Get new posts by email:

Archives

Currently Reading

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 2023, 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.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. Oh gosh, what a fabulous book. It’s a novel; however, much of the story is about the intelligence of octopus. In particular this one, Marcellus, who lives in an aquarium in a fictitious town in western Washington State. Marcellus himself writes some of the chapters. More than anything the book is about relationships, not only Marcellus with a woman (of a certain age) who cleans the aquarium at night, but the various people in this small town. Absolutely charming book. Both of my book clubs have it as a read this year. Loved it.

Trust, by Herman Diaz. This novel is an enigma in so many ways. It’s a book, within a book, within a book. About the stock market crash back in 1929, but it’s about a man. Oh my. I could hardly put this book down it was so riveting. Never read anything quite like it. Very hard to write a description of it. Read it. It’s really interesting. This book won the Pulitzer. That’s why I bought it.

Cassidy Hutchinson is a young woman (a real one) who works in politics or “government.” She’s worked for some prestigious Washington politicians, and ended up working for Trump. The book is a memoir of her short spin working at the highest levels, and obviously at the White House. She worked under Mark Meadows and suffered a lot of ridicule when she quit. Truth and lies . . . when she couldn’t live with herself and subvert the truth. Enough, gives you plenty of detail leading up to and after the January 6th uprising. She testified to Congress about what she knew. Really interesting. I almost never read books about politics because I think many (most?) of our elected politicians succumb to the lure of power and forget who they work for, us, the public.

Becoming Dr. Q, by Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. This is his memoir about how he went from being a penniless migrant from Mexico to one of the world’s most renowned experts in brain tumors. About how he aspired to merely attend high school, how he made ends meet (barely) and how he eventually made it to medical school and became the expert he is. What an uplifting story. Here in California we have such a huge problem with illegal immigrants and I certainly don’t have the answers, but this story makes you stop and think.

The Invincible Miss Cust, by Penny Haw.  In 1868 Ireland, a woman wasn’t allowed to attend veterinary school, much less become a veterinarian. It took  years of trying (to the horror of her aristocratic family) and finally someone took her under their wing, she enrolled using a pseudonym (a name not revealing her gender). This is a true story of Aleen Isabel Cust, who did just that and was finally able to practice veterinary medicine in a rural area. This book is historical fiction, and some creative liberties were probably taken, but the tale itself is quite something. Enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Her Heart for a Compass, by Sarah Ferguson (yes), the Duchess of York. I was pleasantly surprised as I read this book that it wasn’t the usual romantic romp – there’s more to this story than you might think. Ferguson utilizes some of her family ancestors as real characters in the book. It starts with a young aristocratic woman on the eve of an arranged marriage. She just can’t abide the man, and runs away. Literally runs away with nothing. It’s the story of how she survives and becomes an agent for good in England and finally finds someone to love. The right love. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes. Moyes is such a prolific author, and comes up with the most unexpected stories. This being another one that grabbed my attention from the first page. Nisha, our heroine, is a wealthy socialite. She thinks her life is perfect. At the gym someone else grabs her gym bag, so she grabs the similar one. Then she finds out her husband is leaving her and he’s locked her out of their high-rise apartment. She’s penniless. No attorney will take her on. She has nothing but this gym bag belonging to someone else (who?). The gym has closed its doors. In the gym bag she did pick up are a pair of Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, and take big significance in the story, obviously. Nisha becomes a different person when she dons those shoes. Nisha meets some really kind people, people who barely subsist but willingly help her out. I marvel at Moyes’ ability to write a riveting story from the premise of a mistaken gym bag.

