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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 Fish, on August 4th, 2016.

mustard_salmon_cannellini_ragu

This recipe got lost in my files where I keep recipes I’ve prepared, the ones I’m going to post about. It’s a good one and worth making. It’s healthy and filling.

Do you ever crave beans? I crave lentils now and then, and I do love-me-a-bowl-of-beans or chili about once a year or so, but like bread, mashed potatoes and rice, I try to give them a pass. I was craving beans the day I made this, and in looking at my to-try file, this recipe seemed to be the one to make. I had some escarole; yes, I had a can of cannellini beans; and I always have those lovely salmon fillets in the freezer. As I recall, since I made this a couple of months ago, that plate was all I ate for dinner. I thought it was a rounded-out menu since the escarole (vegetable) was in the ragu.

If you’re good at multi-tasking, by all means do both things at once (the bean ragu and the salmon). Neither part takes all that long. If you’re substituting spinach or arugula for the escarole, then don’t add that into the beans until you’re nearly ready to eat as it’s best when it’s just barely cooked. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, you may need to cook it longer – it’s broiled first, to get it brown (see photo), then if it’s not quite done, turn oven to 400° and bake for 3-4 minutes. That’s what I had to do as the salmon was thicker than some.

As you make the ragu, do taste it periodically, and at the end add more salt, pepper and lemon juice if it needs it. I think the beans need acid to give it some perk, so I did add more lemon juice at the end. Next time I’ll add more lemon zest to sprinkle on top of the beans. If you’re making this for guests, I would make the bean mixture an hour ahead, just so you can get it done. It would be fine at room temp for that long. Prep the salmon, the pan for it, then when you’re ready to eat, just cook the salmon and reheat the beans and add the greens. Done.

What’s GOOD: for me, I liked the textural contrast between the salmon and the just slightly chew to the beans. Loved the flavor in the beans – it has a whole bunch of stuff in it to make it taste good. I like salmon, so it was a cinch that I’d like the whole dish. It’s a one-plate meal, though you do use 2 pans to cook everything.

What’s NOT: really nothing that I can think of. It was a tasty dish.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mustard Salmon with Cannellini Bean Ragù

Recipe By: Adapted some from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe
Serving Size: 4

RAGU:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot — minced
2 garlic cloves — minced
2 tomatoes — chopped (or a 15 ounce can, drained)
2 teaspoons thyme — finely chopped (or less if using dried)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30 ounces canned cannellini beans — rinsed and drained
3/4 cup chicken stock — or more if needed
3/4 pound escarole — dark green leaves discarded and remaining leaves torn (or substitute baby spinach or arugula)
2 ounces prosciutto — chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
SALMON:
extra-virgin olive oil
24 ounces salmon fillets salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons dry white wine — (or red if that’s all you have)
2 garlic cloves — minced
1 teaspoon thyme — finely chopped (or Italian parsley)
1 teaspoon lemon juice — or more if needed
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped, for garnish

1. RAGU: In a deep skillet, add the oil, shallot and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to break down, 4 minutes. Add the beans and stock and simmer until the beans are hot, 2 minutes. Add the escarole, prosciutto and lemon zest and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the escarole is just wilted, 4 minutes; if the bean ragù is too thick, add a little water. It’s nice to have a bit of the broth on the plate, so do add water or more broth as needed. Add lemon juice and taste for seasonings. Add more lemon juice to give it ample zip, if needed. IF you substitute spinach or arugula for the escarole, don’t add it until just before serving, as it’s best when it’s barely cooked through. The escarole can handle a bit longer cooking.
2. SALMON: Preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and brush it with oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper and set on the baking sheet. In a bowl, whisk both mustards with the wine, 2 teaspoons of oil, the garlic, thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Broil the salmon fillets 6 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, until the top just starts to brown. Spoon the mustard on the salmon and broil for 5 minutes, until the fish is nearly cooked through and the top is browned. Test to see if the fish is cooked through – if not, turn oven temp to 400° and continue to bake for 3-4 minutes. Spoon the bean ragù into bowls or a dinner plate with somewhat sloped sides, top with the fish and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Per Serving: 529 Calories; 19g Fat (32.1% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 98mg Cholesterol; 1439mg Sodium.

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