03.06.10 (la cena y una película, or: Volver and tapas).

It’s funny–neither of us are really serious Movie or Film people likely because we’re obsessed with too many television shows like Mad Men and 30 Rock. That said, I do enjoy a good-in-that-it’s-mockably-bad romantic comedy or watching a favorite Judd Apatow flick to make me smile, and I would be lying if I said that neither Michael nor I aren’t excited to see Iron Man 2, those count as escapist fun instead of serious artistic fare.  In the past year or so, however, the desire to immerse myself in foreign films has been strong:  ever since I brought La Dolce Vita with us to Italy (we watched it in our cozy suite over two nights and I swear it made our Italian slightly better), I’ve been slowly building a mini-library of Italian and Spanish cinematic treats. The latest addition to our collection was our long-overdue introduction to Pedro Almodóvar via his masterpiece Volver:

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by saying that it’s good; instead, I’m going to insist that you place it immediately on your Netflix queue and experience it for yourself.  It’s a truly delightful film–funny yes, but with so much heart that it seems almost impossible not to enjoy yourself while watching it.  Penelope Cruz is positively mesmerizing in it, which makes you realize that with the exception of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she’s been criminally underused in American film.

Penelope Cruz in Volver (click image for source)

I didn’t realize how much food factored into the plot when I first picked it up, but it made the time we spent fussing over a series of tapas all the more poignant.  It’s given me the impulse to host a summertime tapas party where we, with some friends, sit around and enjoy some tapas while watching the film.

Hmm.  That has definite possibilities, don’t you think?

Goat Cheese with Mojo Verde

Our tapas mix this particular evening was a combination of light and indulgent recipes from the Barcelona cookbook, starting with a personal favorite of goat cheese with mojo verde.  What struck me when eating it this go around was how the bitter green pepper and the goat cheese meld so perfectly into this intense, almost tart flavor; it is undeniably savory yet incredibly refreshing, and one I will be using as a simple vegetable spread as the weather gets warmer, and if you’d like to try the recipe, go here.

Wild Mushrooms with Goat Cheese

We’ve made this mushroom dish a few times by now, a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has eaten with me at Barcelona before as I pretty much always insist on including it in our tapas spread.  One taste and the reason why is clear:  who can resist mushrooms simmered in a meaty stock with shallots and then smothered in light, herbed cheese?  For tapas we slather the mixture onto a slice of bread; for leftovers, they work wonderfully when tossed with some warm pasta.  I’m writing this at a completely inappropriate time to be even thinking about food other than breakfast, but I can feel my stomach yearn for them all the same.

Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This was a last-minute addition to the menu, sparked by seeing some wild Maine mussels at Whole Foods, and since I’ve gotten over my fear of killing mollusks while transporting them from store to apartment kitchen (keeping them away from plastic if possible and towards the top of any bag they are in), Michael was able to easily convince me that this was a fine idea, and when the bowls appeared on the table, we took up our normal habit of quietly slurping each little mussel out of its shell, the discarded shells quickly piling up and the last of the bread used to sop up the spicy sauce.

Que rica, indeed.  The evening instilled both a craving for more Spanish food and more Almodóvar; the latter has led me to purchase Broken Embraces (Los Embrazos Rotos) his latest collaboration with Penelope Cruz, and as for the former–I have stumbled across a Spanish food import shop in SoHo that will be paid a visit very soon.  Stay tuned…

  1. wowie-zowie – terrific post! we love tapas but oddly enough, haven’t explored making them at home and I have no idea why. these recipes will definitely be on our menu very, very soon.

    Volver was an interesting movie for us – hysterically funny in parts and achingly sad in others but you’re quite right that Penelope Cruz was stunning in this film! and if you haven’t seen it, her character in Nine (the musical) was terrific; it was more of an ‘art’ film but boy, oh boy, The Professor and I thoroughly enjoyed it – Fergie’s number was a showstopper!

  2. jillian said:

    Dying for Maine mussels and wishing I had ordered those mushrooms instead of just port and churros the last time we were at Barcelona. Oh, but the churros! I may even try again with Volver. (I think I walked out of Broken Embraces at the Criterion.) I have an Almodovar block that makes me feel like maybe I’m a little dumb or insensitive, but there it is.

  3. My husband and I also watch many foreign films. Volver is one of my favorites! Penelope is an amazing actress!
    i too have never made tapas, usually leaving it to a restaurant…but the power of suggestion is an amazing thing…thanks:)

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