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Just finished reading 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.

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Posted in Fish, Grilling, on July 4th, 2017.

Trust me on this one – it’s a winner.

Years ago, it must have been in the late 80s, my DH and I took a cruise on the inland passage to Alaska. That was our first one (we did it 3 times). We were with a group of friends. The ship left out of Vancouver, for a week, and we just loved it all. Since I get seasick, this trip was one of the few I could do as there was only one 12-14 hour stretch when these routes are in open ocean (and all 3 times we did this trip, I was down sick in the stateroom for the duration of open-ocean cruising feeling very quesy).

At one of the ports of call on the Alaska mainland, we took a day trip up into a deep lush valley and enjoyed a salmon lunch cooked over open coals, huddled under some plastic tarps to protect us from the rain. It wasn’t anything fancy – the salmon, some cole slaw, as I recall, and potatoes, or a potato salad. But what I remember was the salmon. OMGosh was it good. I asked the chef, who was gently tending the salmon, worrying that the rain was going to damp out the coals, what was in the glaze he was brushing on the huge slabs of salmon. He said, butter, brown sugar and white wine – and I think he said equal quantities of each. Pretty easy. I tucked that bit of info into the back of my brain and never pursued trying to find a recipe for it.

taku_grilled_salmon_bastingThen I was reading something some years back, and the memories of that salmon came flooding back into my brain. We didn’t go to Taku Lodge back then (it’s a 15-minute flight in a small plane from Juneau), but it brought back all those wonderful mouth-watering memories of our first salmon bake in the wilderness. This link has the recipe, and also this one from Sunset Magazine’s version from 2003. It’s taken me this long to make it. What a waste of years – not to have made this until now.

salmon_fresh_off_grillSunset’s recipe is the one I used. Both recipes are a little bit different – same ingredients, but different quantities. One has you marinate the salmon (I didn’t), and I didn’t grill it on the open grill – I did the salmon slab on heavy-duty foil, in a kind of a foil-sling/pan with the edges of the foil rolled inward so the glaze wouldn’t drip out. I had my son-in-law man the gas grill, putting the “pan” on the heat for about 4 minutes, then moving it off-heat until it was fully cooked – maybe 10 minutes. You know it’s done when the collagen starts leaking up through the flakes. We moved the foil slab onto a serving platter and guests just cut what they wanted with a long spatula. You can scoot the salmon off the foil pan onto a heated serving platter – looks prettier that way.

As it turned out, even with 8 people eating, we didn’t quite finish 2 slabs, and I was so happy about that because I crumbled half of it into a green salad for lunch one day and the remainder I ate as dinner a few nights later briefly reheated in the microwave. There was a little bit of the glaze in the refrigerator container I had it in, and I almost wanted to drink it (I didn’t).

What’s GOOD: the glaze gives the salmon a lovely sweet caramely kind of taste. It’s not overly sweet, but I suppose you could cut down on the sugar if you are concerned about that. The butter keeps it moist. It’s just wonderful. Do try it.

What’s not: nothing that I can think of – this is a quick, easy dinner. Do use two layers of the foil so there aren’t any chances of a leaking accident in the grill. That would not be good!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Salmon a la Taku Lodge

Recipe By: adapted from Taku Glacier Lodge in Juneau
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds salmon
1/3 cup parsley — finely minced

NOTE: I buy the whole farm-raised salmon slabs at Costco and they vary in size and thickness.
1. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Add lemon juice and wine. Stir and heat through, about 5 minutes.
2. Prepare foil “pan,” by placing 2 pieces of heavy-duty foil together, spray foil with nonstick spray, then place salmon on top, curling the thin, tapered end under so the salmon slab is about an even thickness. Carefully crinkle/roll the foil edges inward so it kind of surrounds the fish, like a boat. Baste the salmon with the glaze (don’t use it all). Set aside until the grill is ready.
3. Preheat grill to high. Leave one part of the grill off, or bank coals to one side.
4. Turn down the grill heat to medium. Place salmon “pan” on heat for about 4 minutes, then move the “pan” to the unheated side and continue cooking (lid closed). Baste the salmon several times with the glaze. It’s done when the collagen begins to leak through to the top of the salmon, about 4-8 minutes, depending on the thickness. The fish should flake when tested with a fork.
5. If desired, open the short end of the foil pan and using a spatula, gently scoot the whole salmon off onto a heated platter. Pour any remaining glaze over the top. Garnish with minced parsley.
Per Serving: 226 Calories; 11g Fat (44.1% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 147mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on July 4th, 2017:

    Now I wish I had planned salmon for dinner tonight! We did have some grilled with a bit of leftover glsze the other day, and the fish itslf was some of the best I’ve ever had. The glaze, though, was just a little brown sugar and mustard ham glaze I found in the fridge. Delicious, but I’m looking forward to this one for next time.

    Happy Independence Day!
    Donna\\\\\\\\\\
    Thanks, Donna. Happy 4th to you and your family too. I just made yet another salmon dinner a couple of nights ago using a pineapple juice marinade. It was fabulous. It’ll be “up” in a couple of weeks. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on July 11th, 2017:

    I made this the other day, and it was excellent, and nice and quick. Am looking forward to the next salmon recipe!

    Yes, I agree – it’s a quick and easy preparation. But good enough for a company dinner, too. I think. Glad you enjoyed it, Donna. . . carolyn t

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