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Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

Also read The Time In Between: A Novel by Maria Duenas (translated). Apparently this book has been a runaway best seller in Europe as it deals with a little known, or I should say a part of WWII that you’ve probably never read about – Spain. The heroine is a Madrid seamstress, but is seduced by a young man to go to Morocco. She knows no one and is left high and dry when the lover disappears. She finds her way, makes friends, begins sewing couturier clothing in Morocco. The Spanish Revolution intervenes and merges into WWII. She becomes a spy of sorts (in Madrid) because she is coveted as a seamstress to the Nazi wives of Madrid. It’s a page-turner and informative. Good read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste 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. Read on . . .

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.

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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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