’s 2004 hit “Vertigo.”
This scene may seem customary, but the visuals were created by floor-to-ceiling graphics inside the immersive Sphere. It was one of the several impressive moments during U2′s “UV Achtung Baby” residency launch show at the high-tech, globe-shaped venue, which opened for the first time Friday night.
The legendary rock band, which has won 22 Grammys, performed for two hours inside the massive, state-of-the-art spherical venue with crystal-clear audio. Throughout the night, there were a plethora of attractive visuals — including kaleidoscope images, a burning flag and Las Vegas’ skyline, taking the more than 18,000 attendees on U2′s epic musical journey.
“What a fancy pad,” said Bono, who was accompanied onstage with guitarists The Edge and Adam Clayton along with drummer Bram van den Berg. He then stared at the high-resolution LED screen that projected a larger version of himself along with a few praying hands and bells.
Bono then paid homage to the late Elvis Presley, who was a Las Vegas entertainment staple. The band has rocked in the city as far back as 1987 when they filmed the music video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the Strip during a tour in 1987.
“Look at all this stuff. … Elvis has definitely not left this building,” he continued. “It’s an Elvis chapel. It’s an Elvis cathedral. Tonight, the entry into this cathedral is a password: flirtation.”
U2 made their presence felt at the $2.3 billion Sphere, which stands 366-feet (111 meters) high and 516-feet (157 meters) wide. With the superb visual effects, the band’s 25-show residency opened with a splash performing a slew of hits including “Mysterious Ways,” “Zoo Station,” “All I Want is You,” “Desire” and new single “Atomic City.”
On many occasions, the U2 band members were so large on screen that it felt like Bono intimately sang to audience on one side while The Edge strummed his guitar to others.
The crowd included many entertainers and athletes: Oprah, LeBron James, Matt Damon, Andre Agassi, Ava DuVernay, Josh Duhamel, Jason Bateman, Jon Hamm, Bryan Crankston, Aaron Paul, Oscar de la Hoya, Henrik Lundqvist, Flava Flav, Diplo, Dakota Fanning, Orlando Bloom and Mario Lopez.
After wrapping up The Beatles’ jam “Love Me Do,” Bono recognized Paul McCartney, who was in attendance, saying “Macca is in the house tonight.” He acknowledged Sphere owner James Dolan’s efforts for spearheading a venue that’s pushing forward the live concert audio landscape with 160,000 thousands of high-quality speakers and 260 million video pixels.
The Sphere is the brainchild of Dolan, the executive chair of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks and Rangers. He sketched the first drawing of venue on a notebook paper.
“I’m thinking the that the Sphere may have come into existence because of Jim Dolan trying to solve the problem that The Beatles started when they played Shea Stadium,” he said. “Nobody could hear you. You couldn’t hear yourselves. Well, the Sphere’s here. … Can you hear us?”
Bono pointed into crowd and shouted out Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Iovine – who took in the band’s spectacular show. At one point, Bono became emotional when he dedicated a song to the late Jimmy Buffett’s family who attended the concert too.
Afterwards, Bono spoke about performing on stage for the first time without drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who is recovering from back surgery. He acknowledged Dutch drummer Bram van den Berg’s birthday and and filling in for Mullen.
“I would like to introduce you to the only man who could stand, well, sit in his shoes,” said Bono, who walked toward Berg as some in the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday.” He handed the microphone to Berg, who offered a few words.
“Let there be no mistake, there is only one Larry Mullen Jr,” Berg said.
As U2 wrapped up their show, a bright light shined from the ceiling and the massive screen began to fill with images of birds, insects and reptiles above a lake. The band closed its first Sphere concert with “Beautiful Day,” which one three Grammys in 2001.
