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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

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 Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.


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 Appetizers, on February 19th, 2008.

Another fabulous Phillis Carey cooking class recipe. Shrimp in a marinade (which also is a dipping sauce), made with fresh lime juice, cilantro (fresh coriander, hence the coriander in the title), soy sauce, garlic and marmalade. The shrimp are quick fried in a nonstick skillet and you serve it with the wonderful, tasty, tender lavash crisps on the side. The lavash crisp doubles as a little “plate” to put the shrimp upon. One nice mouthful of deliciousness. After learning about this recipe at a class, my friend Cherrie brought this to a dinner party at our home the other night. She brought 3 pounds of shrimp; there were 8 people in attendance; we ate all but a smidgen. Does that tell you how good it was?
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Coriander Lime Shrimp

Recipe: Phillis Carey, cookbook author & instructor
Servings: 6
Cook’s Notes: if you don’t like cilantro, substitute Italian parsley with a bit of oregano instead. Be sure to reserve some of the marinade before you put the shrimp into it to marinate.

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 large cloves garlic — minced or mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp — raw, 16-20 per pound, with tails
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro sprigs — for garnish
1 package lavash Armenian cracker bread — fresh, not dried crackers
1/2 cup butter — melted
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. In a measuring cup whisk together lime juice, marmalade, garlic paste, cilantro, 3 T. of oil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. RESERVE 1/3 CUP MIXTURE FOR DIPPING.
2. In a large sealable plastic bag or bowl combine shrimp with the remaining marinade. Chill, tossing occasionally, to coat shrimp, for about 45 minutes or up to 3 hours. Drain shrimp and pat dry between paper towels.
3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat HALF of the 1 T. of oil and saute HALF the shrimp until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Saute remaining shrimp in the remaining oil in same manner. Garnish shrimp with coriander sprigs and serve with reserved dipping sauce and crisps.
4. LAVASH CRISPS: Preheat oven to 375. Cut lavash bread in half lengthwise and then across into 2-inch wide strips. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange on baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes, or until crispy. Cool slightly before serving. Will keep for a few hours.
Per Serving: 385 Calories; 28g Fat (64.3% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 828mg Sodium.

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  1. Karen

    said on February 21st, 2008:

    Oh, my gosh, this is right up my shrimp alley.
    I’m printing this out as we speak!

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