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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 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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