The Eleventh Man, Ivan Doig. What a story. Ben, part of a Montana college football team in the 1940s, joins the service during WWII. So do all of his eleven teammates. After suffering some injuries in pilot training he is recruited by a stealthy military propaganda machine. His job is to write articles about his teammates as they are picked off at various battle theaters around the Pacific and Europe. Ben goes there, in person, to fuel the stories. And sometimes accompanies bodies home, attends the funerals. There’s a romance involved; much of the book takes place in Canada, actually. Absolutely fascinating book. I don’t often read brutal war stories, but this one was a very interesting one. Ivan Doig is a crafty writer; I’ve read several of his books, my favorite being The Whistling Season.

Wavewalker, by Suzanne Heywood. Oh my goodness. A memoir about a very young English girl who goes off with her besotted and narcissistic parents and her brother on a years-long sailing journey supposedly following the route of James Cook. A very old, decrepit 70-foot schooner. Four people, 2 sort-of adults and 2 children. Sometimes a helper or two. A seasick mother. A dad who is driven to the extreme, whatever the damage he creates. She spent 10 years aboard, with a verve for sailing, a passion for reading and education (by mail) and survives the mood swings of her mother. She and her brother are left to fend for themselves in various places; the parents take on paying customers. Often there’s little or no food. I’m surprised they all survived, and they barely didn’t in several instances. You get to read all the details. Heywood managed to get into Oxford (despite her mother’s shenanigans and even her father’s unwillingness to help her, financially or otherwise). She’s a successful businesswoman and a very good writer. My DH (dear husband) always wanted to sail around the world; unfortunately I wasn’t a willing sailing mate for that as I get deathly seasick. The story intrigued me from beginning to end.

Claire Keegan wrote Small Things Like These. It’s won a lot of awards, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Takes place in Ireland. Some profound questions come up in this novella, about complicity, about restitution. There’s a convent nearby, and attached one of those places young girls were sent if they found themselves “in the family way,” and about how the church helped, supposedly, by taking the children and placing them in homes, without consent. It’s ugly, the truth of the matter. Really good read.

Nicholas Sparks isn’t an author I read very often because his books are pretty sappy, but daughter Sara recommended this one, The Longest Ride. It begins with Ira (age 93), stuck in his car as it plunges off the edge of a road, and it’s snowing. As the hours tick by, he reminisces about his life, having long conversations with his deceased wife. Then you pick up with a very sweet romance between a college student and a bull rider. The two stories interconnect. I really enjoyed the story.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, by Barbara Lipska. Interesting that I’ve read two books recently about the brain (see Doctor Q above). This is a true story about a woman, a neuroscientist, who developed a metastatic melanoma in the brain. Because she in medicine, she chronicled her journey through it and coming out the other side. Fascinating if you’re interested in medicine (I am) and how the brain works (yes, that too). A very fascinating read. Not for everyone, I suppose.

The Price of Inheritance, by Karin Tanabe. This is a mystery, of sorts. Our heroine is an up and coming employee at Christie’s (auction house). In bringing a large collection of expensive art to auction, she makes a misstep about the provenance of a desk. She’s fired. She goes back to her roots, takes a job at a small antique store where she used to work. She begins buying antiques for the store, trying to make sense of what happened to her career. She meets a young Navy officer. The intrigue begins. I could hardly put this down. Although there is some romance in the book, it’s more about art and the lure of finding a gem amongst the junk. I loved this book because I’d never read anything about how auction houses work.

The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Did you read Cutting for Stone, years ago, by this author? Such a good book, so I knew I’d enjoy this one, and oh, did I!. The book takes place in a little known area of southern India, and chronicles a variety of people over a few generations, who inhabit the place. Some who leave and some who come back. Verghese sort of writes like Ken Follett, or Michener, in that he delves into the intricacies of family relationships. There’s also a medical mystery involved too, which was very interesting. It’s a very, very long book, but worth reading.

Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts. My friend Dianne recommended this book to me, and it was so special. Loved it beginning to end. It’s based on the story of 77-year old Maud Gage Baum (her husband Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz) as she tries to advise the MGM folk as they are filming the 1938 movie with Judy Garland. You’ll learn lots of Oz and Baum history, and you’ll surely be rooting for Maud as she does her best to steer the director to stay true to the book. Absolutely fascinating read, every page.

