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Just finished reading The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

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, too!

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

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, Salad Dressings, Salads, on June 3rd, 2009.

grilled caesar

This snapshot is just part of a wedge - for the class we didn't get an entire one.

Every time I go to a Phillis Careycooking class I learn something new. That alone keeps me going back to her classes. But heading the list of good things about Phillis’ classes is the taste of the food. She is just a wizard with a spatula, a pounder, a stovetop grill and chicken! As I’ve mentioned here before, she has several cookbooks to her name (I own them all) and she’s working on another one, about entertaining.

Grilling Romaine lettuce isn’t exactly new. I’ve ordered it twice – out at a restaurant – but had never seen it done before. It’s easy. I may make this salad later this week because our daughter Dana positively loves-loves Caesar anything. So do the grandkids. And I thought this dressing was simply fab – and easy. I mean – it’s nothing more than mayonnaise with Caesar-type ingredients added to it. How easy is that? Phillis used capers (she doesn’t like anchovies), which was delicious in this rendition of salad.

The Romaine heads – use smaller ones if you can find them – or remove the outer leaves of a bigger one and use those leaves for something else – are cut in quarters (including the root end – which holds the salad together while it grills. Some of the dressing gets slathered on the two cut halves of the lettuce and it’s put on an grill for just a minute – all you want to do is get some grill marks if you can – on the cut sides, so you grill for just a minute on each of the two cut sides. If you happen to have really small Romaine heads, you can serve each person a half of one, in which case the lettuce might only need a minute on the grill. Any more than that and you might get lettuce mush.

Once off the grill you add some more dressing, then top it with the already grilled chicken, tomatoes, croutons and big wide Parmesan shards, shaved off of a block of good cheese. Simply delicious.
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Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad with Chicken and Caper-Parmesan Dressing

Recipe: Phillis Carey, instructor and cookbook author
Servings: 4

DRESSING:
3 large garlic cloves
3/4 cup mayonnaise — low-fat is okay
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon capers — rinsed, drained (or substitute 1 tsp anchovies)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
CHICKEN & MARINADE:
2 whole chicken breast, no skin, no bone
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
SALAD:
1 head Romaine lettuce
12 whole cherry tomatoes — halved
1/2 cup croutons — garlic flavored
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese — shaved in shards

1. Dressing: combine all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Can be made up to 2 days ahead, or at least 2 hours ahead.
2. Chicken: Trim and pound chicken breasts to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Combine marinade and add chicken, turning to coat well. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
3. Grill chicken about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Cool slightly and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
4. Romaine: Remove any outer bruised lettuce leaves and quarter the heat lengthwise, keeping the root end intact (so the lettuce will hold together when it’s grilled). Preheat grill (if on an outside grill heat to medium-high; if an indoor stovetop grill, heat to medium only). Brush the two cut sides of romaine quarters with a bit of the salad dressing, then grill, cut side down, until lightly browned. This will grill about 2 minutes total, so 1 minute on each cut side. Do not turn the lettuce over onto the back side.
4. Immediately remove grilled wedges to a serving plate and brush some of the dressing over and under the leaves. Sprinkle salad with chicken, tomatoes and croutons. Drizzle decoratively with more dressing and top with Parmesan shards.
Per Serving: 712 Calories; 61g Fat (74.8% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 798mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on June 4th, 2009:

    Well now, I am salivating and I have just eaten, (kippers and mushrooms, since you ask). In my view, the only way to eat lettuce is after it has been cooked. I can’t stand it when raw. Thank you Carolyn for sharing this recipe.

    Well, I don’t know that you’d think this was “cooked” exactly. You only want to get a few grill marks on it. Most of the lettuce is still raw and crunchy. So it might not qualify as cooked. I’m fixing it for dinner tonight for our family. Everyone but Logan, our grandson, who now raises chickens, is expectant and happy about it. Logan is thinking about giving up eating chicken. Oh my. . . carolyn t

  2. Marie

    said on June 4th, 2009:

    This is one of my favourite salads Carolyn! Yours looks fantastic! Thanks so much for your lovely e-mail the other day. I have been rather pressed for time so haven’t gotten around to answering it yet, but hope to do so later today!

    We made this for dinner last night and I thought everybody was going to lick plates. Our grandson had a second wedge he luved it so much. A definite keeper. . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on June 5th, 2009:

    Oh dear! You’ll just have to educate him to understand that chickens were put on this earth for us to eat! 😉

    Yes, I think we have him convinced that he doesn’t need to give up eating chicken. He misses his chickens (hmmm). His dad and a neighbor have been taking care of the birdies. . . carolyn t

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