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Just finished 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.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading 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.

Read 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) – 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 Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was 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 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 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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