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. I don’t quite know how to write a blurb about this book. The premise is so off the norm. It’s about a young Indian woman, Geeta, as she tries her best to make a living after her husband leaves her. Yet the community she lives in, thinks Geeta murdered him. Then some of her so-called “friends” ask her to help them get rid of their husbands too. It’s rollicking funny and unbelievable in many ways, including the backward ways of the local constabulary. I heard myself say “what?” many times in the weaving of this fanciful story.

Attribution, by Linda Moore. We follow art historian Cate, as she struggles to succeed in her chosen field against sexist advisors. She finds what she thinks is a hidden painting, perhaps a masterpiece. She risks everything to try to determine if it’s real or fake. It’s a mystery and a treatise in a way about art in general. What makes a masterpiece? Fascinating story and very well written. Loved it.

The Measure, Nikki Erlick. Oh my goodness. This story grabbed me from about the third sentence. Everyone in the world finds a wooden box on their doorstep, or in front of their camper or tent, that contains a string. Nothing but a string. People get various lengths of string and finally experts conclude it predicts the length of life. No one receives a string until they attain the age of 22. The author has a vivid imagination (I admire that) and you just will not believe the various reactions (frenzy?) from people who are short-stringers, or long-stringers. I’m sure the book is a parable or metaphor for us to be more understanding of how we segregate people – not black and white, this is short or long strings. I was in awe of the author’s ability to visualize how this kind of eventuality would complicate our lives. Yet there’s hope woven throughout. SUCH a good read. Highly recommend.

The Book Spy by Alan Hlad. True stories, but in novel form, of a special Axis group of men and women librarians and microfilm specialists, sent to strategic locations in Europe to acquire and scour newspapers, books, technical manuals and periodicals, for information about German troop locations, weaponry and military plans of WWII. I was glued to the book beginning to end. Fascinating accounts.

A Dangerous Business, Jane Smiley. What a story. 1850s gold rush, story of two young prostitutes, finding their way in a lawless town in the Wild West. There’s a murder, or two, or three, or some of the town’s prostitutes, and the two women set out to solve the crime.

Storm Watch, by C. J. Box. I’m such a fan of his tales of Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s adventures catching criminals. Loved it, just like I’ve loved every one of his books.

Defiant Dreams, by Sola Mahfouz. True story about the author, born in Afghanistan in 1996. This is about her journey to acquire an education. It’s unbelievable what the Taliban does to deter and forbid women from bettering themselves. Many trials and tribulations – just so you know, she makes it to the U.S. and becomes a quantum computer researcher at Tufts University. A book everyone should read.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers – like roses, you’d think of love. But red roses mean something else. You’ll learn about the various flowers as they’re woven into a story about a woman who studies them and creates a niche for herself producing beautiful bouquets and flower arrangements for special occasions.

The Rome Apartment, by Kerry Fisher. Such a cute story. Maybe not an interesting read for a man. It’s about Beth, whose husband has just left her, and her daughter has just gone off to college. Beth needs a new lease on life, so she rents a room from a woman who lives in Rome. Beth has much to learn about herself from the landlord, a woman of vast experience and compassion. Did I say cute? Yup.

All the Beauty in the World, a memoir by Patrick Bringley. Absolutely LOVED this book. Bringley was at loose ends and accepted a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. He’d been a journalist at The New Yorker magazine, but after his brother was ill and died, he needed refreshing. After his training at the museum, he moves from room to room, guarding the precious art, and learning all about the pieces and the painters or sculptors. He takes special interest in many pieces and shares it in the book. He definitely has a writing gift. Lots of funny stories sprinkled throughout the book. I guarantee if you have any interest in art, you’ll love the book and Bringley’s story. He worked at the museum for a decade.

