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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. 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 Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read 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 need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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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