Subscribe

Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:

Archives

Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished reading 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 Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

  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

Leave Your Comment