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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 Chicken, on August 5th, 2017.

grilled_chile_chix_strawb_salsa_lime_crema

That photo doesn’t do justice to this easy grilled chicken dish. This chicken was very easy to put together and was so nice with the strawberry salsa and the lime cream on top.

On the spur of the moment I invited 2 widow friends over for dinner and asked if we could do a potluck. One brought a nice green salad (with mandarin oranges and sliced almonds in it) and the other friend brought a tiny little chocolate cake (made from a Duncan Hines boxed mix that comes with the frosting). I had some cream of cucumber soup that I’d made the day before, so after having a glass of Trader Joe’s peach bellini and a few bites of Brie, served with my Roasted Figs that I’d kept in the freezer, I grilled this chicken.

A few hours before I made the marinade (easy), the strawberry salsa (easy) and the lime cream (super easy). The chicken was in the marinade for about 2 hours total. I am still learning how to grill, since my DH was the grillmeister in my house. I’ve had to learn. My most trusted tool is my instant read thermometer, and it was spot on with this, when the chicken reached about 152°F. I served the two condiments so my guests could add what they wanted. I sliced wide strips of the hot grilled chicken and piled them onto a very hot plate. Dinner was lovely. The company was fun and happy. We laughed and enjoyed the view outside my dining room windows. As I write this, it’s been stinkin’ hot and humid (so much so that we’ve been having tropical showers), so we had to eat inside. A couple of days ago it was nearly 100°F, which is very hot for July. My A/C has been running nearly 24/7. As much as I hate keeping the air on nearly all the time (it’s expensive first of all), I have decided I want to be comfortable. End of story.

I’d definitely make this again. It’s a recipe from a 2005 cooking class I took with Phillis Carey. I changed just a few things from her recipe. I used jalapeno chile instead of serrano (serranos are hotter); I cut down on the quantity of chile in the marinade and the salsa (because I didn’t think my guests would want so much chile-heat). I used strawberry balsamic vinegar (because I had some) in the salsa, and I used sherry vinegar in the marinade instead of raspberry (straight) vinegar (because I didn’t have any). We DO have to improvise, right?  I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 1/2”, and they grilled perfectly in about 4 minutes per side on a medium-heat grill. The only mistake I made was not oiling the grill grate before starting, so the chicken stuck a little bit. No big deal, though.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was super tender and juicy. If you remove it from the grill when it reaches about 150-152°F, you’re sure to have juicy chicken. Past 155°F and it’ll be more dry. I loved the strawberry salsa – so “summer” and picnic-y if there is such a thing. Next time I’ll add more lime zest to the cream (I doubled the amount in the recipe below). It made a lovely presentation.

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. You do have to make the salsa and the crema, but neither one takes much time to do. Even the chicken marinade took very little time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chile Chicken Breasts with Lime Crema

Recipe By: Adapted a little from a Phillis Carey class, 2005
Serving Size: 6

CHICKEN:
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 whole serrano chile — minced (or jalapeno)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar — or sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
LIME CREMA:
1 cup Mexican crema — “Cacique” brand (green lid) or sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
STRAWBERRY SALSA:
3 cups fresh strawberries — diced
3 tablespoons fresh mint — minced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 serrano chile — or jalapeno
1/2 cup red onion — minced
3 tablespoons strawberry balsamic vinegar — or other fruit balsamic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: Trim and pound breast to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
2. In a ziploc plastic bag add chile, garlic, chili powder, vinegar, olive oil and S&P. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Remove from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grill. Grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side to cook through. Chicken breasts are done when they’ve reached about 150-152°F.
3. CREMA: Stir lime zest and juice into crema. Refrigerate a few hours, or up to 4 hours.
4. SALSA: Place strawberries, mint and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Add chile, onion and vinegar; toss together lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Let salsa rest at room temp for at least 20 minutes before serving. Spoon over chicken and top with lime crema. Note: Serve with black beans or cilantro rice.
Per Serving : 390 Calories; 23g Fat (53.8% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

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