Look at these cool abstract expressionist stamps I got from the post office.

I'm happy to see the folks at USPS are venturing beyond the usual tacky "LOVE" stamps or stamp collections commemorating the films of John Wayne.  The other day when I went to mail I package, the postal worker asked me if I'd like any stamps with that.  "Why yes," I replied, remembering I was almost out of stamps.  He gave me this hefty book of stamps to flip through, and as soon as I saw the abstract expressionist collection (by far my favorite art movement), I knew I had to have them.

Includes Rotko, Pollack, Clyfford Still, and more.  The only one they were missing is Kline (my absolute favorite).

The frustrating thing about Matthew Vaughn movies is that the trailers look so stupid, it discourages most people from seeing how awesome they really are.

I have a pretty short list of heroes:

Anyway, I want to talk about how director Matthew Vaughn is creeping up my list of heroes, and how everyone who thinks movies are dead ought to STFU, put down what they're doing, and go watch KICK-ASS right this minute.

Because KICK-ASS is easily my favorite movie of the year, and jumped pretty high up there on my all-time favorites list.  I know, I know.  I'm already a huge fan of comic-book movies, and you may be dubious.  But that's because all you've seen/heard of it are the totally stupid trailers they've been showing online and on TV.  I hear you - most of the time it's the trailer that is awesome, and the movie that is lacking.  But for some unknown reason, the producers backing Matthew Vaughn films have had a way of hiring the worst trailer cutters on the PLANET.  Either that, or the movies are so awesome that the trailer cutters don't know what to do with them.  Either way, I know what the trailer makes the movie look like: a dumb comedy about superhero-wannabes.
But believe me when I tell you this movie is so much more.  Yes, it's funny, but the movie took me through so many emotions it'd hard to keep track: shock, awe, sorrow, gratitude, empathy, excitement, relief.  It dealt with so many deep-seated problems in our society, in our relationships, in our very characters, I hardly know where to start.  It's a humbling reminder of how f-ed up we all are, and to what heights we aspire.  Not to mention, the movie had one of the most fantastic soundtracks I've heard in a long time. And who can resist a Tarantino-esque story of the superheroine-assassin born from tragedy witnessed at an age so tender it's unreal?
I couldn't quite place where I'd seen the name Matthew Vaughn until I looked him up afterwards.  But of course - Stardust, another one of those movies whose trailers made it look positively daft (like an even worse version of Hocus Pocus).  But that movie, too, exceeded all my expectations and lodged itself firmly amongst my all-time favorites for its ability to deliver exactly what I'm looking for what I go to the movies: escape, adventure, romance, heroism, and good humor.  Not to mention it's just superbly well done; great camerawork, great storytelling.  Vaughn even used the same actor in both movies.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie (well, besides the romantic ones of course):
Anyway, it's just a darn shame, a travesty really, that Vaughn's excellent work goes unnoticed by so many people because the movies suffer from the worst marketing job ever.  Please, please, go see KICK-ASS so it will make lots of money and Vaughn will be able to make the sequel.  IT really lives up to its name, because it's so kick-ass.
For further kicks, the Origin Story of O-Ren Ishii, which reminds me so much of KICK-ASS's heroine, Hitgirl:

Foodie Tuesday: Salt-Baked Fish

I first heard of cooking things in a crust of salt from none other than clementine's posterous.  She featured chicken roasted in salt over a fire, and it was at the same time one of the craziest, and yet totally intriguing things I'd heard about.  And I kept thinking about it for a year and a half before I finally worked up the nerve to try it.

So the thing about roasting in salt is that it's not nearly as scary as it sounds - burying your meat in a mound of salt.  But the salt forms a cohesive sort of cave, an oven-within-an-oven, if you will, within which the meat sort of dry steams (oxymoron, I know) in its own juicy flavors.  The meat stays moist and tender, and the salt draws away moisture so it doesn't get soggy at all.  Afterwards, you crack the salt crust open and eat the meat inside - as long as you are careful not to crumble the salt crust, your meat won't be too salty.
The result is delicate, warm and fragrant.  And very delicious.  Not to mention this was one of the easiest dishes I've made all year.
1) Buy the freshest fish you can get your paws on.  I went to the fishmonger at the local Chinese supermarket and pointed to fish swimming in tanks and had them catch, kill (he used swift strokes of a mallet to their heads!), and clean them.  I wasn't sure which kind to commit to, so I got both a striped bass and a rainbow trout (the trout ended up being way tastier).  I'd never bought live fish before and felt very accomplished, even though I didn't do anything other than point and pay.
2) When you get home with the fish, rinse and pat dry.
3) On your baking dish, lay out a generous layer of kosher salt.  I didn't really understand why it had to be kosher salt until I tried it out for myself.  Trust me - take the trouble to buy kosher salt, because I don't think regular table salt will crust the way you need it to.
4) Lay out some bay leaves, then lay out your fish on top of them.  Stuff its belly with some freshly sliced lemon and sprigs of parsley.  You can get fancier herbs if you want to, but I found this to be simple and delicious.
5) Now, cover the fish in salt.  Anywhere from 2 cups to 2 lbs, whatever it will take to form a nice crust (mine was between 1/3 to 1/2 an inch thick).
6) Roast in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about 25-30 min.  I left mine in for too long and the bass got a little tough, but the trout was still moist and flavorful.
7) Crack open the salt crust and enjoy!  We had our fish with steamed wild rice and stir-fried bok choy.  Nom nom nom.
Some more pictures from Saturday - that Kung Fu riesling sure packs a punch!  I drank one small little glass and got drunker than I have in a long time.  And there are videos to prove it.

9pm dinner for one: I made some delicious chicken.

It took longer than usual, but so worth it.  Marinate fresh chicken tenderloins in salt and white pepper and a splash of olive oil.  Brown sliced onions in oil, then add sliced apples (mine was fuji) and let them cook down, then add sliced mushrooms and let them all cook down.  Add chopped rosemary.  Chicken.  And a splash or two of white wine.  Salt liberally (or to taste), and add some black pepper or cumin seeds for spice.  

The only thing I forgot was garlic, but it was still SUPER tasty.  A bit sweet, tart, salty, savory all together. Served over brown rice.