The Queen’s Lady, by Joanna Hickson. I love stories about Tudor England, and this one didn’t disappoint. Joan Guildford is a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Oh my goodness are there twists and turns. I went to my reference book on English kings and queens to verify the lineage of one person or another, and read several Wikipedia entries about various people in this book. So interesting. If you enjoy English history, this is a good one, probably more interesting to a woman than a man.

Once in awhile I’m ready to read another Louise Penny mystery. This time it was World of Curiosities. Usually I’d write something wonderful regarding “another tome about Three Pines.” Not going to say it this time. Three Pines becomes a sinister place. Murders (many).  Of course. Some bad folk out there, far too close to home. I had to put it down a couple of times because it was so frightening. But Inspector Gamache prevails. Of course he does! A piece of very complicated art is involved (I think it may be a real painting). Louise wrote a nice epilogue about how she devised the whole idea. Very interesting read.

Over the years I’ve read many of Jodi Picoult’s books. This, her newest, or very new, is called Mad Honey. Oh, my. This book is beyond Picoult’s usual borders, but then she always writes edgy books. That’s her genre. This one is written with a co-author, a woman who is gay (I think) and also a trans-gender. There is a lot of learn in this book, and might be very difficult or hard for some to read. Very engrossing story, though, as always.

Philippa Gregory is one of my fav authors. Just finished her 3rd (and last, I think) in the Fairmile series called Dawnlands. If you scroll down below you’ll find the 2nd book in the series, Tidelands. Very interesting about English history, but about the same families from the first book in the group. Loved it, as I loved all of them.

Am currently reading Rutherfurd’s long, long book, Paris. I love these involved historical novels about a place (he’s written many about specific places in the world). It’s a saga that goes back and forth in time, following the travails of various people and families, through thick and thin. Some of it during the era of the King Louis’ (plural, should I say Louies?). Very interesting about some of the city’s history and royalty.

Although this book says A Christmas Memory, by Richard Paul Evans, it’s not just about Christmas. A young boy is the hero here, but really an older widower man who lives next door plays a pivotal part of this book. It’s poignant, heart-rending and sweet. It delves deep into childhood memories to take readers back to an age when a world felt like it was falling apart, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, the light of hope can still shine. A beautiful read.

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult. Another page-turner. I loved this book. A thirty-something woman, about to take a trip with her boyfriend, when Covid breaks out. Covid plays a major role in this book, beginning to end. She decides to go anyway as her boyfriend is a doctor and cannot leave. She ends up on a remote Galapagos island, and you go along with her – with people she meets, the life she leads, the isolation she experiences, the loneliness she feels, but the joy of nature is a sustaining aspect. She’s stuck there because of Covid. Not boats, no airport, no nothing. Barely enough food. But yet, she survives. I could NOT put down this book. It had me riveted. You know, Covid is going to play a major role in a lot of books in our future – it has to. It was such a pivotal moment in this century!

Not everyone wants to read food memoirs. When I saw Sally Schmitt had written a memoir, titled Six California Kitchens, I knew I wanted to read it. I met Sally a few times over the years when I visited Napa Valley, and bought some of her famous pickled items, chutneys, jams, etc. She was the original chef at The French Laundry, before it became truly famous by Thomas Keller. Sally shares her food story, how she came to become a chef and entrepreneur. It’s a charming book and there are a few recipes (I think one at the end of every chapter). Enjoyed reading it. If you ever visited Napa Valley in the early days (the 1960s through 80s) you will enjoy reading how “California cuisine” kind of came into being.

