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Recently finished reading 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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 Chicken, on October 3rd, 2016.

chix_breasts_emmental_arugula

Yet another filled chicken breast. You pound out the breast so it’s thin, fill it with a couple of strips of Emmental cheese (similar to Gruyere) and stuff in some arugula. Fold over, sear, roast and serve with a nice white wine, shallot and butter sauce.

My Colorado friends were visiting me – this was awhile back; it’s just taken me awhile to get this posted. One night we had dinner here at home, so I made these chicken breasts with a white wine and shallot sauce. We had some watermelon with Feta and mint and also enjoyed a dessert, which I’ve posted already.

The recipe couldn’t have been much simpler. Chicken breasts are pounded out thin with a mallet or a stainless pounder, so they’re about 1/4 inch thick. Two narrow slices of Emmental cheese are chucked in chix_breasts_raw_emmental_arugulathe fold, along with a little handful of arugula. The breasts are seasoned with salt, pepper and some kind of mixed herbs, they’re seared in a bit of oil and hopefully the same pan can go straight into the 350° oven for just a few minutes (5-7) until the breasts are just cooked through and the cheese is amply melted. Whisk them to a plate and serve with the white wine sauce you made. Probably should start the sauce before you cook the chicken.

The sauce was easy enough, although it did take awhile to boil it down (reduce it) so that it thickened some. I actually sprinkled in a tiny bit of flour, but it probably wasn’t necessary. It contains shallot and garlic, white wine white_wine_sauce_shallots_honey_basiland chicken broth, lemon juice, honey, fresh basil and at the last, a couple of T. of butter. That was drizzled over the finished chicken breasts. I forgot to take a picture of it once it was served . . . sigh. With trying so hard to get dinner on the table, hot, I forgot photos! Do have everything else done before you start cooking the chicken, as it comes together very rapidly.

If you like arugula, make a little side salad for the plate. The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, from a long, long time ago, 2002, from a class I took from her.

What’s GOOD: overall, this is a very nice, tasty dish. I liked the cheese (there isn’t a lot of it, or it might be too rich), and I liked the bit of arugula too, but then, I’m an arugula fan. You can stuff the chicken ahead of time, so all you’d have to do it pan sear it and quick-like push the pan into the oven for a few minutes. A lovely guest-worthy dish.

What’s NOT: some people might say this is too fussy, with pounding and stuffing. It really doesn’t take long to do. The sauce might not be necessary, but I think it added much to the flavorfulness and moisture for a chicken breast, which can often be dry. This wasn’t. But, the sauce does take some extra steps and minutes to get it just right.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Breasts with Emmental & Arugula

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a Tarla Fallgatter recipe, 2002
Serving Size: 6

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves — pounded to an even 1/4 inch thickness
2 cups baby arugula
8 ounces gruyere cheese — or Emmental, cut into 6 2-inch long strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Mediterranean herbs — or herb blend of your choice
SAUCE:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shallots — peeled and minced
2 tablespoons garlic — minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine — or red wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup fresh basil — thinly sliced (divided use)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. SAUCE: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallot, with the salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking another 30 seconds, then add white wine, honey and broth and let bubble for another 5-8 minutes until reduced by half. Add red chile flakes. Lower heat to below a simmer and add the unsalted butter a tablespoon at a time without letting the sauce boil at all, then add half the basil. Use remaining basil to garnish the chicken.
3. CHICKEN: To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Discard plastic wrap. Top each chicken breast half with 1 slice cheese (or two small strips), and 1/4 cup arugula, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The chicken can be prepared up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated at this point.)
3. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet (one that’s heat-proof to 350° oven temp) over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan; bake for 5 minutes or until done and internal temperature reaches 160°F. Do not insert thermometer into the cheese. Keep warm.
4. To serve, place chicken on a cutting board and cut into 1-inch slices. then place chicken onto a heated platter or individual plates and drizzle with sauce and sprinkle basil on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 457 Calories; 25g Fat (50.9% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 214mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on October 9th, 2016:

    Oh dear, I had forgotten what arugula is in English – it is rocket!

    I like food preparation so pounding and stuffing would be a relaxing time for me. I like the idea of the sauce too. I have bookmarked this to practise on soon.

    I like the combo of arugula and emmental too. It was a delicious dish. . . carolyn t

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