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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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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