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Star Wars: Whiny fans, nostalgia and streaming saturation: ‘Ahsoka’ and the most complicated moment of the ‘Star Wars’ universe | Culture
Satisfying the unrepentant, noisy, veteran fan, has become an insurmountable obstacle for the oldest money-making machine in cinema. Star Wars lives in constant fear of offending them. Their requests are long and obsessive. Don’t change the actors (better to rejuvenate them with artificial intelligence, instead – where will it end?), don’t alter the legacy of what they understand by “Jedi” and, above all, take note, don’t include too many women or racialized people. As everyone knows, there are only white men in this galaxy far, far away. This is ours and nobody else’s, those “true fans” seem to say.
That impossible balance between satisfying children (for whom Star Wars was always intended) as well as the most conservative followers has become a curse for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the entire Disney factory. But there is a guy who has known how to ride the wave and make everyone happy. His name is Dave Filoni. In his hands, even the concept of once again passing the force to the proletariat that those followers criticized in Rian Johnson’s magnificent and vilified The Last Jedi is applauded. He does it again in Ahsoka, the epic Disney+ series in which Filoni resorts to the characters of his animated series to delve into a space odyssey that is more fantasy than science fiction. The series appeals to the nostalgia of those prequels with which George Lucas returned to the saga in 1999, but at the same time it rewrites the mythology and its rules.
A quick refresher: Ahsoka Tano is Anakin Skywalker’s padawan (Jedi apprentice) before the ill-fated hero became Darth Vader. This brave, wild teenager was created by Filoni and George Lucas in 2008 as an entry point for kids (especially girls) to the film and animated series The Clone Wars, an anthology of the conflict that overthrew the republic to give way to the empire. Lucas, thinking about his own daughters, wanted to appeal to the female audience whose interest Star Wars had not always caught. In the process, they gave depth and responsibility to Anakin (a Hayden Christensen today redeemed by nostalgia) in his passage to the dark side.
The critics first said that she was nothing but a half-naked girl designed to be adorable without much more depth, but, little by little, Ahsoka became the company’s newest toy (literally), a character that motivated women to join the club. Lucas was always clear that the secret was to convince the children, not so much the veterans. Girls around the world began to replicate her orange hue and alien pigtails, and her rebellious nature won over the fans – new and old – with a stroke of modernity. In the series, she even turned her back on the Jedi religion by throwing away her lightsaber and confronting them directly: you are a bunch of squares, you don’t understand the new times. Ahsoka was those new times, and her message was that the sect of monks was not as good as they thought they were. Thanks to her evolution, the young woman was already a Star Wars classic. Her story kept growing in books and comics.
But how come we knew nothing about her before that moment? Did she die in battle? That was out of the question due to her growing popularity, so Filoni created a strategy for her to join the rebellion, but always in the shadows. Her journey continued in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels as a veteran, less impulsive force, and the plots and relationships that became established there continue in the current live-action series (with the hero embodied by Rosario Dawson) after her encounters with the Mandalorian and Boba Fett. She is a modern-day Princess Mononoke, an unaffiliated Jedi Master. She is the perfect meeting point for the ocean of Disney+ content.
After paying homage to the western genre in The Mandalorian – also created by Filoni with Jon Favreau – Ahsoka’s own series explores the most magical side of the universe: flying whales that teleport, witches, prophecies, dreams of the afterlife and hero’s journeys. Doors that the franchise sometimes has had trouble opening, even if magic was one of the many pulp subgenre elements that Lucas put in the mix of his original idea.
That layer of fantasy is one of the breaking points within the canons. The other is the concept of the force. What are the Jedi? Are they born or made? That is one of the debates that the repudiated Rian Johnson film put on the table: not only a family can inherit the force, it can also arise in peasants and commoners, in people who learn it. Filoni has always had this in mind with Ahsoka, the most rebellious among those decimated samurai monks, who, as in the classic film Harakiri, hide questionable rules and commands under a veil of honorability. In her new mission, she takes her legacy one step further: we can all learn from the force, giving more power to the people and to learning than to consanguinity, she tells her apprentice, the true protagonist of the series.