Being a fan of Vivian Howard (from her TV show), when I saw she’d written another book, I knew I should buy it. This Will Make It Taste Good is such an unusual name for a cookbook, but once you get into the groove of the book, you’ll understand. She’s now divorced, but still running two restaurants and raising twins (part-time, I’m guessing as I assume her ex is involved some). I don’t know how she had time to write another book. She’s hysterically funny. I mean it. Over the years (and I’m guessing most of this came from her North Carolina roots and the mayhem she encountered opening a restaurant in her tiny, rural town, to great fame) she developed a group of tasty “things,” to complement her food. It’s hard to pinpoint what these are – they’re recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers. If I make some of them (I hope to) I’ll post them on my blog. They have umami flavors, and she says it’s how she survives and makes everything taste good. She includes the recipe for each of these kitchen heroes (and each title is laugh-out-loud funny in and of themselves) and a few uses of them. Recently she wrote a column in Garden & Gun (magazine) about online dating, and about how she filled out her profile and of some of the not-so-happy first dates. I laughed and laughed over that. I hope you click on that link and read it.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

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, loved every chapter.

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.

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 minuscule 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on July 21st, 2020.

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwich

Such a colorful photo, isn’t it? There’s a toasted piece of bread on the bottom, some mozzarella cheese, a kind of Italian meatball, the some marinara sauce on top.

Some weeks ago I went to my daughter Sara’s backyard – Sara, who partly (occasionally) participates on my blog. She’s so busy – she and her husband own a small business, they’re short handed, work long hours – 5, sometimes 6 days a week, and both of their kids are home now. The older one, Sabrina, just graduated from Clemson University and is applying to med school. She’s having to take a gap year but hasn’t yet found a job to fill in between now and fall 2021, that would be an asset to her medical career. She’s hoping. Her brother John is in summer school at Virginia Tech (online, that is), and he helps out most days at the family business. Sara cooks dinner at least 5 nights a week. The two kids each do dinner one night a week.

grilled_ital_meatballs_rawExcept to visit the powder room, I stayed outside the whole time. It was a lovely day. Not too hot, thank goodness. Sara made dinner (I’m posting this recipe for her, also the dessert in a few days). We had such a nice visit – it was so good to see the whole family although we couldn’t hug, of course. I wanted so much to hug my grandchildren! And everybody, really, but no, we can’t. We stayed socially distanced.

grilled_ital_meatball_bread_grillingAnyway, Sara made these open-faced Italian meatball sandwiches. She’d found the recipe on the web, but altered a bit by using chicken Italian sausage instead of pork. She’d purchased those kind of flat rolls – I don’t know what they’re called, she halved them, spread with a bit of olive oil, grilled them so they had lovely grill marks and were just barely crispy. Meanwhile she’d mixed up the meat – she used extra lean ground beef and some chicken Italian sausage and made the meatballs. The recipe indicated making round balls, but Sara tried to flatten them out some so they’d kind of fill the top of the piece of toasted bread. As you know, meat shrinks up when it’s cooked, and sure enough, these did, so they ended up more like round meatballs. The bread had some nice fresh mozzarella cheese draped over them (see photo), then the sizzling meat was put on top. They were garnished with a goodly amount of marinara sauce and decorated with some fresh basil.

grilled_ital_meatball_sandwiches_off_grill

There they are fresh off the grill, sizzling hot. Since I wasn’t doing the cooking, it was pretty easy for me to take ample photos. Some of us ate them with our hands – I ate it with a knife and fork. I knew some of that bright red, stain-worthy sauce would end up on my blouse.

What’s GOOD: loved everything about these. Partly because I hardly ever eat a sandwich of any kind these days. The meat was juicy; the mozzarella cheese gave it a nice oozy feel in the mouth. The sauce added lots of flavor, and then the fresh basil added a delicious fillip to each bite. This is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Not all that difficult  – make up the meatball mixture a few hours ahead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Italian Meatball Sub Sandwich

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from The Modern Proper food blog
Serving Size: 6

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound italian sausage — bulk ground (or use chicken Italian sausage)
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs — Italian style, flavored
1 large egg
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper — freshly ground
1 small focaccia — cut into 6 rectangular shapes (halved)
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices mozzarella cheese slices — use fresh style
1 1/4 cups marinara sauce — use a “good” brand
Fresh basil for garnish

