The Film: Elling – Norway
The transition from inside the apartment to the discovers of the world outside is smooth, fascinating, and hilarious. I love the way their world expands slowly through the film. Just when there’s a plateau, something comes along to take the two men on further than they thought they could go. Think of it as the less fantastical adventures of Indigo Montoya and Fezzik, only in modern day Norway.
The acting is superb and the secondary characters are equally genuine and compelling. There’s nothing particularly gorgeous about the directing but the simple camera work, easy editing, and thick visual content work in unison to be unnoticeable — the effect of which is truly satisfying.
Elling is about breaking through isolation, conquering fear, and curing loneliness. Which all starts by bringing together an odd couple.
Holiday Spirit: +5
The Food: 5 Spice Sugar Cookies & Nigella Seed Sugar Cookies
Last week I put 5 spice on zucchini and was reminded just how much I like the warm flavor and how great it can taste when used in a great recipe with the right ingredients. Anise isn’t often in my cooking but I use spices in everything so when I find something unique, it’s exciting. Last year’s use of Herbes de Provence on popcorn gave me a similar thrill as it contained lavender.
When I saw the recipe for 5 spice almond cookies, I’ll admit for two seconds I thought it was an odd coupling. But I couldn’t pass it up.
The recipe called for a package of sugar cookie mix, which I didn’t have and wouldn’t want to use. I decided I’d make a batch of sugar cookies from scratch and add the rest to it. I looked up the only recipes I had but they used shortening, which wasn’t in the pantry. So those three magic words again: To The Internet!
I found a recipe from a famous chef but the reviews said they were bland and dry. So I went to the fairy godmother of baking — Martha Stewart. This recipe for old-fashioned sugar cookies was just right. I knew the inclusion of lemon zest would work well with the 5 spice.
I was going to make a second batch but decided to divide a full batch into two flavors. My time in Uzbekistan introduced me to nigella seeds and I’ve been obsessed with the flavor ever since but I was looking for a way to use them other than on bread.
I did a bit of modification so I’m posting the recipes as I made them.
Sugar Cookie Dough
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons packed Splenda for baking
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
- 2 large eggs
5 Spice Almond: 1 teaspoon 5 spice and generous 1/4 cup sliced almonds
Nigella seed: 2 tablespoons nigella seed (lightly crushed), 1 teaspoon powdered nigella, and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the vanilla. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
I took my butter from the freezer and microwaved it a little. Yes, I have repented. I thought this little trick caused the dough to be too thin but as I incorporated the flour mix, it thickened right up. The consistency was great.
Martha’s recipe said to scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop but I broke them in half. Space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined, or ungreased, baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly. I used the bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake cookies until golden. If you break the dough into smaller cookies, bake about 10 minutes. For the original size, 2-inch cookies, bake about 15 minutes.
Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. They will get crispy. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
Holiday Spirit: +5