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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip, in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished a very interesting novel, The Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll. It takes place in the upper peninsula of Michigan, an area I’ve never been to, but I have friends who live there and have been trying to get me to visit them for years, having told me (and sent photos) of how beautiful it is. The story takes place at a remote little cottage enclave on a lake. It’s clique-y, in that generations of families have kept these cottages in the family, not wanting any “outsiders” to come in. A young woman, Jess, who grew up partly with a crazy gypsy-like mother, and a loving but stern grandmother (who owns a home in the enclave) has a romance in her youth during the annual trek to the cottage, but a long ago tragedy ripples down through the years to affect her. When her grandmother dies, Jess has lots of mixed emotions about returning to the cottage. She wants to, but doesn’t. Finding papers in the house, she begins to unravel events over the course of two previous generations of family with startling revelations all along the way. Good character development for Jess, Daniel, her long-lost love, her grandmother, Mamie, and her current boyfriend, Russ. And great descriptions of the landscape of the area.

Champagne Baby: How One Parisian Learned to Love Wine–and Life–the American Way by Laure Dugas, another book I read recently. The author is very young, considering she’s written a memoir already (good for her, I say!). She was born to an old Champagne family in France, and paid little attention to anything regarding the wine business until her uncle (the CEO) offered to send her to the United States to do a 6-month tour with the vineyard’s distributor. She was fresh out of college and hadn’t really decided what she was going to do exactly. She’d be the spokesperson (brand ambassador they called her) for the family. Despite having a boyfriend, she made the leap anyway. Each chapter tells the story of her journey in America (with little language skills) or about what she learned about wine. And what she learned about long-distance relationships too. If you’ve never experienced much French wine, this would be a good introduction (she explains all about the different French wine regions and how/why they raise the grapes they do), but it’s woven into the very interesting life she led, living on a shoestring, meeting other French ex-pats in New York, and her thoughts on going to California, Boston, Memphis and other cities. When her 6 months were up, she wasn’t ready to go home. You’ll have to read it to find out what she did then. I liked the book immensely.

If you’ve been reading this sidebar much over the years, you’ve rarely seen mysteries here. Great for an airplane read, maybe, but I don’t find them (usually) gripping enough. But one of my book clubs is read a book by C.J. Box, called Open Season (A Joe Pickett Novel). Joe Pickett is a game warden in the wild country of Wyoming. He’s a good man. A family man. A good husband. AND a dogged investigator whenever anything goes awry in the hills. Usually it’s a murder of some kind. He writes a really good book that incorporates the mystery, lots of character study, some family stuff, but also a lot about the animals, the flora and fauna of the parks and land, and this one is also about an endangered species. I could hardly put it down. I’m SO glad I read this, and yesterday I visited my local library and checked out two more of his books. They’re easy reads; not overly long. But very absorbing. You’ll fall in love with Joe Pickett’s daughter Sheridan, too.

A page-turner of a book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley grabbed me nearly from the first sentence. A small group of people take a private jet out of Martha’s Vineyard. Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the ocean. Two survive, a 4-year old boy and a single guy, an artist/painter, who ended up on the plane almost by happen-chance. What might have looked more like a fluke accident turns a bit sinister when you begin to learn more about the passengers on the plane, and the crew; the parents of the young boy, and a few others. Each person is scrutinized through the author’s lens and his/her culpability is analyzed. The painter and the boy form a bond because the man rescues the child and they swim miles and miles to shore. It’s just riveting. It’s not a James Bond type of thriller, but a real-life kind of drilling down into the core of each person on the plane. What I will mention, though, is that once you’ve read this, there isn’t a whole lot to discuss as a book club read, which is often the case for mysteries. Once the case is solved, there isn’t much to talk about except the characters, perhaps.

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!

 

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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