This mentoring work will be key in an adventure triggered by something as simple as the search for the missing protagonist of Rebels. A small but crucial discursive break that preserves the spirit of what Lucas started in 1977. And, yes, all the protagonists are women again, just like the president of Lucasfilm. In that sense, it is not far from some of the deepest messages of Andor, the most revolutionary Star Wars series and the best work to come out of this universe in decades, one that was truly groundbreaking and that could not reach all the fans it deserved.
A franchise that lost its way
Meanwhile, Star Wars continues to put filmmakers through the meat grinder. Many creators have recently abandoned their projects, frustrated by the lack of development of their ideas: Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi, Damon Lindelof, Rian Johnson, Patty Jenkins, the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss… they are the creative corpses of a lost franchise that is not sure what its followers want in the theater and is saturated by the excessive costs of the series (it is estimated that Obi-Wan Kenobi cost about $90 million and Ahsoka more than $100), created to fill a streaming offer that does not yield the anticipated benefits. A product that does not convince neither children nor veterans.
Considering that excessiveness, Ahsoka is at least an entertaining, satisfying product (it never stops being a product, one that does not reach the levels of Andor or The Mandalorian). That is more than can be said for contents as emotionally and narratively empty as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, which rely on nostalgia, are structurally rotten and have no soul or entertainment value whatsoever. Unfortunately, the context will not make it easy for Ahsoka to capture anyone outside the die-hard fans. Perhaps the Hollywood strikes will be good for the empire. A much-needed pause to become culturally relevant again.
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Revitalizing Fall Cinema As New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage
By Cindy Porter
Hollywood’s luminaries have been notably absent from red carpets, leaving an air of dormancy since the heady days of Barbenheimer.
However, as the 61st New York Film Festival kicks off, there’s a palpable sense of awakening.
Labor disputes are inching toward resolution, hinting at a resurgence in the industry. Considering this, the festival promises to deliver an exceptional array of films, showcasing some of the year’s finest cinematic offerings.
The Festival Lineup
Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director, expresses optimism despite industry uncertainties, affirming that cinema’s vitality endures.
The opening night feature, Todd Haynes’ “May December” introduces a playful yet poignant narrative led by Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton. It sets the stage for a festival packed with noteworthy films.
Highlights at the Festival
Yorgos Lanthimos’ Venice sensation “Poor Things” starring Emma Stone, offers a compelling blend of wit and intrigue.
Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” with Cailee Spaeny portraying Priscilla Presley, promises to be a captivating exploration of a legendary figure’s life.
Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” brings Leonard Bernstein’s story to life, adding another layer of significance to its North American premiere.
The festival’s closing feature, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” emerges as a masterpiece.
Starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, the film delves into a pivotal period in the auto maker’s life, culminating in the high-stakes Mille Miglia race.
Mann’s signature intensity permeates every frame, depicting the relentless pursuit of victory against the backdrop of impending peril.
Exploring Depth in Documentaries
The festival also showcases immersive documentaries, including Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” Steve McQueen’s “Occupied City,” and Frederic Wiseman’s “Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros”.
These monumental works, clocking over 200 minutes each, delve into diverse realms, offering profound insights into the human experience.
Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” unveils the lives of young migrant workers, toiling tirelessly in textile factories near Shanghai.
Their hands move with frenetic speed, a testament to the demands of their low-paying occupations.
Considering this, Wang delicately unravels their personal stories of love, heartbreak, and aspirations, painting a poignant portrait of resilience.
“All of Us Strangers”
Andrew Haigh’s “All of Us Strangers” unfolds within the confines of a near-empty apartment building. Andrew Scott’s portrayal of a screenwriter, Adam, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, triggered by an unexpected encounter with Harry (Paul Mescal). Through intimate dialogues, the film navigates the complexities of memory, companionship, and the power of storytelling.
The New York Film Festival shines a spotlight on films that transcend the boundaries of time and space.
Its dedication to authentic cinematic experiences, unburdened by distractions, reaffirms the enduring power of storytelling.
Films like “Janet Planet” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker transport audiences to specific moments in history, immersing them in a world where silence and nostalgia take center stage.
As the festival unfolds, it offers a resounding testament to the indomitable spirit of cinema.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Cindy Porter
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