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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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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