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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.

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Posted in Fish, on November 21st, 2017.

honey_mustard_salmon_panko_pecan_crust

Looking for a new way to fix an easy baked salmon dinner? Here it is!

It may have been my daughter Sara who told me about a recipe she’d found on Jenn Segal’s website, Once Upon a Chef. Jenn is a full time mom and wife now (now blogger and cookbook writer) but at one time she was a classically trained chef, so she brings a certain amount of perfection to her recipes. She also uses tons of photos for every post. You’ll never have any guesswork about what the different steps look like!

Her recipe for this easy baked salmon was just the ticket for me one night recently. I quickly defrosted a nice piece of salmon and this dinner came together so easily and quickly. First you make up a honey mustard mixture (my honey was quite thick, so I heated it in the microwave briefly) with butter, Dijon, salt and pepper. Since I was making this recipe just for myself, I guess-timated at the amounts, and I ended up with more than I needed. I certainly didn’t want to waste the rest of it (after I’d spread some on the top of the salmon), so, I added a bit of water to it and used it as a deglazing for a pan full of sliced Brussels sprouts. You can see them in the background behind the salmon in the photo.

Salmon Temps:

Current advice says farm-raised should cook to 125°F. Wild salmon is done at 120°F. Reason: wild salmon contains less fat and goes from raw to cooked (or overcooked) more quickly.

Then you make a little mixture of pecans (chopped) and panko. I forgot the parsley, so added it on the top when I served it. You can add it in with this mixture (per the recipe) and just garnish with some additional sprigs. The pan is popped into a hot oven and baked very briefly – 7-10 minutes only, until the thickest part of the salmon has reached 125°F.

There’s been recent discussion about the inherent differences between farm-raised and wild salmon, and to what temperature it needs to be cooked. Chefs (many, not all, I’d suppose) say that wild salmon (which has less fat in its tissue) is done at 120°. But farm-raised, with higher fat, needs to go to 125°F. The FDA says to cook salmon to 145°F. I never cook it that far because it’s dry. In this dish, with a thinner piece of salmon, it was done at 6 minutes, but you’ll want to test it with an instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook it.

brussels_sprouts_honey_mustardThe BRUSSELS SPROUTS: I didn’t use a recipe for this one – I just made it up as I went along! The leftover honey mustard was the inspiration! As the fish was baking, I prepared the Brussels sprouts, and added the remaining honey mustard mixture, (to which I added a little bit of water so the sprouts would steam a little bit) at the very end and tasted it for seasoning. TJ’s sells a package of Brussels sprouts already sliced up – that’s what I used. I greased a large frying pan with a little bit of canola oil, tossed the Brussels sprouts many times, covered it briefly so it would steam-cook a little bit, then when it was nearly done, I added in the thinned-out honey mustard mixture and stirred and tossed. Done. Dinner was finished in a matter of about 25 minutes including the time needed to preheat the oven!

What’s GOOD: how quickly this dinner came together. I truly liked the honey mustard on both salmon and sprouts. You might think the same seasoning on both would be too much – it wasn’t. Perhaps because the Brussels sprouts are savory and almost bitter (although I don’t think Brussels are a bitter green), if you know what I mean. There’s not enough honey or mustard added to the Brussels sprouts to make a lot of difference, but I definitely knew they’d had something added. Loved the salmon – the honey mustard added a lovely sweetness, and I liked the crunch of the panko and pecans. An EASY dish to make. I’ll be making both of these again.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. This is a great combo – both are keepers for sure.

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard and Pecan Panko Crust

Recipe By: Once Upon a Chef (blog) 2017
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets — cut into 4 even pieces
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup pecans — finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley — finely chopped (optional for color)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole lemon — for serving (optional)

NOTES: If you’re going to use some of the honey mustard mixture in a side vegetable (as I did with shaved Brussels sprouts), increase the mustard, butter, honey, salt and pepper mixture by half, then set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 of it to use on the vegetable.
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, melted butter, honey, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
3. In another small bowl, mix together the panko, pecans, parsley (if using), and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
4. Spoon the honey-mustard mixture evenly over the salmon fillets. (Don’t worry if it drips down the sides a little.) Sprinkle the panko-pecan mixture over the glaze, pressing it lightly so it adheres.
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes per inch of thickness, depending on how well done you like your salmon. (If you find that the topping is browning more than you’d like before the fish is cooked through, loosely cover the salmon with foil.) Serve hot or at room temperature. (Note that if your salmon has skin, it may stick to the foil; to remove the fish from the pan, slide a thin spatula between the skin and the flesh, leaving the skin behind.) Garnish with additional parsley, if desired, and add lemon wedges for serving.
6. Make Ahead: The salmon can be glazed, coated with the panko-pecan mixture, and refrigerated up to 3 hours ahead of time.
Per Serving: 332 Calories; 17g Fat (45.0% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 104mg Cholesterol; 620mg Sodium.

—————-

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with a Honey Mustard Slurry

Recipe By: My concoction, inspired by some leftover honey mustard made for baked salmon.
Serving Size: 3

1 tablespoon canola oil — or EVOO
3 tablespoons yellow onion — chopped finely
1 garlic clove — smashed, chopped
12 ounces Brussels sprouts — shaved (sliced thinly)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter — melted
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons water — or more if needed

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat; add oil and allow it to heat until the oil begins to shimmer.
2. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and stir very briefly (no more than 45 seconds or so) then add the Brussels sprouts and stir well, continuing to turn and stir until all the vegetables have been coated with a little bit of the oil. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes until the sprouts are cooked just barely tender.
3. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, melted butter and honey in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper. Add water and stir to make a slurry. During last minute of cooking the sprouts, add the slurry and continue cooking, stirring to make sure all the sprouts are coated. Allow sprouts to simmer and steam until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 172 Calories; 13g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 167mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 22nd, 2017:

    That looks good!

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