1. Place the beef, sausage, parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, salt & pepper in a large bowl. It is important to not over mix the meat, so use your hands to combine the meatball ingredients. Once all ingredients are combined, roll into 1.5 inch balls, flatten them some so they’re kind of a flat oval and thread onto 4 skewers.
2. Preheat grill. When it’s hot, grease the grill (pour some oil onto a folded paper towel, grab with tongs and brush on the grates), then place the meatball skewers on the grill. Using tongs, rotate the meatballs until cooked through and evenly browned on all sides about 8-10 minutes total, depending on grill temperature.
3. Cut the baguette crosswise, split each piece horizontally and brush with olive oil. Place the bread face down in the grill. Flip the bread over when it is crispy and grill marks have appeared.
4. Top each baguette with mozzarella and wait for it to melt before removing it from the grill.
5. Place grilled meatballs onto the cheesy bread, drizzle with ample sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil.
Per Serving: 509 Calories; 33g Fat (59.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 135mg Cholesterol; 1207mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 251mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 616mg Potassium; 398mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on July 31st, 2019.

balsamic_grilled_chix_italian_street_corn

Corn is in season – get yourself some – and make this delicious topping for grilled chicken.

Remember, I went to a cooking class a week or so ago and came home with 3 chicken recipes. One more to go after this one. Phillis Carey did a riff on Mexican Street Corn, a recipe I have here on my blog. In this version she Italianized it with different herbs – she also cut it off the cobs and used it as a side/topping/relish.

The chicken breasts, cut and pounded to an even 1/2” thickness, are marinated in an Italian-style mixture with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and a little bit of brown sugar. Some of the marinade is removed and set aside to use on the chicken as it’s grilling. The chicken can be marinated for a max of 3 hours, but 30 minutes is fine too.

The corn – it’s grilled while it’s still on the cob – then cut off the cobs and mixed while it’s still slightly warm with olive oil, mayo, rosemary, thyme and some grated Parm. Meanwhile, the chicken gets grilled until just cooked through – don’t overcook it or no one will be happy – and serve with the corn mixture on top.

Easy. Delicious.

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

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Italian Herb Street Corn

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, July, 2019
Serving Size: 4

CHICKEN:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar — use Swerve brown sugar if possible
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
CORN:
3 corn on cob, whole
2 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary — minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — minced
3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
fresh salt and pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: cut chicken breasts in half, crosswise, then cut thicker end in half horizontally and pound to even thickness, about 1/2″. Combine balsamic, oil, sugar, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Season marinade with salt and pepper. Remove 1/4 cup marinade and set aside.
2. Add marinade, turning to coat well. Let stand at room temp for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 hours.
3. Preheat grill. Brush corn with 1 T olive oil and grill until charred over most of the surface. Remove and cut kernels off the cobs. Place corn in a bowl and once cooled some, add mayonnaise, herbs, Parm and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Remove chicken from marinade and grill, prettier side down, for 4 minutes. Turn over and grill for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through. Brush with reserved marinade during last 2 minutes of cooking. Serve with corn on top or each piece, or on the side.
Per Serving: 402 Calories; 25g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 129mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on July 23rd, 2019.

salsa_verde_chix_onion_relish

Bet you thought you wouldn’t hear from me again. Gotcha! Carolyn here. After attending a cooking class last night. Had to share a few recipes with you. There will be two more chicken recipes plus a dessert coming up in a bit.

That photo may not be the best representation – brown food never looks that photogenic – it’s a red onion (grilled) with Cotija cheese crumbled in it set atop a grilled (marinated) chicken breast. Oh gosh, was it good! Phillis Carey said we’d all likely want to have the whole bowl of onion relish. Yes. My hand would have poked in the air begging for an extra serving. There weren’t any leftovers at the class, alas. Hence I’m going to have to make this dish sometime soon.

