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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.


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 Fish, on May 11th, 2012.


Luscious leeks in a bit of butter, a little jot of maple syrup, some orange juice, orange zest and some orange supremes over a salmon fillet and you’ve got a little salmon magic.

The photo doesn’t do this justice. The salmon fillet there on the bottom, is lapped with all those delicious morsels of leeks, maple syrup and orange segments. Oh my. This dish was absolutely fantastic. And EASY besides. I can’t take all the credit for this, as Phillis Carey devised the original recipe. I just did a riff on it and made up my own proportions. I added maple syrup and I added orange zest and the supremes as well.

The salmon almost cooked too long – it’s so hard to tell with salmon – I couldn’t have simmered it for more than about 5 minutes and already the white collagen had begun to seep up through the top layer, so I knew it was truly DONE. Quick like I took out the fish and finished the sauce with the addition of the zest, the orange supremes and a bit of cream. Really not very much – just enough to give the leek mixture some “sauce” consistency. Piled it on top of the fish and it was served.

Be sure to have everything else for your dinner completely finished before you start, as it comes together that quickly. Please make this!

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Salmon Fillets with Leeks and Orange Sauce

Recipe By: My own creation
Serving Size: 2
NOTES: If you want to use more orange zest, you may – it will be VERY orangey, however. The maple syrup counteracts any bitterness, but I think half the zest is sufficient.

12 ounces salmon fillets
2 small leeks — trimmed, cleaned, halved, sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons orange juice — (from the orange you zested)
1 tablespoon maple syrup — (the real stuff, not the fake type)
1/4 cup orange supremes — (also from the one orange you’re using)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Zest the orange first and set aside. Cut off the peel and pith, then cut out the little orange supremes. Set those aside. Then squeeze the orange of any remaining juice which you’ll use later on.
2. Rinse and pat dry the salmon fillets. Rest on a paper towel to absorb any additional moisture, while you prepare and cook the leeks.
3. In a medium-sized, nonstick skillet heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and stir frequently as they cook, about 10 minutes. When they’re soft, add the orange juice and maple syrup and stir to combine.
4. Move most of the leeks to one side and add the salmon fillets. Cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for 6-8 minutes (or longer), depending on the thickness of the salmon. When you can begin to see the white collagen seeping up to the top of the salmon, it’s done. Remove salmon to heated plates and loosely cover in foil.
5. Raise the heat in the pan and add the cream and orange zest. Allow to simmer gently until the cream has reduced by half. Add the orange sections, cover and simmer for about a minute, until the oranges are heated through. Pour the leek mixture over the salmon and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 412 Calories; 20g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 142mg Sodium.

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