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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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, Grilling, Miscellaneous sides, on July 19th, 2007.


Romesco Sauce is not your normal run-of-the-mill sauce. It contains some different ingredients. It keeps for weeks and weeks. I always seem to have leftovers of the sauce, so use it on grilled vegetables, even some plain grilled chicken too.

This is from one of Nicole Aloni‘s cookbooks, and was demonstrated at a cooking class she taught several years ago. I loved the combination of textures in this dish. I’d never had bread croutons threaded onto a grilled skewer of anything until this dish was served to me. But I liked it. You don’t want to use bread that will become hard and inedible, so think about that as you’re choosing the bread. In other words, an already firm chunk of sourdough with a very firm crust isn’t going to get any less chewy if you grill it. So, you need to use a softer crumb – like an Italian loaf or a soft type of baguette. I rarely buy grocery store French bread for just this reason – they’re more like white nothingness than a “real” baguette, but for the grilled crouton, it may just be perfect. And, you wouldn’t want to serve bread or another carb with this, either. By the way, Nicole now has a blog, so if you click here, you can take a look.

The Romesco sauce has a Catalan (Spain) origin. I thought it was Italian, but no. I finally found a bit of info about it:

  • This Catalan tomato sauce is traditionally served with fish and shellfish but it is also ideal to serve as a dipping sauce. Authentic recipes are made with dried romesco chiles, which have a sweet and hot flavor. Unfortunately they are difficult to obtain outside Spain.
  • What’s unique about Romesco is its use of almonds as a thickener, and flavor enhancer. It adds a lot, although you’ll have a hard time picking out the almond flavor once it’s incorporated into the intense red pepper-base. It’s not difficult to make and it keeps for awhile. I love it on hearty vegetables as leftovers too.

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Grilled Shrimp and Bread Skewers with Romesco Sauce

Recipe: Nicole Aloni, author and caterer
Servings: 8
COOK’S NOTES: You want to eat some of the sauce with every bite, so you can drizzle more sauce on top of each skewer. Using a regular bamboo skewer, you’ll want to serve each person two skewers. And, except for grilling the skewers, everything can be done up to 2 days ahead.

Serving Ideas: You can make a main dish of this by grilling some zucchini, asparagus and red onion before you grill the shrimp. Leftover sauce can be used on top of a white grilled fish or green beans. The sauce will keep for several weeks.

2 1/2 pounds shrimp — peeled, deveined, raw
1 whole French bread — baguette (see instructions)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 large garlic cloves
4 whole red bell peppers
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice to garnish

1. PEPPERS: You can use bottled bell peppers (four 7-oz.jars), or roast your own: Core and seed the peppers, drizzle with olive oil and bake in a 325° oven for about an hour. Remove the skins and save all the juice and oil as part of the peppers.
2. BREAD: Cut 3 thin slices of bread and set aside. Cut remaining bread into 1 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and move briskly around pan to toast. Remove and add 2 T. olive oil, then add the sliced bread and toast until golden brown, then remove and set aside.
4. Add the almonds to a food processor and pulse to grind. Add the 3 bread slices, garlic, bell peppers, vinegar and cayenne pepper; puree until smooth. With the machine running add the larger quantity of oil and process until incorporated and slightly thickened. Add salt to taste. Sauce can be prepared ahead (2-3 days ahead is best) and refrigerated.
5. SHRIMP: Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high. Onto water-soaked bamboo skewers alternate shrimp and bread cubes. Lay these on a large sheet pan and drizzle each layer with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, until shrimp are bright pink and firm.
6. SERVING: Pool the Romesco sauce on each plate and set 2 or 3 skewers across the sauce. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to each skewer.
Per Serving: 528 Calories; 26g Fat (44.3% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 216mg Cholesterol; 558mg Sodium.

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