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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 December 7th, 2016.

pancetta_salmon_browned_butter_pistachios

Don’t let the long title steer you away from trying this. It’s really very easy – all of it is, even browning the butter!

This salmon dish was just SO delicious. Do I over-use that word “delicious?” I hope not. Take the word seriously – this salmon dish is very easy (and company-worthy) and could be a weeknight dinner. Wrapping the salmon fillet in a thin-thin piece of pancetta takes all of about 10 seconds, maybe 20 at the most. But first you need to heat the oven to hot – 425°F and on convection if you have that option. Or convection bake. While the oven heats, put a baking sheet in the oven so it gets piping hot too. Let the salmon sit out at room temp for a little bit – 10-15 minutes or so. Gather together the ingredients to make the nut sauce –  white wine vinegar, cold butter (actually keep it cold and in the refrigerator until needed) and some chopped Italian parsley. (See, I said there wasn’t much to it). If you haven’t done so, toast the nuts and chop them.

Once the oven (and the pan in it) is hot, remove the pan and place the pancetta-wrapped salmon on the pan – you’ll hear it sizzle already. Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan and turn the salmon over and put it back in the oven, turn the oven temp to 325°F and set your timer for about 8 minutes (it might take 10 depending on how thick the salmon is). Cook the salmon to 145°F to be perfection.

Meanwhile, the last couple of minutes you make the sauce – heat the butter and continue to cook until it gets a nutty, golden to dark brown. JUST before you’re ready to serve, reheat the butter if you’ve done it ahead, then add the toasted pistachios and vinegar. Be careful – it will bubble up and spit. Then add the cold butter in small cubes and allow the butter to melt. Add the parsley. It should thicken the sauce a little bit. Check the salmon – is it done? Put it out onto a heated plate/platter and pour the sauce on top or on the side. Garnish with more Italian parsley if desired. Done. The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter but the recipe came from a cookbook I don’t own (oh, I’m sorely tempted – I could buy it used for not much money but I need another cookbook like I need a hole in my head!). The cookbook: The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from California’s Central Coast.

What’s GOOD: I rate this salmon dish sensational. It was so very good. If you buy wild-caught salmon it will be even more delicious. The sauce is easy to make. Altogether a beautiful presentation too. Not difficult to make; just gather everything together at the beginning (except the chilled butter – keep it refrigerated) and it comes together very quickly.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. A must try recipe.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon with Pistachio-Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, Sept 2016
Serving Size: 6

30 ounces salmon fillets — wild caught, skinless, center-cut (about 5 ounces each)
Fresly ground black pepper
6 slices pancetta — or prosciutto (thin slices)
NUT SAUCE:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup pistachio nuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter — COLD, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — finely chopped and more for garnish if desired

1. Season salmon with pepper and wrap each piece with a slice of pancetta. (This can be done up to 6 hours ahead of time.)
2. Place a baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat to 425°F on convection bake.
3. Let salmon sit at room temp for about 10 minutes if it’s just been removed from the refrigerator.
4. Meanwhile, preheat a baking sheet in the hot oven and once hot, transfer salmon to the sheet and roast for 5 minutes.
5. Turn the salmon over and continue baking for about 8-9 more minutes or until tender. It should measure 145°F on an instant read thermometer.
6. SAUCE: Heat unsalted butter in a pan until it turns brown (but not burned). As soon as it has turned a dark, nutty brown, remove from heat, stand back and add pistachios and vinegar (it will boil up and splatter). Now add the COLD butter and parsley; swirl the pan until butter melts and thickens slightly. Spoon alongside the salmon or over the salmon. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 32g Fat (62.4% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 817mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on December 8th, 2016:

    I like all of those ingredients!

    Then you need to try this one! . . . ct

  2. hddonna

    said on December 11th, 2016:

    Oooh boy! I wish I’d had a chance to read this before I went grocery shopping yesterday! (I sometimes save your posts to read when I have time to savor them.) It’s going on the menu ASAP. And as far as I’m concerned, you may use “delicious” whenever you think it fits.

  3. hddonna

    said on January 10th, 2017:

    I finally had a chance to make this last week, and it was quite elegant and delicious. The salmon stayed super moist in its pancetta wrap. However, it is very rich–all that butter and pork fat plus the nuts the richness of the salmon. Next time, I might modify it a bit. At the least, I’d serve it with lemon wedges, but I would also consider doing a different sauce, one that included lemon juice, and perhaps omitting or greatly cutting back on the pistachios and adding some capers for a little tartness to counteract the richness. I liked having a target temperature as a sign of doneness–no need to mess up the fish to check the center. It was perfect.

    Those are some great suggestions, Donna. Yes, it’s definitely a rich entree and not one I’d serve as a weeknight dinner. It’s much more elegant. I like the lemon wedges idea for sure! . . .carolyn t

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