Some Healthy Food Fun:    Dinner and a Movie
Kingdom of Heaven

 

On the Menu   Moroccan Couscous with lemon, Middle Eastern Style Stuffed Leg of Lamb
Video   The surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin, Kingdom of Heaven Trailer, Battle Scenes, Cooking Videos

 

"What is Jerusalem worth?" -Balian (defender of Jerusalem)                         "Nothing....Everything" --Saladin (conqueror of Jerusalem)

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When I first watched Kingdom of Heaven, it vaulted to the top of my list of the spectacular panoramic historical movies, surpassing my long time top flick of this genre, the classic Cleopatra from the 1960's. It revived those "cast of thousands" movies such as Cleopatra, Spartacus, and The Ten Commandments that fascinated me so much growing up.

Those movies are a little outdated for me now, but with modern technology and movie making capabilities, Kingdom of Heaven surpasses Cleopatra and all the others in its splendor, panoramic scenes, and incredible costumes.

It is also head over heals above the rest when it comes to the script, and although a made for Hollywood production, the script writer went deep with some extremely bold, courageous, high impact dialog on this seemingly never ending struggle.

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Kingdom of Heaven is a depiction of a historical figure, Balian de Ibelin, who defended Jerusalem against the Muslims in the 12th century.

Although a big budget Hollywood production and naturally slanted towards the West, the director did an arguably very balanced and fair between interplay between the Christians and Muslims. From what I know of history, the portrayal of the Muslim leader Saladin was in general courageously accurate, as historians on both sides regarded him, as one Christian writer put it, "the most noble and chivalrous of men", supposedly giving all his riches to the poor, and dying with the equivalent of fifty dollars in his pocket.

The movie was shot in Morocco, and supposedly required 15,000 costumes to be made, and the result, to me, was no less than spectacular. What makes any movie eligible for my coveted "Dinner and a Movie" elite club, are ones I find myself watching again and again, dozens of times, to catch a piece of a scene that I didn't notice before, or to see a favorite scene over and over.

With this Dinner and a Movie, the dish will be a contemporary, cosmopolitan foray into Middle Eastern style cuisine. For me, I'm not trying to get 100% authentic with anything, if there is such a thing as 100% authentic. It's all a process of learning new and different foods, trying new spices, understanding more about their origins, and tying everything back to healthy eating. I like to add my personal twist to everything I cook, especially since there are certain spices I prefer over others. That being said, I will be going with Couscous with lemon, and Middle Eastern style leg of lamb.

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Couscous with lemon

6 cups large pearl couscous
Water
2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Quick Preserved Lemon:
4 lemons, sliced in 1/4-inch slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


If the couscous is instant, follow the instructions on the packet. For non-instant couscous, place the couscous into a large bowl. Fill a stock pot or large pasta pot 3/4 of the way with water. Bring water to a boil. Pour the couscous into the boiling water and stir. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the couscous is tender. Drain the couscous and toss in preserved lemon and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Quick preserved lemon: Slice 2 thin, salt on both sides. Stack and let sit for 20 minutes, rinse and dice.

Middle Eastern Style Stuffed Leg of Lamb

3 lemons, juiced, divided
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon zaatar spice mix or individual ingredients (dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt),

 

1head garlic, divided into cloves
1 leg of lamb, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, boned and butterflied
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound good quality feta cheese
1 bunch spinach, blanched, shocked in ice water and squeezed to remove excess water

 

1 lemon, zested
3 to 5 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves chopped
20 arugula leaves, washed
2 tablespoons shawarma spice mix
see video at right for instructions ------------->

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I was working out at the gym the other day, writing this piece in my head, and trying to think of something to say to put my little "social commentary" on this movie, as I do in all my movies. I struggled with what to write, but the perfect quote came from lady I met, a Muslim, a beautiful lady with an even more beautiful spirit. Her name is Lea, a holistic healer, herbalist, and phytotherapist (someone involved in science of plants and plant extracts for medicinal and healing purposes).

We were casually and peacefully discussing it all with warmth and mutual respect, and I said my classic line to sum things up, "Well, whatcha gonna do?". Lea responds by saying "All I can do is remain as bold as love and live my life by example, expressing my divinity from within by the good works I do here on earth. I prefer to leave the judging to God him/herself."

Wow!! Zen philosophy keeps me above the fray of all the madness, but it seems Lea is obviously above the fray as well. I guess that quote in the Bible, where the Messiah says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you", can now take on it's true meaning. Eight hundred years after the Crusades, the only Crusade that needs to be fought is that individual Crusade each of us has to fight to free our own hearts and minds from what I call "societal constructs and programmings", and find our own divinity within.

If we must go to war, then I propose we should build our siege engines to scale those psychological walls that keep us divided, and slash our battle axes to break those chains that keep us mentally shackled, preventing us from being healthy, free, and divine. If we could do that, for sure we would live in "The Kingdom of Heaven", right here on earth. ~dw~ 

Instead of doing movie facts and trivia as I always do, the following is more awesome panoramic shots from the movie, spliced in with some of my top quotes from the movie.

-- Balian tells the King of Jerusalem "The King may rule a man, but the soul belongs to the man"
--Balian tells his army "I have surrendered Jerusalem. If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, let God do with it what he will"
--Balian tells the Queen (after the surrender of Jerusalem) "God's kingdom is here and here [pointing to his head and heart], that kingdom can never be surrendered"

---I found it interesting how sometimes the Christians would say As-Salam Alaikum , and the Muslims would say "And peace be with you"
---Balian threatens to burn down the entire city before surrendering, tearing down all Christian and Muslim holy places, and as he describes it, "Everything that drives men mad". Saladin says, "I wonder if it would not be better if you did".
--Saladin shows his humility when he asks on of his generals "How many battles did you win before I came, or should I say, before God determined that I should come?"

--A priest tells Balian "I put no stock in religion"
--Sibylla speaks to Balian about becoming a nobleman, and Balian answers "That should be easy, in France, a few yards of silk can make a nobleman"

---Balian speaks to the people who are worrying about God's vengeance from the need to burn the bodies of the dead so disease won't spread and kill the entire city, which is considered pagan. Balian says, "God will understand, if not, then he is not God. And we need not worry"
---It is a Kingdom of Conscience, or nothing!!! (dedicated to Lea, will explain to her why at the proper time)
--God Wills It !!!!!  (I found this to be an interesting quote because both sides would shout it before a battle)

---A priest says "An army that carries the cross of God before it cannot be beaten". Shortly after, the entire Christian army is destroyed in battle.
---The most zealous Christian priest, who sees any hint of Islam to be blasphemous, sees the city about to fall and knows all Christian Priests will be beheaded. In a panic he blurts out, "Convert to Islam, repent later". Balian look at him, shakes his head and responds, "I've learned a lot about religion from you" (this scene is worth the price of admission)

--And my favorite line in the movie, since a similar voice in my head asks me the same question all the time, it happens when Balian reunites with the Muslim lord that previously spared his life, to whom Balian once said that "God does not speak to me" (not currently, but years back, I often would have the same feeling). The Muslim lord tells Balian "If God does not love you, then how could you have done all the things you have done?" ~dw~

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