What makes this is the onion relish, for sure, but the marinade gives the chicken lovely flavor and I know for sure the fresh lime juice squeezed over the top just before serving added a whole lot of extra piquancy. But I could have eaten several servings of the red onion relish.

So first you marinate the chicken in jarred (Trader Joe’s) salsa verde along with oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder and cumin. The chicken breasts were given the royal Phillis Carey treatment (she being the queen of the myriad uses of chicken breasts and the pounding of them). She has a new technique, however. Since so many chicken breasts are SO big, she first cuts each breast in half crosswise in about half. Note, crosswise, not lengthwise. The thinner end is probably already thin enough, you don’t need to pound it at all – if any, just the thicker end a tiny bit. The other piece she cuts horizontally in half which gives you two equally sized pieces and those two get pounded just slightly (put the pretty side down, cover with plastic wrap and gently pound to equal thickness). So each big chicken breast = 3 nice sized entrée serving pieces. And all will cook evenly.

The onions are oiled and grilled until soft and caramelized, then removed. They’re chopped up coarsely (see photo) and some of the reserved salsa is added plus some Cotija (a dry, Mexican style salty cheese, similar to Feta) that’s crumbled up into it. The chicken is grilled as well and taken off before they overcook. Some salsa is put on the flipped over side, then you serve it with the onion piled on top. Done. You’ll hear raves, I just know it. Oh, don’t forget the grilled lime half that you grill also and squeeze that over each person’s serving. Grilled limes look so pretty – let each person squeeze their own.

What’s GOOD: the onion relish, tender, juicy chicken, everything.

What’s NOT: nothing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file

Salsa Verde Chicken with Grilled Onion and Cotija Cheese Relish

Recipe By: Cooking class with Phillis Carey, July, 2019
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces salsa verde — Trader Joe’s, jarred, divided use
3 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves Salt and pepper to taste
2 whole red onions — cut in thick slices
2 whole limes — halved (for grilling)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano — chopped
1/2 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled (or use Romano, or Parmesan)

1. Remove 1 cup of salsa from the jar and set aside. Combine remaining salsa, 2 T. oil, lime juice, garlic chili powder and cumin.
2. Trim chicken and pound to an even thickness or about 1/2″. You’ll probably want to cut the chicken breast into 2 or even 3 pieces. Place chicken in non-reactive dish, season with salt and pepper to taste then pour the salsa mixture on top of the chicken, turning to coat the pieces well. Let stand at room temp for no more than 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours (no longer or the chicken will begin to “cook” in the acidic salsa).
3. Preheat grill. Brush sliced onions with oil and grill until soft and brown. Remove to a cutting board and stir in the 1/2 cup reserved salsa and the fresh oregano; set aside to cool and then toss in the Cotija cheese. Grill lime halves until browned to a medium color on the cut sides.
4. Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 4 minutes on the prettier side. Do NOT overcook. Turn over and spoon about 2 T. salsa on each chicken breast. Close lid and grill about 4 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve chicken topped with onion cheese relish and with a grilled lime half to be squeezed over the chicken.
Per Serving: 298 Calories; 12g Fat (36.9% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 69mg Cholesterol; 367mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on October 31st, 2018.

grilled_salmon_arugula_salad_tunisian_relish

A kind of a salmon salad, but hot salmon, cold relish with arugula or greens underneath.

Vividly, I recall the first time I ate a peppadew pepper. Oh my golly, was I in love. It was at a restaurant in San Diego, and for a week I was on a mission to find them, and eventually I did. Now they’re in lots of places, even Trader Joe’s. Mostly, now, I buy them at an olive bar in one of my local grocery stores because I don’t use them often enough to keep it stocked in my frig. Peppadews are sweet and piquant at the same time. They have little to no heat in them. They add a lovely surprise in your mouth. And they work perfectly with this salmon dish.

