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Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

Also read The Time In Between: A Novel by Maria Duenas (translated). Apparently this book has been a runaway best seller in Europe as it deals with a little known, or I should say a part of WWII that you’ve probably never read about – Spain. The heroine is a Madrid seamstress, but is seduced by a young man to go to Morocco. She knows no one and is left high and dry when the lover disappears. She finds her way, makes friends, begins sewing couturier clothing in Morocco. The Spanish Revolution intervenes and merges into WWII. She becomes a spy of sorts (in Madrid) because she is coveted as a seamstress to the Nazi wives of Madrid. It’s a page-turner and informative. Good read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste 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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