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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 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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