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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

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.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 easy, Fish, on February 19th, 2010.

salmon salad

A couple of nights ago when I made this, I’d been working on our income taxes all day long. I mean all – day – long. We needed to eat dinner in a big fat hurry because it was Ash Wednesday and we were singing in the choir at services that night, with a 6:20 call time. Whew. At 5:10 I entered the kitchen.  Five minutes were used up finding a recipe. I started prep at 5:15 and I had dinner ON the table by 5:35 and we were out the door at 5:55. So, does that tell you that this recipe is FAST and EASY?

salmon salad cut The second part is that the taste was sensational. I mean, absolutely fabulous. I think I’m going to create a new category here on my blog for EASY. Not that I have all that many recipes that would qualify, since normally I don’t mind spending time chopping, dicing, mixing, etc. The marinade came from a Steven Raichlen recipe. He’s the barbecue king, multi-cookbook author and has his own TV series, Primal Grill which will show again sometime this year. This recipe, though, came from Food and Wine, in June of ‘07. Other than the marinade, I altered all the rest of the recipe. I had no time to make a vegetable, or a carb, but I did have the makings of a salad. His recipe called for grilling the steaks. I didn’t have time to heat the barbecue. His recipe called for marinating the salmon. Oops, no time for that either except for the 5 minutes or so I took gathering and chopping all the salad ingredients. But I thought, what the heck, at least the marinade will provide some flavor. And indeed it did!

So if you’d like to grill the dish Raichlen’s way, just click over to the Food and Wine version. In the headnotes to the recipe Steven said each year he works on “one embarrassingly simple recipe, but incredibly versatile.” This was the one from ‘07. It will become a regular on my menu. AND, it would be a great company meal. Really! I had some beautiful Norwegian wild salmon (from that same home delivery meat company). And oh yes, indeed, the salmon was so flavorful. Meaty. And the sauce, although it’s a marinade, I added in at the end of cooking and it became a drizzle on the salad too. Serve the salmon with a non-tannic Pinot Noir, if you’re serving wine. If you work at it, you might be able to beat my time of start-to-finish dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes. That even beats Rachel Ray’s timing!
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Arugula Salad with Salmon Steaks and Soy-Maple Glaze

Recipe By: Adapted from a Steven Raichlen recipe, Food & Wine, 6/07
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: Use your own choice of salad ingredients. No arugula? Use all Romaine. Just don’t use a real soft butter lettuce type or the hot salmon will wilt it to nothing. Add just enough salad dressing so the salad is barely slick – you’ll pour the marinade over the top as well.

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
24 ounces salmon steaks — 4 steaks – 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger—peeled — thinly sliced and smashed
2 whole garlic cloves — peeled, smashed
4 cups arugula
2 cups Romaine lettuce — chopped
1/2 cup fennel — very thinly sliced
2/3 cup sugar snap peas — trimmed, sliced
1/4 cup vinaigrette
16 whole cherry tomatoes — halved
2 whole scallions — thinly sliced

1. In a large, shallow dish, whisk the soy sauce with the maple syrup and sesame oil. Add the salmon steaks and turn to coat. Press the ginger and garlic onto both sides of the steaks. If time permits, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning the salmon a few times.
2. Prepare the salad ingredients (and dressing) and set aside. Chop and set aside the garnishes.
3. Heat to medium-high a nonstick skillet (large enough to hold all 4 salmon steaks) and add a light coating of olive oil. Remove the salmon from the marinade (reserving the marinade) and saute them to sear both sides, about 2 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook the salmon until just barely done to your liking (about 3-5 minutes depending on thickness). Add the reserved marinade, cover and simmer for one minute.
3. Lightly dress the salad with your choice of vinaigrette dressing, pour out onto serving plates and place the salmon on top of the salad. Garnish with tomatoes and green onions and serve.
Per Serving: 446 Calories; 24g Fat (49.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 1166mg Sodium.

A year ago:  Chocolate Sponge Roll (decadent chocolate and whipped cream)
Two years ago: Almond Bar Cookies

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  1. Linda Taylor

    said on January 11th, 2011:

    I made the Arugula Salad with Salmon Steaks and Soy-Maple Glaze last weekend for my family. It is a WINNER!! Easy & fabulous. I also made the marinated tomatoes as a side dish. Smashing. Linda

    Am SO glad you liked both of those, Linda. I agree, they’re both winners…carolyn t

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