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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave. I bought it because it’s about Sebastapol, a cute little town in California wine country, in Sonoma County, although it’s on the fringes of the more mainstream wineries. A daughter of a friend of mine recently moved there, and when I visited her a few months ago, I was charmed by the cute downtown and the small village feel to it. Anyway, although the backdrop of the entire book is about the winery, the wines, the fields, the processes of wine making, it’s more about the family relationships. It seems that everyone (mom, dad, 2 sons, wife of one, a daughter [who is the protagonist] and her fiance and his ex-girlfriend) is in the midst of extreme turmoil. I swear, when I think about authors as they toil away in their aeries writing, they compile a big long list on a huge whiteboard of all the different awful things (divorce, affairs, fistfights, love lost, love gained, screaming and yelling, public drunkenness) they can make happen in one book and they pick and choose, yet make every effort to pack in as many of them as they can. No one in this family is immune from high levels of emotion and action or acting out about something or many things. I enjoyed the book despite those character flaws which occur on nearly every page. You have compassion for each one of them. Yet they’re a close family nonetheless. I haven’t read any of Laura Dave’s other books, but I suspect this one will be a winner. It’s not on any best-seller lists, but amongst book club readers, I believe it’s a strong contender.

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!

You may have heard about this woman, Marina Chapman . . . she was kidnapped at about age 4 in Columbia. She was eventually discarded in the jungle. This, just a few days after her capture. No humans. No help. She learned to survive in the jungle and was taken in by a large Capuchin monkey family. She had no language, much, except sounds she learned amongst the monkeys. She lived for some years in the jungle, all alone. Eventually she saw some humans and followed them, was made a slave. Terribly treated, nearly starved, and was being primed as a prostitute, but she escaped that too. Her story is harrowing, and yet uplifting. She did escape eventually, in her mid-teens and grew up from there with a kind, loving family in Bogota. Her adult daughter helped her to write the stories – most of which she wanted to forget. The book is The Girl With No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys by Marina Chapman and Lynne Barrett-Lee. National Geographic highlighted her story awhile back, and she appeared on some morning TV shows when the book came out in 2014. The author is writing a sequel, about Chapman’s life after she was rescued. I’ll be watching for that as this book leaves you hanging – only knowing that she was rescued and went to Bogota.

Just finished reading a very unusual book, certainly not on everyone’s radar – Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life by Tass Saada. It’s about an angry young Palestinian. He felt wronged; he felt despised; his father didn’t understand him. He escaped his family’s plan for his life and became a PLO sniper. He killed many people. He killed Israelis and was elated. He was sent to the United States and big plans were in store for him, he thought. And then he discovered a new life as a Christian. It didn’t happen overnight, and he had many questions along the way. His family disowned him, yet he persevered. He met an American woman, married her, and had children. And he became an activist for change. It’s a fascinating story. He now speaks around the world, for peace and understanding about the Palestinian problem(s). It’s quite a book, and I’m glad I read it.

 

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 17th, 2012.

shrimp_sliders_lime_aioli

You know, don’t you, that brown-ish food doesn’t photograph well. Period. And pictures don’t look very nice if you move the camera when you press the shutter. Da—! But that doesn’t detract one whit from the TASTE of these guys. Oh so delicious. Loved this stuff. Worth making.

If I’d read this recipe in a magazine I’d have slid right on by. If I’d seen it on one of the tv food shows, I might have changed the channel. But when it’s served to you at a cooking class and you taste it, well, that puts these in a whole new category! Shrimp sliders didn’t SOUND all that good, but if Phillis Carey was making them I really thought they’d be good. Indeed!

It’s not necessary to use huge shrimp in this, since it’s all pulsed in the food processor. But you do need RAW shrimp, not cooked. And tails off, too. The shrimp (cut up into smaller chunks) is whizzed up lightly with an egg yolk, green onions, Dijon, lime juice, cilantro and some seasonings. A little bit of panko crumbs go into the shrimp cakes too, and they’re dipped into more panko before frying in vegetable oil. Meanwhile, you make a very simple mayo based aioli (with garlic, lime juice, Dijon, sugar, hot sauce and green onions). A bit of that is spread on each bun, the shrimp cakes are put on, a bit more aioli and a nice-sized fresh spinach leaf and you’re done. Easy. And delicious. You can make the raw shrimp cakes several hours ahead of time, and the aioli. At dinnertime, all you’ll need to do is cook the shrimp cakes, toast the buns, and you’re done. Phillis says she makes these often for catered parties she does – she does them in much smaller form as an appetizer and folks dip them into the aioli. She used to have to cut little bread rounds to put them on, but now most stores carry slider buns. Makes it super easy!

What I liked: well, how much I even liked mushed-up shrimp in a cake/burger form. It was really, really delicious. I like the bit of chewiness to shrimp anyway. And I liked the garlicky aioli Phillis put with it. These are easy.

What I didn’t like: nothing, really. I liked it all. Worth making as I mentioned at the top.

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

Shrimp Sliders with Spicy Lime Aioli and Spinach

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 5/2012
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: The panko crumbs give the shrimp cakes some nice crispiness. 

SHRIMP MIXTURE:
3/4 pound shrimp — cleaned, tails removed
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon green onion — minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro — chopped
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — or other hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch black pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying (preferably grapeseed for its high flash point)
AIOLI:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 whole garlic clove — minced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — or other hot sauce
1 tablespoon green onions — minced
SLIDER STUFF:
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
8 small slider buns
8 medium spinach leaves

1. SHRIMP: Coarsely chop shrimp and place in food processor. Add egg yolk, green onion, lime juice, mustard, cilantro, Sriracha, salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. Do not puree – you want a few small pieces of shrimp to taste. Add 1/2 cup panko crumbs and pulse to combine. Form shrimp mixture into 8 cakes a little larger than the diameter of the slider buns.
2. Coat each shrimp cake in 1/2 cup panko crumbs and transfer to a parchment-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes, preferably an hour, and up to 4 hours ahead of cooking.
3. In a medium to large nonstick skillet heat 1/4 inch vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if needed, adding more oil as necessary, fry cakes until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove to a rack and drain.
4. AIOLI: In a bowl combine the ingredients and stir until smooth.
5. Toast buns and spoon a small amount of aioli on each bottom bun. Top with shrimp cake, add a spinach leaf to the top, add more aioli if desired. Top with bun lid and serve immediately.
Per Serving (the nutrition info does not include the oil used to fry the shrimp): 571 Calories; 31g Fat (46.6% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 192mg Cholesterol; 980mg Sodium.

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