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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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 Sous Vide, on December 10th, 2012.

salmon_sous_vide_130_dill_sauce

You really don’t need a SousVide Supreme Water Oven in order to make this salmon dish. It’s just poached salmon,  served with an easy dill sour cream-mayo sauce on top.

My Sous Vide Water Oven was sitting out on the kitchen counter already, so I decided to defrost some salmon I’d packaged some weeks ago when I saw some really nice wild salmon at Costco. I’d cut it up into serving pieces, put two to a pouch in my FoodSaver vacuum pouches and they went into the freezer. The only thing I’d done was sprinkle them with fresh dill, salt and pepper and placed a small pat of butter in on top of the fillets. I defrosted the salmon, slipped it into 140° water and let it sit for 30 minutes. Normally sous vide recipes indicate 40 minutes, but the fillets were thinner than anticipated, so I only did 30 minutes. When I peeked inside the water oven the collagen had begun to whiten (meaning it’s almost over-done) so I took them out immediately.

salmon_pouches

There you can see the pouches. When I created the collage, they got reversed – sorry – the bottom one shows the two raw salmon fillets with salt, pepper and dill in it. The upper one was taken just after I removed it from the sous vide. The white stuff is the collagen which has leaked out of the salmon flesh.

Whenever my DH grills, and we used to grill salmon a lot, big slabs of it, I’d make a kind of foil “dish” by turning the edges up a little bit, but leaving the top open. And as soon as he would see the white begin to show on the top of the salmon, it was DONE.

Using the sous vide, I just kept watching it as it sat under water and the collagen was appearing at 20 minutes, but at 30 it was almost too much. Next time I’ll peek at 25 minutes. It all depends on how thick the salmon fillets are . . .

Meanwhile, during that 30 minute period I’d whipped up the sauce. It was cinchy easy – near to equal parts (low-fat) sour cream and mayo, some lemon juice and more fresh dill. I smeared a bit on each piece as it was served. Do use a heated platter, or heated dinner plates as the salmon is only at 140°. Perfect for eating, but it won’t hold the heat for very long. If you prefer to have hot-hot temp salmon, you could heat pieces in the microwave, or lightly (and quickly) sauté them in a little oil/butter until they sizzle and serve.

What I liked: how really easy this dinner was to put together. You could probably serve this without any sauce on top, but both my DH and I get bored with just a piece of meat or fish with nothing at all on it, or to dip it into. So this sauce was easy to stir up in a matter of minutes. Salmon and dill just have a wonderful affinity for one another.
What I didn’t like: nothing, really.

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Fillet of Salmon with Dill Sauce Sous Vide 140°

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: The wild salmon I had was about 3/4 inch thick, so I adjusted the cooking time to 30 minutes. If yours are thicker than that, increase time by 10-15 minutes. If you have hearty eaters, you can certainly increase the size of the salmon fillets and cook them just a bit longer.

16 ounces salmon fillets — (4)
8 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DILL SAUCE:
1/3 cup light sour cream
3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh dill
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced

1. Pat dry the salmon pieces. Sprinkle lightly with fresh dill, salt and pepper. Place them (individually or two to a pouch) in a vacuum sealing type bag. Add 2 tsp. butter on top of each piece of salmon. Seal bags with a vacuum sealer. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Or, you can freeze the bags at this point and defrost when you’re prepared to cook them.
2. Preheat the sous vide water oven to 140°.
3. Place salmon pouches in the sous vide (in a rack or weight them so they stay under water at all times).Cook for 30 minutes.
4. DILL SAUCE: Meanwhile, prepare the sauce – combine in a small bowl the sour cream, mayo, dill and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving time.
5. Remove pouches from the sous vide, open them and place on a heated platter or individual heated plates. Nap the tops of each salmon filet with some of the dill sauce and serve immediately. Add some minced parsley to the top, if desired.
Per Serving: 237 Calories; 15g Fat (57.5% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 136mg Sodium.

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