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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Am in the middle of Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loving every chapter so far.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

I’ve been on a Moriarty tangent lately, this one Three Wishes, is about three triplets (women), two identical, one fraternal, as they progress through their 33rd year of life. So many twists and turns for each one. As someone said on amazon, Liane Moriarty never disappoints with providing a good story.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Salad Dressings, Salads, on September 13th, 2021.

What a beautiful summer bounty. 

A post from Carolyn. Following Ree Drummond’s recipe for this wasn’t quite going to work for me – – as I needed to change in/out a few things. Believe it or not, I couldn’t find green beans that day. Really? So asparagus had to work. Salmon I bought at Costco, multi-colored cherry tomatoes I had; hard boiled eggs are always in my frig as well as Kalamata olives. And Romaine too. All I did was change the salad dressing from Ree’s bottled dressing with a few add-ins, to one of my favorite Caesar dressings, the Caesar Caper Parmesan that uses mayo as the base. That recipe came from Phillis Carey, many, many years ago. Only thing I did this time was add a tetch of anchovy paste, which amped-up the full-bodied garlicky flavor of the dressing.

What fun I had making this. I’d invited four women who used to work for me, decades ago, at the ad agency I co-owned. I’d been part of the hiring of each of them, and one of my jobs, always, was training new hires. We also FaceTime(d) with another one who currently lives in Arizona, and it had been about 20 years since I’d been in touch with her. We told so many stories, shared so many laughs. It was a warm day and serving a salad was a given. I’d watched Pioneer Woman make a similar one. So I used her base recipe as the start.

For me, I prepped most of the ingredients the day before – the asparagus, the hard boiled eggs, the tomatoes, even the Romaine lettuce that I carefully cut into 1/3-cut wedges. I made the dressing, cooked the potatoes (although you’ll notice, I forgot to put them on the platter – geez!), chopped the Italian parsley. The day of – an hour or so before – I roasted the salmon. It’s put onto a baking sheet lined with foil, sprayed with EVOO, salt and pepper and baked for a mere 10 minutes at 425°F. Once cooled, I forked it into small to mid-sized flakes.

Digging out the largest platter I own (it’s really big, usually used for Thanksgiving turkey) I began composing the salad. I placed the Romaine down first, then began adding the colorful parts around the sides, with salmon at one end and eggs at the other. Then I plopped globs of dressing down the center of the Romaine and sprinkled it all with Italian parsley. Done. What this salad isn’t is a true Nicoise, which must contain green beans, and usually uses canned tuna (you can order Nicoise at most French cafes any day of the week). And potatoes are included, plus some kind of Mediterranean olive, usually Kalamata, but could be other types too. And it’s usually done with a vinaigrette of some kind. Not Caesar.

Same salad, this time with ahi tuna, seared quickly, green beans, asparagus, hard boiled eggs, more tomatoes plus  avocadoes. 

This salad was a real winner. For sure. The picture above is the same meal, but made with  ahi tuna – very quickly seared with just a little rub of EVOO, salt and pepper. Since this was a dinner, I used halved Romaine hearts (for a bit more lettuce on each serving). This time I did have green beans, and I had sufficient salad dressing left over to serve it. No potatoes since I try to do less carbs. It made for another lovely, colorful platter of food which was almost all polished off in one sitting. The tiny bit of leftovers I had for lunch the next day. Yum. I bought one pound of fresh ahi, seared it in my stovetop grill pan for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, then sliced thinly with a very sharp straight-edged knife.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was good, in my book. The dressing was perfect for the lively flavors (salmon or ahi, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, even asparagus). Loved how beautiful the platter came out – it’s a stunner! Most everything can be done the day before which makes for easy plating.

What’s NOT: does require a moderate amount of prep work (cooking green beans or asparagus, potatoes, hard boiled eggs, even the salmon (the ahi was extra-simple to do), also cutting the tomatoes, pitting olives if you need to do that – I buy pitted ones – and carefully cutting the Romaine into 1/3 wedges), packaging everything up until the right moment to plate and serve. But worth the trouble. Everything except the salmon (or ahi) and cutting avocadoes can be done the day ahead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Salmon Nicoise Caesar

Recipe By: Adapted from Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces Yukon gold potatoes — baby sized, traditional, but optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces green beans — or asparagus
1 pound salmon fillet — skinned (can also be made with seared ahi tuna)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon — zested and juiced
3/4 cup Caesar Caper Parmesan Dressing (below)
2 hearts Romaine lettuce — whole, cut in third/wedges and cored
4 hard-boiled eggs — cooled, peeled and halved
2 cups cherry tomatoes — halved lengthways
1/4 cup Kalamata olives — or other Mediterranean olive of your choice
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, for garnish
parsley leaves — for garnish
CAESAR CAPER PARM DRESSING:
4 whole garlic cloves
1 cup mayonnaise — Best Foods
2 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon capers — heaping, drained
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste — or more if you like the flavor
2 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes, then halve and set aside to cool.
2, Cook the green beans or asparagus in a small pot of boiling salted water for 2-4 minutes, then remove and plunge into ice water. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the salmon on the prepared baking sheet, skin-side down. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the salmon and set aside to cool slightly, then flake into large chunks with a fork.
4. Make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl – start with the anchovy paste to make sure it is dispersed, then mix well.
6. Arrange the Romaine wedges in the middle of a very large platter. Group the green beans, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, olives and salmon on top and around the lettuces. Spoon globs of the dressing on the Romaine wedges. Garnish with Parmesan and parsley leaves. Serve with more dressing at the table.
Per Serving (assumes you use all the dressing): 704 Calories; 38g Fat (47.0% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 17g Dietary Fiber; 284mg Cholesterol; 776mg Sodium; 18g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 319mg Calcium; 10mg Iron; 2444mg Potassium; 667mg Phosphorus.

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