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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip, in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished a very interesting novel, The Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll. It takes place in the upper peninsula of Michigan, an area I’ve never been to, but I have friends who live there and have been trying to get me to visit them for years, having told me (and sent photos) of how beautiful it is. The story takes place at a remote little cottage enclave on a lake. It’s clique-y, in that generations of families have kept these cottages in the family, not wanting any “outsiders” to come in. A young woman, Jess, who grew up partly with a crazy gypsy-like mother, and a loving but stern grandmother (who owns a home in the enclave) has a romance in her youth during the annual trek to the cottage, but a long ago tragedy ripples down through the years to affect her. When her grandmother dies, Jess has lots of mixed emotions about returning to the cottage. She wants to, but doesn’t. Finding papers in the house, she begins to unravel events over the course of two previous generations of family with startling revelations all along the way. Good character development for Jess, Daniel, her long-lost love, her grandmother, Mamie, and her current boyfriend, Russ. And great descriptions of the landscape of the area.

Champagne Baby: How One Parisian Learned to Love Wine–and Life–the American Way by Laure Dugas, another book I read recently. The author is very young, considering she’s written a memoir already (good for her, I say!). She was born to an old Champagne family in France, and paid little attention to anything regarding the wine business until her uncle (the CEO) offered to send her to the United States to do a 6-month tour with the vineyard’s distributor. She was fresh out of college and hadn’t really decided what she was going to do exactly. She’d be the spokesperson (brand ambassador they called her) for the family. Despite having a boyfriend, she made the leap anyway. Each chapter tells the story of her journey in America (with little language skills) or about what she learned about wine. And what she learned about long-distance relationships too. If you’ve never experienced much French wine, this would be a good introduction (she explains all about the different French wine regions and how/why they raise the grapes they do), but it’s woven into the very interesting life she led, living on a shoestring, meeting other French ex-pats in New York, and her thoughts on going to California, Boston, Memphis and other cities. When her 6 months were up, she wasn’t ready to go home. You’ll have to read it to find out what she did then. I liked the book immensely.

If you’ve been reading this sidebar much over the years, you’ve rarely seen mysteries here. Great for an airplane read, maybe, but I don’t find them (usually) gripping enough. But one of my book clubs is read a book by C.J. Box, called Open Season (A Joe Pickett Novel). Joe Pickett is a game warden in the wild country of Wyoming. He’s a good man. A family man. A good husband. AND a dogged investigator whenever anything goes awry in the hills. Usually it’s a murder of some kind. He writes a really good book that incorporates the mystery, lots of character study, some family stuff, but also a lot about the animals, the flora and fauna of the parks and land, and this one is also about an endangered species. I could hardly put it down. I’m SO glad I read this, and yesterday I visited my local library and checked out two more of his books. They’re easy reads; not overly long. But very absorbing. You’ll fall in love with Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan, too.

A page-turner of a book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley grabbed me nearly from the first sentence. A small group of people take a private jet out of Martha’s Vineyard. Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the ocean. Two survive, a 4-year old boy and a single guy, an artist/painter, who ended up on the plane almost by happen-chance. What might have looked more like a fluke accident turns a bit sinister when you begin to learn more about the passengers on the plane, and the crew; the parents of the young boy, and a few others. Each person is scrutinized through the author’s lens and his/her culpability is analyzed. The painter and the boy form a bond because the man rescues the child and they swim miles and miles to shore. It’s just riveting. It’s not a James Bond type of thriller, but a real-life kind of drilling down into the core of each person on the plane. What I will mention, though, is that once you’ve read this, there isn’t a whole lot to discuss as a book club read, which is often the case for mysteries. Once the case is solved, there isn’t much to talk about except the characters, perhaps.

When one of my book groups gathered last week, we discussed a bunch of books that we might read for our next Sept-August “year.” We select them all, for the whole year, in advance. On the list of 18 possible ones (we’ll read nine only) was an old classic – I guess you could call it a classic – Plainsong – by Kent Haruf. Since it was published some years ago I dropped by the library, and sure enough, they had a copy. I came home and devoured it in one fell swoop. What a story. Tender, yet harsh in some respects. It tells the story of a group of small-town people (a teacher – a man separated from his wife, but he has the 2 boys who both play prominent roles in the book; a single woman caring for her aging and Alzheimer’s driven father; a young teenage girl who should have known better, but got pregnant; a couple of very old brothers, both single, struggling along with their ranch). All this takes place in a small town in eastern Colorado. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to reach through the pages to some of these characters to give them a hug. It’s a winner of a book. I may have to read more of Haruf’s books. The prose is spare, yet you can feel the anguish, the pain, the love, the caring. What a book!

 

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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