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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in easy, Fish, on May 21st, 2013.


Wow. Was this easy baked salmon ever off the charts delicious! I almost can’t wait to make it again, it was that good. The salmon is flavored with red onions, garlic and green onions, then soaked in olive oil, agave nectar and lime juice. And an itty-bitty pinch of cinnamon.

This salmon dish could hardly be easier. Well, maybe a little, but we’re not talking much effort to make this, that’s all I’m saying. The recipe came from a fellow blogger, Karina Allrich, also known as the Gluten-Free Goddess. Karina eats GF (gluten free), but she has plenty of “regular” recipes as well (meaning they’re not alternative-flour-centric) on her very popular blog. This one was from some years ago. I used the essence of it and adapted it slightly to suit our family. Agave nectar, although it’s a low glycemic carb and slow absorbing into the body of a normal person, is still SUGAR to a any person, let alone for a diabetic, like drinking sugar syrup.

salmon_packet_rawAt left is a photo of the fish before I sealed it up in foil – onions, garlic, green onions and you can see the olive oil/agave mixture around the bottom.

There were 4 of us for dinner that night, and since this dish is made in individual foil packets (hooray for easy cleanup!), I was able to adapt my DH’s serving with less agave. The other 3 portions were as the recipe shows below. Here’s what I did differently from Karina’s recipe: (1) I sprayed the foil to make sure the salmon wouldn’t stick; (2) I reduced the amount of agave and olive oil, just because I thought 1/3 cup of each was more than needed for 4 servings – in any case, you don’t eat all of it anyway; and (3) I used ample of the dark green part of the green onions – flavor, I suppose, but also for color. The only thing I’ll do differently next time – and I’ve put this in the recipe below – is place the slices of garlic underneath the salmon. We found the garlic was still nearly raw when placed on top of the salmon. Perhaps if the garlic was placed in direct contact with the salmon flesh it would cook, but I’d put the onions on first, then the garlic and they were definitely raw. Anyway, I salted and peppered the salmon first, added the pinch of cinnamon, then thin slices of red onion are placed on the salmon fillets, a bunch of the green onions, then I mixed up the olive oil/agave mixture and used a spoon to drizzle it all over the top of the salmon. It puddled below in the packet, but all of the salmon was dampened with the mixture. Then, just before sealing it up I squeezed a half of a lime over the top – I drizzled it directly on the salmon. The packets were sealed up, then I placed them on a big rimmed baking sheet (4 just barely fit).

The 350° was just right – the salmon cooked in exactly 20 minutes. The fillets we had were about 1” at the thickest part, so 20 minutes was perfect. If you have thinner fillets, you’ll want to reduce the baking time by a few minutes.

What’s GOOD: every single, solitary morsel of this dish was fantastic. The fact that it’s relatively easy to make just made it even more fun to prepare. Worthy of a company meal for sure. The taste is on the sweet side – just know that going in.
What’s NOT: nothing. Absolutely nothing!

printer-friendly PDF (created using Cute PDF Writer, not Adobe)
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save (remember where), run MC, File|Import

Baked Salmon with Agave and Lime

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Karina’s Kitchen blog, 2008
Serving Size: 4

24 ounces salmon, skinless
1/2 red onion — thinly sliced
4 whole scallions — sliced (using equal amounts of dark green tops)
3 whole garlic cloves — sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 whole limes — halved
1 pinch cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Tear off eight pieces of foil; two for each piece of salmon.The top piece can be slightly smaller than the bottom one. Spray 4 pieces with EVOO spray. Place garlic pieces on the foil, in a line where you are going to place the salmon. Then place one serving of salmon on one piece of foil, folding under the thin, tapered edge of the fish. Season with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
3. Sprinkle the salmon with onions and scallions.
4. Combine the olive oil, agave, lime juice and touch of cinnamon in a glass measuring cup. Pour the sauce all over the salmon pieces.
5. Place the remaining pieces of foil on each serving and fold the edges to create a packet.
6. Bake in a preheated oven for roughly 20 minutes, until it flakes easily- but is not dried out. One inch thick fillets were perfect at exactly 20 minutes. When serving, remove the fish from the packet and place on a warm serving plate; discard the juices.
Per Serving: 284 Calories; 13g Fat (40.5% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 118mg Sodium.

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