Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.


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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Appetizers, Fish, on February 12th, 2015.



Kind of a messy and drippy platter, huh? Yes, it was! However, the sauce it’s sitting in it scrumptious, and you can make the sauce ahead a few hours, then all you have to do is broil the shrimp and you have an appetizer all ready! You could also serve this – I think – on pasta. There was ample of the salsa verde (see the plate is almost swimming in it) so it could easy baste a nice mound of linguine. For sure, once you serve this, save all that goop on the plate and use it with the leftovers.

It used to be that “pesto” had only one meaning. Basil. But really the word doesn’t have to mean basil. It can be nuts, or almost any kind of a paste/sauce. Although we think of pesto as purely Italian in origin, it actually originated in India. The Italians adopted it as their own, and once they mixed it with garlic, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, well, a match made in heaven. BUT, this is not about that kind of pesto. Salsa Verde and pesto have many similarities.

Salsa Verde (green sauce) could be a combo of so many things – herbs or even greens like kale. The phrase, salsa verde, can be French, Italian or Spanish. Here in Southern California, even English-speaking people know salsa and verde. In this recipe the green part comes from parsley, basil and cilantro in a combination, with parsley predominating. Then this one has toasted blanched almonds in it (not pine nuts, as in pesto), some garlic and red chili flakes, a jot of white wine vinegar to give it some zip, and then oil to hold it all together. Easy to make, and it surely will keep in the refrigerator for a day – but don’t add the vinegar until just before serving – it will dull all the lovely green in the sauce. After a day the cilantro will start to disintegrate, so I’d use it up fairly quick-like.

The shrimp – use any size you want, really – are tossed with a spice mix. You can use your own combination or you can buy such mixtures at most grocery stores. Paul Prudhomme has one in the spice aisle. See my notes down below in the directions about a spice combo you can make up yourself. The raw shrimp is then coated with some oil and broiled. You could serve these warm – I think I’d like them warm – but do let them cool a bit right out of the broiler because shrimp can burn your mouth if you really served it immediately. This came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter a couple of months ago.

What’s GOOD: it’s all about the sauce. The salsa verde. It’s really, really delicious. Easy to make – just make sure you have blanched almonds. I don’t stock those in my pantry, but Trader Joe’s usually has them. The blanched part means they have no skins on them at all. And they’ve been cooked (and normally salted). Each shrimp made one really tasty bite, I’ll tell you! And remember to save the left over sauce and use it on pasta or rice.

What’s NOT: not a thing – loved this one.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp with Pesto-Style Salsa Verde

Recipe By: Salsa Verde recipe from Fine Cooking; combo from Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

24 medium shrimp — (raw) about 2 inches long, tails removed
2 teaspoons spice mix for fish (your choice – or make up your own)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup blanched almonds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Italian parsley — packed
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves — packed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — packed
2 medium cloves garlic — coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

NOTES: If you don’t have a fish-type spice mix, make your own using ground ginger (more of this than the other ingredients), ground coriander, paprika, salt, ground cumin and freshly ground black pepper.
1. SALSA: Heat the oven to 400ºF. Spread the almonds in a pie pan and toast the almonds in the oven until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
2. Place toasted almonds, parsley, basil, the cilantro, garlic, chile flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a blender or food processor. With the machine on, gradually pour the olive oil into the feed tube and process until the mixture becomes a thick purée. Add more oil as needed to make it just barely fluid. The salsa verde may be made to this point a day ahead and refrigerated. (DO NOT ADD VINEGAR YET.)
4. Return the salsa verde to room temperature, if chilled, and stir in the vinegar just before serving to prevent discoloration.
5. SHRIMP: Toss the shrimp with spice mixture and olive oil. Place on foil lined baking sheet and broil until tender (don’t over cook them!). Cool to just room temperature. If there are juices on the pan, pour that into the salsa verde for added flavor.
6. Toss the shrimp with the salsa verde and pour out onto a serving platter and serve with toothpicks. You could also make a dinner meal with this – serve over pasta, or with rice on the plate – in which case plate the shrimp on top of the rice.
Per Serving (nutrition is inaccurate as you will not use all the salsa): 266 Calories; 26g Fat (86.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 43mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment