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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Uncategorized, on January 4th, 2017.

Cookie Science via @kingarthurflour

There’s a fascinating article over at Flourish, the blog written by the bakers at King Arthur Flour. I subscribe to their blog (have for years) and this particular one is so interesting. But then, I’ve always been interested in how a little tiny change in a recipe for cookies can make such a huge difference. Photo: King Arthur Flour

 

Have you ever wondered what would happen:

If you added 2 T of milk to the cookie batter?

If you added a little extra white sugar?

If you added brown sugar instead of white?

What if I used water instead of milk?

 

Head over to this blog piece, then, to get all the answers and the chemistry behind each one.

Posted in Breads, on January 2nd, 2017.

lemon_crumb_muffins

Light and tasty with lemon juice and lemon zest. And, topped with a really nice crumb, then lastly, drizzled with a lemon glaze. Yum.

My daughter Sara raved about these muffins, so as soon as I had an excuse, I baked these for my Tuesday night bible study gathering. As far as muffins go, these were cinchy easy to make, as long as you have sour cream and a lemon on hand. It’s an easy batter to mix up (standard ingredients), mixed with the wet ingredients and scooped into muffin cups. Then you sprinkle the crumb mixture on top.

lemon_crumb_muffins_unbakedThe original recipe (from Taste of Home) said it made 40, so I cut it down, and cut it down, and I got 10 from the batch, but I think I should have tried to make 9 of them so they’d have been a little taller.

While the muffins are baking, you mix up the glaze and have it ready.

There’s only one caution – make sure all the muffins are baked through – two of mine weren’t quite done, and after they were out of the oven and cooling, then sunk deeply in the middle. Had to toss those out. So, use a cake tester or toothpick to make sure there isn’t any batter sticking to it before you remove them. I baked them 21 minutes, but perhaps they needed 24-25. Just an FYI.

I let the muffins rest for about 5 minutes before I used a small teaspoon to drizzle the lemon juice and sugar syrup on top. That little drizzle made them especially delicious, I thought.

What’s GOOD: the overall lemon flavor, tender crumb to the muffins themselves, and lastly, the good lemony crunch from the drizzle. The crumbly mixture on top also gave these good texture.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open file)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Crumb Muffins

Recipe By: Taste of Home
Serving Size: 9

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter — melted
3/4 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
TOPPING:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter — cubed
GLAZE:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream, butter, lemon peel and juice. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. (These don’t make really tall muffins – if you want taller, just fill them more than 3/4 full.)
2. TOPPING: In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter.
3. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. DO use a tester because if they’re under-done, they will sink in the middle. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
4. GLAZE: In a small bowl, whisk glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm muffins. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 345 Calories; 16g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 31st, 2016.

carolyn_and_gary2016

I don’t much like pictures of myself. Janice, a family member, took this photo of my cousin Gary and me on Christmas Day. We were staying at my son’s home near Pasadena, and I think that was just some morning coffee in my hands! My cousin is very dear to me. He’s single, lives in Northern California, and has spent Christmases with me for years and years. He’s gone back home now, but I sure enjoyed having him here for the 10 days he visited. He did a whole bunch of “honey-do” items for me since I don’t have a “honey” anymore. He’s a tech wizard, and we managed to get nearly all the items accomplished. He’s my GF (gluten-free) relative, and I made a fabulous GF angel food pumpkin cheesecake trifle for Christmas Eve and Day. You’d not have known it was GF. Recipe coming up sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope all of you have a lovely New Year Holiday. I’m not doing anything special, just me with my little blind kitten, Angel, who’s been a great companion for me since I got her. She now knows her way around my downstairs, knows where her litter box is, and for now she spends nights in a downstairs bathroom. I’ll introduce her to my upstairs eventually, and likely she’ll sleep with me in time. She can’t go through the night without using her litter box, so I’m not ready to have her wake me up throughout the night. Why would she wake me up, you ask? – because as a blind kitten she can’t find her way off the bed – I’ll have to train her how to do that – the same thing training her how to get up on the bed – with a footstool and a pillow for her to climb and get down on, but because she can’t see her destination, it takes repetitive training to teach her – she’s very smart, so I know she’ll get it soon enough. She’s about 11 weeks old now. Here she is curled up in the cat tree beside me at my kitchen computer. Her eyes are recessed and if you look at her straight on, you know she’s blind, but gosh, she sure has acute hearing and smell. She’s a sweet little thing – when I don’t call her Angel I call her “sweet pea.”

Posted in Desserts, on December 24th, 2016.

apple_pie_cake_rum_sauce

Comfort food. Winter warmth. Rum. Whipped Cream. Nothing there NOT to like.

This recipe has been hanging around in my to-try file for awhile. It’s one that Marie posted on her blog, The English Kitchen. She has some really wonderful comfort food desserts on her blog, and this one is no exception. With 8 people coming for a bible study I whipped this up, made the simple rum sauce and whipped up some sweetened heavy cream. It barely served 8 – should have made a larger one, or two perhaps, but as it was, each person had a small portion, which was sufficient.

A simple cake batter is made (with a tad of hot water added in), then you add in all the chopped apples and spread that out into a greased pie plate. Use a large pie plate – 9” if you have one. It bakes for 45 minutes or so. It could be served warm or at room temp. The sauce is simple enough – butter, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream and some rum or rum flavoring. I used spiced rum. The sauce makes a lot more than you’ll need for the cake – I’d suggest you make half. I sent the sauce home with one of the families that came – it would be nice on ice cream or pudding.

apple_pie_cake_bakedThe pie cake came together very easily – you could make it without the sauce, but it was so good on it. No, you should make the sauce! And it takes very little time to make – heat the ingredients (without the rum), let it boil a couple of minutes without boiling over (watch it), then remove from heat and add the rum. Set aside to cool. Thanks, Marie, for a really delicious recipe.

What’s GOOD: it’s a nice, tasty, apple-y, sweet cake with lots of apples in it. It’s definitely a cake, just served in a pie shape. Loved the sauce (very sweet, however) and the dollop of whipped cream was a must in my book.

What’s NOT: not a thing – a nice treat.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple Pie Cake with a Brown Sugar and Rum Sauce

Recipe By: The English Kitchen blog, 2012
Serving Size: 7

2 ounces butter — softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour — sifted
2 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and chopped (about 3 cups)
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar — packed
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon rum — or 1/2 tsp rum flavoring
Whipped Cream, sweetened, to serve on top

NOTES: I have reduced the sauce quantity by half – if you want some left over, double it.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Butter and flour a 9 inch pie dish very well. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar and the egg. Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Stir into the creamed mixture, along with the water and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Stir in the chopped apple. Spoon the batter into the prepared pie dish. Smooth the top and then bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
3. SAUCE: combine the two sugars, cream and butter in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for one minute only. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum. Serve warm or at room temperature with the cake.
4. Cut the cake into wedges to serve. Top each wedge with some sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 397 Calories; 16g Fat (35.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, Desserts, on December 19th, 2016.

new_cream_cheese_brownies

Did you know there’s a somewhat different way to make cream cheese brownies? Neither did I, but they’re really, really good. Yes, better than the old recipe.

I’ve long been a fan of cream cheese brownies. Not that I make them all that often – it’s been a couple of years. But I watched a show on America’s Test Kitchen awhile back and they talked about some of the inherent problems that existed with the old-style ones. What’s new about these: (1) unsweetened chocolate provides a more bold chocolate flavor; (2) sour cream added some tang to the cream cheese layer; (3) a more cakey batter doesn’t allow the brownies to get soggy or dense; (4) no more dry edges because the cream cheese layer is spread all over the chocolate batter, then a reserved portion of chocolate is dolloped on top before the whole pan is swirled and baked.

cc_brownies_slingThe chefs at ATK felt that the two batters didn’t complement one another, so they set out making a bunch of changes. And it works. No question about that. I’ll be making these again and again. They also recommend preparing heavy-duty foil slings (both directions) in and out of the 8×8 pan. See photo above.

You prepare a chocolate batter. You make a cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and flour (very little) mixture that comprises the cream cheese layer, so to speak. cc_brownies_choc_batterThere on the right you can see the chocolate batter which was poured into the pan first. About 1/2 cup was reserved and set aside to dollop on top later.

cc_brownies_ch_layerAt left, see how you gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the chocolate batter. You spread it almost out to the edges. THEN, you use that reserved chocolate batter (that needs to be heated in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to heat it up and make it more liquid) and you either pour or scoop it all over and around the top. Then you use a regular knife to swirl it – they tell you to do about 10-12 strokes. I did a zigzag patterncc_brownies_baked_swirled, going one way, then the other. I ended up with the photo at right of the finished pan.

The brownies are baked at 325°F. for about 35-40 minutes. Mine took the full 40 minutes and you need to stick your cake tester or toothpick into the chocolate portion, not the cream cheese part (it’s still retains a bit of a soft texture).

Once baked, you leave the brownies in the pan (in the slings) for an hour before removing them. If you do it too soon they won’t remain flat and stable (solid) on the bottom and the whole pan full would bend with the sling. I removed them after an hour or so, laid the foil edges over the top and let it sit overnight. They were still warm when I went to bed, so I left them out. They recommend you keep these refrigerated (because of the sour cream), but I think I’d let them come to room temp before serving.

What’s GOOD: these cream cheese brownies are really wonderful. I loved the more intense chocolate flavor. The cream cheese layer was a bit more stable (with the added flour) so the brownies weren’t dense at all, more cakey altogether. Loved these. As I mentioned, this is going to replace my old recipe, and yes, I’ll be making them again.

What’s NOT: nothing really. The foil slings take a bit of fussing with, to get them right, but they’re not difficult.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

New Cream Cheese Brownies

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen, 2016
Serving Size: 16

4 ounces cream cheese — cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
BROWNIE BATTER:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour — (3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate — chopped fine
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar — (8 3/4 ounces)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING: Microwave cream cheese until soft, 20 to 30 seconds. Add sour cream, sugar, and flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Grease foil.
3. FOR THE BROWNIE BATTER: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl and set aside. Microwave chocolate and butter in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Add melted chocolate mixture (do not clean bowl) and whisk until incorporated. Add flour mixture and fold to combine.
5. Transfer 1/2 cup batter to bowl used to melt chocolate. Spread remaining batter in prepared pan. Spread cream cheese filling evenly over batter.
6. Microwave bowl of reserved batter until warm and pourable, 10 to 20 seconds. Using spoon, dollop softened batter over cream cheese filling, 6 to 8 dollops. Using knife, swirl batter through cream cheese filling, making marbled pattern, 10 to 12 strokes, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges.
7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour.
8. Using foil overhang, lift brownies out of pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Per Serving : 225 Calories; 14g Fat (54.3% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 18th, 2016.

A pool of melted chocolate. Using the best baking chocolate is important when making holiday desserts.

Photo: Consumer Reports

I read about this on another website (I think it was Eat Your Books). It was a link to a site at Consumer Reports where you can read just about everything you’d ever want to know about baking chocolate. It’s a great resource – one I should print out or at least save to my computer. Here’s the link:

http://www.consumerreports.org/holiday-food/best-baking-chocolate/

Posted in Salad Dressings, on December 13th, 2016.

meyer_lemon_vinaigrette1

A simple dressing – amped  up with the tiniest amount of balsamic and  mayo. But loads of garlic give it flavor.

Running out of salad dressing is a semi-catastrophe for me. I like home made salad dressings, and now that I’m a family of one, when I make them, they last awhile. So I make smaller batches. This one was just perfect for that, as it made enough for about 5-6 salads. I often make myself a green salad with oodles of veggies in it, for lunch. I either have a hard boiled egg to put in it, or some leftover chicken. I used to buy lots of Trader Joe’s prepared salads (they carry a bunch and they’re quite inexpensive) but I’ve gotten tired of them, and they also aren’t very discerning when it comes to chopping up Romaine ribs. I don’t like the base ends of Romaine (do you?) so I have to pick them out. Once, with one of those prepared salads, after removing all the big chunks of Romaine ribs I had a very, very small salad! That may have been the day I decided I really should just make my own. I have a certain combo of things that I like in my salads: thinly chopped celery, a few sugar snap peas, a radish, a carrot, maybe a bit of chopped fennel, and either Feta or some of the Mexican Cotija cheese crumbled over it.

This particular recipe came from Sunset Magazine, and the people who tried it gave it a 5-star rating. I knew I’d try it at some point. It was in with a stack of magazine clippings I’ve recently added to my computer. I’m so happy to NOT have little piles of them here and there. The joy of the internet is that when I spot a recipe in a magazine I just go to my computer and do a search and 99% of the time I can find it online and it’s such an easy task to transfer it to my MasterCook software. If I’ve read the recipe when I’m out somewhere, I type it into my smart phone app Evernote, then when I get home I just look it up. I’ve found, after years of doing this, that it helps to put in, for instance: meyer lemon vinaigrette sunset magazine. It will find it right away. Putting in just the title will give you 1001 results. So do write down the source and use it in your search string.

The dressing: It took little or no time to put it together. I smashed the garlic clove first, measured out the lemon juice and oil too. A note about the MEYER LEMONS. Not everybody can get them, I know, so my advice is to use regular lemons and add either a little bit of orange juice (about 15% or so) instead of lemon juice, or add a bit more sugar. Meyer lemons are a hybrid of Mandarin orange and a regular lemon, so the juice is slightly sweeter. I have a very prolific Meyer lemon tree outside my front door that just keeps coming nearly year ‘round. It’s an old tree, and I suspect it’s in the beginning of “old age,” so it’s not producing as many as it did before, but then, so am I, and I don’t use them as frequently now that my DH is gone. So maybe the lemon tree and I are aging gracefully together.

What’s GOOD: the overall CLEAN flavor. Even with the speck of balsamic and mayo (neither of which I could discern) it had a lively, bright taste. The lemon zest gives it a bit of zing. Altogether lovely. Do I like it better than any of my favorite salad dressings? Hmm. Perhaps not, but I liked it for a change.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. I liked the dressing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Sunset Magazine
Serving Size: 6

Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cloves garlic — minced or smashed

1. Whisk ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Keeps about a week, chilled.
2. MEYER LEMONS: If you don’t have them, use regular lemons and replace a bit of the juice with orange juice and/or add a bit more sugar. Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons.
Per Serving: 71 Calories; 8g Fat (94.9% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 124mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, on December 7th, 2016.

pancetta_salmon_browned_butter_pistachios

Don’t let the long title steer you away from trying this. It’s really very easy – all of it is, even browning the butter!

This salmon dish was just SO delicious. Do I over-use that word “delicious?” I hope not. Take the word seriously – this salmon dish is very easy (and company-worthy) and could be a weeknight dinner. Wrapping the salmon fillet in a thin-thin piece of pancetta takes all of about 10 seconds, maybe 20 at the most. But first you need to heat the oven to hot – 425°F and on convection if you have that option. Or convection bake. While the oven heats, put a baking sheet in the oven so it gets piping hot too. Let the salmon sit out at room temp for a little bit – 10-15 minutes or so. Gather together the ingredients to make the nut sauce –  white wine vinegar, cold butter (actually keep it cold and in the refrigerator until needed) and some chopped Italian parsley. (See, I said there wasn’t much to it). If you haven’t done so, toast the nuts and chop them.

Once the oven (and the pan in it) is hot, remove the pan and place the pancetta-wrapped salmon on the pan – you’ll hear it sizzle already. Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan and turn the salmon over and put it back in the oven, turn the oven temp to 325°F and set your timer for about 8 minutes (it might take 10 depending on how thick the salmon is). Cook the salmon to 145°F to be perfection.

Meanwhile, the last couple of minutes you make the sauce – heat the butter and continue to cook until it gets a nutty, golden to dark brown. JUST before you’re ready to serve, reheat the butter if you’ve done it ahead, then add the toasted pistachios and vinegar. Be careful – it will bubble up and spit. Then add the cold butter in small cubes and allow the butter to melt. Add the parsley. It should thicken the sauce a little bit. Check the salmon – is it done? Put it out onto a heated plate/platter and pour the sauce on top or on the side. Garnish with more Italian parsley if desired. Done. The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter but the recipe came from a cookbook I don’t own (oh, I’m sorely tempted – I could buy it used for not much money but I need another cookbook like I need a hole in my head!). The cookbook: The New Wine Country Cookbook: Recipes from California’s Central Coast.

What’s GOOD: I rate this salmon dish sensational. It was so very good. If you buy wild-caught salmon it will be even more delicious. The sauce is easy to make. Altogether a beautiful presentation too. Not difficult to make; just gather everything together at the beginning (except the chilled butter – keep it refrigerated) and it comes together very quickly.

What’s NOT: nary a thing. A must try recipe.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon with Pistachio-Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, Sept 2016
Serving Size: 6

30 ounces salmon fillets — wild caught, skinless, center-cut (about 5 ounces each)
Fresly ground black pepper
6 slices pancetta — or prosciutto (thin slices)
NUT SAUCE:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup pistachio nuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter — COLD, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — finely chopped and more for garnish if desired

1. Season salmon with pepper and wrap each piece with a slice of pancetta. (This can be done up to 6 hours ahead of time.)
2. Place a baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat to 425°F on convection bake.
3. Let salmon sit at room temp for about 10 minutes if it’s just been removed from the refrigerator.
4. Meanwhile, preheat a baking sheet in the hot oven and once hot, transfer salmon to the sheet and roast for 5 minutes.
5. Turn the salmon over and continue baking for about 8-9 more minutes or until tender. It should measure 145°F on an instant read thermometer.
6. SAUCE: Heat unsalted butter in a pan until it turns brown (but not burned). As soon as it has turned a dark, nutty brown, remove from heat, stand back and add pistachios and vinegar (it will boil up and splatter). Now add the COLD butter and parsley; swirl the pan until butter melts and thickens slightly. Spoon alongside the salmon or over the salmon. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 32g Fat (62.4% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 817mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 6th, 2016.

angel_dec4_2016

I have a new kitten – isn’t that just the cutest photo?

Not that all of you keep track, but I had a cat, Oliver, for about 1 1/2 years. He was a good cat until a few months ago when he started biting me. Badly. Not just a friendly, playful nip. I had to make a very hard decision about him after he bit me so badly I had to go on antibiotics because my arm swelled up with infection. I tried training him with suggestions I read on the ‘net  – I could tell when he was going to leap and bite – his eyes dilated and he got into a stance to leap (and bite). He began to view my right arm as a predator, for some reason. I don’t know what was wrong with him – I never abused him or anything like that. But he had to go. It was heart-breaking – truly it was. I cried about it, but knew that no one else should adopt him if he had “issues.”

My thought was that  I wasn’t going to have another cat for awhile. Then, a few days ago I had a kind of a hard day – my house is all decorated for Christmas – I had Christmas carols playing – I felt cozy and warm inside, especially since I had the fireplace on too, and I just felt very lonely. And very sad. And I was grieving over my husband and my little Oliver too. Then out of the blue I got a phone call the next day from a friend who had known Oliver and what had happened. He called me about this little kitten. She was found on the side of the street, cold, wet (it was raining) and she couldn’t figure out how to get from the gutter up onto the curb. What her story is, we don’t know. But she wasn’t at all frightened of people. Her hearing, of course, is acute. The vet says she was likely born blind. I went online and read what I could about blind cats and it says they adapt extremely well – with suggestions like not moving furniture around too much, and they can’t ever go outside. Well, I couldn’t do that anyway, because I live in coyote country, and this little muffin would be a coyote’s snack in a minute.

The family who found her took the photo at top. How could you NOT love this little thing. She’s tiny, though she’s about 7-8 weeks old. She’s figured out in a little over a day and a half how to navigate around my downstairs (LR, DR, FM, kitchen). I’ve kept other doors closed so as not to confuse her. As I write this, she’s still trying to learn where her litter box is – since I’m not sure she does, I’m ever-vigilant to waltz her down the hall to her box on a regular basis. What I am is tired – because she’s like having a toddler in the house. But she’s sweet and the vet, today, says she’s fine and should have a happy life.

Posted in Travel, on December 4th, 2016.

bay_of_kotor_distance

Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote more about my Croatia trip. Holidays and family things just got in the way! This picture is one of my favorites from the entire trip. This was the scene as we ventured up over a rise and looked out over this protected, inland Bay.

Kotor (pronounced ko-tr) is a town unto itself (pictures below, not in the photo above) but the whole area is called the Bay of Kotor. I swear, this bay should be part of the seven wonders of the world, it’s that gorgeous. We were blessed with a beautiful day and lovely contrast with the cloud cover. I was in awe. I wanted to camp out right there for awhile before we ventured down to ocean/ground level.

In the bottom left you can see an angular line; that’s Kotor airport. Not a big airport for sure. Kotor is a big summer tourist destination – there were ample small hotels and apartments used for summer rentals. The town of Kotor, a walled city, is off to the right and in another deeper part of the Bay.

After taking jillions of pictures from that spot in the photo above, we drove down the hill (on a scary set of narrow switchbacks where some buses had to do 3-point turns to make each and every switchback) and went to a hotel on the bottom right side of the Bay (at about 4:00 on the bay’s edge in the photo at top). It was by far the most gorgeous hotel, the Regent Porto Montenegro, that we stayed in on the entire trip. We all were disappointed we had but one night there. We went to the city of Kotor for a tour and had dinner there also.

 kotor_city_with_bay

As you can see, there were two cruise ships in port – I know – they look like little yachts, right? No, cruise ships. The walled city of Kotor is at the bottom right nestled right up against the mountain. I don’t know the elevation of the steep cliff we were on – probably about 1500 to 1800 feet. But that’s just a guess.

The next day we took a very small motor craft out into the bay you see above to visit a tiny man-made island. Next is a photo I found at Wikipedia – probably a better one than I took, as it was raining all day. This islet is called Our Lady of the Rocks. It’s now a Catholic Church (tiny) and thousands visit it every year. It contains a variety of art, including a wall-hanging made by a woman who waited for 25 years for her sailor-captain-husband to return home safely. She wove some of her hair into it. It was dark in the room, so my photo didn’t come out well.

Nuestra_Señora_de_las_Rocas,_Perast,_Bahía_de_Kotor,_Montenegro,_2014-04-19,_DD_19

As we left the island, there is another island just next to it (to the left of this island above, that is private. It made such a pretty photo – I have a hankering to paint the picture below of St. George, Sveti Dorde Island. I should print it out large, so I can sketch it onto watercolor paper. The Bay was just gorgeous.

sveti_dorde_island_kotor_bay

It rather looks like a church – it’s actually a monastery, in existence since the 12th century. The scene was just beautiful.

coastline_by_our_lady_rocks_island

All my life I’ve enjoyed scenes such as this one – it could have been taken on hundreds of different coastlines or lakes throughout Europe. This one in the Bay of Kotor. So pretty.

ancient_church_kotor

old_street_kotor

Here are two scenes from the walled city of Kotor. At left is the ancient church, much celebrated since it’s been in existence since the 12th century. At right was just a photo I snapped of one of the streets inside Kotor. Everywhere it was walking streets, and the little shop at the end of this little piazza had its interior lights on. Very welcoming.

walking_street_kotor

me_window_regent_hotelHere are two more scenes. At left is another view of one of the walking streets. The stores were open and many in our group bought bags and bags of trinkets. I didn’t buy anything. At right is a view of me, standing in the window of the Regent Hotel, looking out at the docks.

I must tell you, as a widow of a man who sailed all of his life (from age 8) when I walked out to the back of the hotel (in the rain) I was overcome with a sense of grief as I looked at all those sailboats and yachts. My DH would have marched right out by all those boats and talked to anyone who might have been around, to find out about the draft, how many feet long the boat was, what kind of an engine, etc. Asking about the sails, about the sailing in those waters, etc.

If you’ve never known about Kotor, you do now, and you need to add it to your bucket list. You won’t be sorry!

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