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Just finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

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, Miscellaneous, on May 17th, 2017.

What a wonderful way to use left over shrimp. Ever had remoulade? You’re in for a treat.

Here in Orange County, California, we had a restaurant called Nieuport 17 (it’s now closed, sad to say) that was a place I visited frequently to take customers for a business lunch. Clubby kind of ambiance; great service. And, delicious food. And of the dozens and dozens of times I had lunch there, about 95% of the time I ordered their Open-Faced Shrimp and Avocado Sandwich with Remoulade. It looked much like my recreation above. It was served on dark rye bread (untoasted), slathered with the delicious Remoulade sauce, topped with a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then shrimp cut nicely in half laid on top. Often I asked for a bit more sauce so I could put more on top. Before it closed, they’d taken this item off the menu – in fact they weren’t open for lunch anymore. The last several times I asked (at dinner time) if they could make it, they said no. Not that the Remoulade is all that hard to make, but they didn’t want to make it from scratch for just one customer.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Remoulade: it is a condiment invented in France that is usually aioli- or mayonnaise-based. Although similar to tartar sauce, it is often more yellowish (or reddish in Louisiana), sometimes flavored with curry, and sometimes contains chopped pickles or piccalilli. It can also contain horseradish, paprika, anchovies, capers and a host of other items. While its original purpose was possibly for serving with meats, it is now more often used as an accompaniment to seafood dishes, especially pan-fried breaded fish fillets (primarily sole and plaice) and seafood cakes (such as crab or salmon cakes).

rye_toast_remoulde_slatheredI had some left over colossal shrimp (recipe coming soon) that had been grilled. I researched online for various Remoulade recipes, and took some items from one and other ingredients from others. I made it the way I think Nieuport 17 used to make it. Whether I’m right or not may never be determined. It was good enough for me!

In this case, the Remoulade is a mayo-based sauce with a bunch of add-ins. Lime juice. Creole mustard. Horseradish, cayenne, Sriracha, garlic, chopped parsley, and some paprika too. And I added in some capers because I think they used capers in theirs. I tasted it and knew I had a winner. It was absolutely wonderful.

remoulade_sauce_glass_dish

The sauce has this lovely golden-red color because there’s some paprika added and some Sriracha. Does it resemble what I used to have? Yes. It might be the very thing. I had enough leftover shrimp to make this twice. Yummy.

What’s GOOD: everything about the sauce is delicious. You could use it as a dipping sauce for lots of things, including shrimp, if you happened to serve them as an appetizer. Forever, though, Remoulade will be associated with this shrimp sandwich for me!

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. It’s very easy to make as long as you have all the ingredients that go into it! Don’t forget the capers.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Remoulade Sauce

Recipe By: My own combination
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise — (I always use Best Foods/Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard — * see note in directions
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 small garlic clove — minced
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — (or Tabasco – use less probably)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 pinches cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons capers — drained, chopped
Salt if needed

*Note: if you don’t have Creole mustard, use Dijon and add more hot sauce and/ or cayenne to taste. The sauce isn’t supposed to be “hot,” just spicy warm.
1. Combine all of the remoulade ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well.
2. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes or more to allow the flavors to meld. Use within a couple of days.
4. SANDWICH: For each serving, place a slice of soft dark (or light) rye bread on the plate. Slather with some of the Remoulade, a few thin slices of ripe avocado, then cut 2-4 shrimp in half lengthwise and lay flat on the top. Slather a bit more remoulade on top and garnish with a parsley sprig. This recipe will probably be enough for 3-4 open faced sandwiches, using about 2-3 tablespoons for each sandwich.
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 16g Fat (97.6% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on May 18th, 2017:

    Sounds right up my alley! I look forward to trying this first chance I get.

    If you like shrimp, and you like avocado, it’s a real match! . . . carolyn t

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