Monday, March 29, 2010

Just Kids.. with some dreams and some paintbrushes

I've been reading a lot recently about Patti Smith's new novel, Just Kids, which came out in January-- I personally can't wait to get my hands on a copy. The legendary rock star and poet's first novel offers a "never-before-seen glimpse" of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and their life in New York City in the late sixties and seventies during the prelude to their imminent fame. I read an excerpt recently, I think either in Rolling Stone or Interview, in which Smith recalls how she and Mapplethorpe would buy art supplies before food-- and how they made a pact to continue creating and to take care of each other no matter what happened. It's easy to idealize the bohemian, starving-artist lifestyle (I am admittedly guilty of doing so), but what I read of Smith and Mapplethorpe's seemingly passionate and creativity-fueled love struck me as beautiful and got me thinking of other (often star-cross'd) bohemian lovers-- Above, a picture of Mapplethorpe and Smith in NYC in the 70's. Below, a few more of my favorites:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Even though she broke up the band, I still love her. And this iconic image by Annie Leibovitz, which appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1980.

Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.

Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard. Apparently some of the lines from Pierrot Le Fou (1965) were improvised; Godard had Belmondo and Karina simply make conversation without telling them the camera was rolling. He ended up using a great deal of footage from these "improvisations." There's a specific scene in the film, too, in which Karina is staring directly into the camera while she berates "Pierrot"-- and word has it that her tirade was the result of a real argument with Godard, her then-husband, who promptly taped it and put it in the film.

Marie Antoinette and Count Fersen (film still from Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette). The infamous queen's relationship with her husband, Louis XVI (whose greatest passion and hobby was lock-picking... ironic?) was less than perfect. So what's a girl to do in that situation? Take up a dashing Swedish lover, of course. Even better, one who resembles Jamie Dornan. Say what you will about the historical inaccuracy and disjointedness of the film; their love scene is set to "Kings of the Wild Frontier" by Adam & The Ants and is, in my opinion, perfect.

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin... (can you see their traits in Charlotte?)

The always-classy Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen..

Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash

...and of course, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp circa the early 90's (by Annie Leibovitz). The most physically perfect couple to ever exist. Tell me again why they broke up???

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Seared Sole and Citrus Salad: a Fresh Spring Supper

I don’t often get the chance to cook, but the other afternoon I picked up some tangerines, blood oranges, and local Petrale Sole from the grocery store, which, together, made for a light and refreshing dinner. The preparation was fairly simple. First, I prepared a beurre blanc for the fish. Leaving the white wine to simmer off the pan gave me time to compose the citrus and baby greens salad. Searing the fish came last. For time’s sake I cooked the sole in the saucepan used for the beurre blanc.

Without doubt, preparing the beurre blanc is both the most difficult and the most tedious part of the preparations. That said, making the sauce really isn’t that hard. All it takes is:

  • White wine (1/16th cup)
  • White wine vinegar (1/16th cup)
  • Some shallots, minced (1-2 teaspoons)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper, preferably white (just a hint)
  • And, of course, butter (about one stick, cold, cut into medium-sized pieces).

The first step to preparing the beurre blanc is reducing the white wine and vinegar to serve as a base for the sauce. To do this throw the shallots, wine, and white wine vinegar, and a hint of white pepper into a saucepan over medium heat. You’ll boil off at least ¾ of this mixture before mixing in the butter. It’s easy to jump the gun on this one, and if you do, the sauce just becomes too thin. To avoid this, I like to reduce the liquid au sec (until the pan is almost entirely dry and the shallots contain most of the liquid). Then you can switch the burner to low heat and begin to whip in the butter one chunk at a time. Add the next chunk as the previous one is about to disappear. It is important that the pan doesn’t get too hot at this point. You should be able to touch the center of the pan with your bare finger. Use as much butter as you need to give the sauce the consistency of a hollandaise. Once you’re there, taste, add salt/pepper as needed, and pour off into a container.

While the white wine is reducing, take a moment to prepare the salad. I used

  • 1 blood orange
  • 2 tangerines
  • Some leafy greens

For the dressing,

  • Fresh (Meyer) lemon juice (one small lemon, or one half medium-to-large lemon)
  • Olive oil (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Dijon mustard (1 teaspoon)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Zest from the blood orange.

The salad is simple, just cut the orange and tangerine into rounds and mix in with the greens. You can use whatever dressing you want, but I recommend a citrus base, since this will go nicely with the fish and the citrus is the salad. The best dressing will come not from following a strict recipe, but mixing all the ingredients and adjusting to taste. My preference is for a dressing a little bit of thickness; this comes from the mustard. Honestly, you really don’t need anything other than the lemon juice for a great dressing. If you want, just squeeze the lemon over the greens.

Time to sear the sole. This will only take a few of minutes. For the oil, I just used a little olive oil and orange zest. Salt lightly and pepper. It won’t take more than a couple minutes for each side. Plate, add the beurre blanc, and enjoy!