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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.


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 April 29th, 2009.


Did you know it’s halibut season? At our local Costco, they have fresh Alaskan halibut that is unbelievably fresh and tasty. Most of what they have is in large portions – I should have invited some guests to come over as we have leftovers to serve probably another 4 people. The fish I bought was $20. What a bargain.

Now, if I can just get you to make this recipe. I think it’s going to have to go into my favorites list, it’s that good. Will you trust me about this? And, the recipe came from Cooking Light, too! Imagine that. Healthy and tasty too. According to the write-up from September of ’07, this recipe was created by Lia Huber and first printed in the magazine in March of ’04. The recipe received the test kitchen’s highest rating, and continues to be a staff favorite. I can see why. This may be my new, forever go-to recipe for halibut.

This  is VERY easy to make. Truly it is. Trust me on this too. The aioli is just mayonnaise, minced fresh cilantro, a bit of fresh minced chile (serrano) and a minced garlic clove. The breading is merely flour and cornflake crumbs (with salt and pepper added in). You dunk the halibut into a mixture of milk and egg white, then into the breading mixture. You pan fry the halibut about 4 minutes per side, put on a dollop of the sauce and it’s done. How easy is that?

My DH made mmm noises all through dinner. A good sign. I served the fish on a bed of mashed potatoes (a real treat) and alongside I served some fresh asparagus, made according to Marie’s recipe from over at A Year from Oak Cottage. It’s called crumbled asparagus, and it’s become one of my favorite ways to make asparagus. So now, will you please go out and buy some halibut and make this?

A few changes have been made from the Cooking Light recipe: (1) I used less serrano because it was way too hot; (2) a full cup of milk is more than needed for dipping; (3) less cornflake crumbs were needed; (4) I also made this with regular mayo since I didn’t have any fat-free, and I made more sauce than the recipe called for. So those changes have been incorporated into the below recipe. The nutrition count below assumes you eat all the dipping and dunking mixture, which you probably won’t.
printer-friendly PDF

Cornflake-Crusted Halibut with
Chile-Cilantro Aioli

Recipe: adapted from Cooking Light, September ’07
Servings: 4
Serving Ideas: The recipe indicated serving this with green beans (definitely need a green vegetable with this, for color) and rice tossed with cilantro and red bell pepper. I served the fish fillets on top of a small mound of mashed potatoes, plus roasted asparagus.

4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise — or any kind of mayo
1/3 whole serrano pepper — seeded and very finely minced
1 whole garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 large egg white — lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups corn flakes — finely crushed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
24 ounces halibut fillets — (6-ounces each)
Lemon wedges for garnish

1. To prepare aioli, combine first 4 ingredients, stirring well. Set aside (or refrigerate if made ahead).
2. To prepare fish, combine milk and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. Combine cornflakes, flour, salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip fish in milk mixture; dredge in cornflake mixture. Add fish to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with mayonnaise mixture and lemon wedges.
Per Serving (not accurate since it includes all the dipping and breading): 342 Calories; 11g Fat (29.3% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 55mg Cholesterol; 690mg Sodium.

If you really like halibut, and have time to make it, I have one other recipe here on my blog for Halibut Osso Buco.

A year ago: Shrimp, Bacon & Vegetable Chowder

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  1. Marie

    said on May 3rd, 2009:

    Oh gosh, look at the crust on that fish. It looks fabulous!! The sauce looks really good too. I think I would serve it with mashed potatoes as well. I love fish with mashed potatoes.

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