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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

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.

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.

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 Fish, on May 11th, 2012.

salmon_leeks_maple_orange

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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MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

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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