First you need to make the Tunisian relish – dried currants (or golden raisins work fine), soaked in hot water to plump them. A cup of green olives chopped (tart type, not ripe), a bunch of the peppadew peppers chopped up, some olive oil and sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and that’s it. Set that aside to marinate a little bit.

The salmon is marinated in some of the relish for half an hour then grilled. On the plate you combine the greens with the reserved marinade (serves as a dressing here) then divide the salmon amongst your serving plates, spoon any leftover marinade on top and sprinkle on the relish. A one dish meal in my book. From a class with Tarla Fallgatter.

What’s GOOD: the combination of the relish ingredients is sublime. You won’t need a huge serving of this (the salmon, I’m speaking of) because it is served as a salad – so you get some good salad stuff in there too. Loved it.

What’s NOT: nothing really – just the time to mix up the relish, I suppose. I think if you made more of it, it would keep for a week or so – to use on something else. For me, the peppadew peppers make this!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Salmon with Tunisian Relish

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter class, Sept. 2018
Serving Size: 6

MARINADE:
1 medium red bell pepper — roasted, peeled, seeded
1/2 cup dried currants — or golden raisins
7 ounces Peppadew peppers
1/4 cup juice from the jar of Peppadew peppers
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound salmon fillets
2 cups arugula — wild, or other “power greens”
TUNISIAN RELISH:
1/2 cup dried currants — or golden raisins
1 cup pitted green olives — chopped
1/2 cup Peppadew peppers — chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. MARINADE: Soak currants in equal quantity of hot water until plump, drain and transfer to a blender. Add roasted pepper, Peppadew peppers and their liquid and the olive oil. Puree. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. RELISH: Prepare and mix the relish ingredients rogether and set aside.
3. SALMON: Toss salmon with half the marinade and let rest 30 minutes. Grill until fork tender.
4. SALAD: Toss the arugula or greens with some of the marinade and divide among plates. Divde salmon into individual serving pieces and place on top of the arugula. Spoon some of the reserved marinade over the salmon, then sprinkle with the Tunisian Relish.
Per Serving: 451 Calories; 32g Fat (62.7% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 39mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on October 10th, 2018.

bbq_chix_south_african_style_chakalaka relish

Just another grilled chicken recipe, but with a South African twist.

The picture at right is Sarah Graham. A cookbook author, writer, and a host of two seasons of a cooking show on the Cooking Channel. She lives in South Africa, and what I loved about her show was the location – she filmed outside and off in the distance behind her outdoor kitchen, were wild animals. You might still be able to find her shows on reruns if you look up Sarah Graham’s Food Safari. When I was watching her show, it was just before and just after I went to Africa and did a couple of weeks of safaris (loved it). I do enjoy listening to South Africans with their very different English accents. So it was with Sarah Graham.

A few recipes from her shows got saved to my to-try file (recipes are still available at the Cooking Channel, I would assume), and this is one of them.

This post is lagging a bit behind – – I made this over Labor Day weekend when I decided I was not going to be sitting home on the holiday Monday doing nothing. So I invited a group of friends over (all widows) and we did a potluck dinner. One friend brought lovely Dutch cheeses and crackers. Another brought a delicious apple crumble pie; yet another a green salad, another a rice, green chile and cheese casserole, and lastly a cold broccoli salad. And I did the main dish (chicken) on the grill. Along with a very unusual relish (that mound of red stuff on the right on the plate at top).

labor_day_dinnerHere’s a photo of our group, from left: Annette, Judy, me, Judy and Mary Lou. Nancy took the photo. It was a gorgeous evening – we had been having lovely weather the last 2 weeks, gearing up, probably for blistering heat we usually have in September and October. I made strawberry gins – I should write up a post about that. My family (well, the ladies of my family) enjoyed them mostly in England, but we also found them in Paris and Florence also. So very refreshing. I found strawberry gin at my local “Total Wine,” but you might have to seek it out. You macerate a strawberry or two in a glass, add the strawberry gin, then top off with tonic. And lots of ice. Then wedge a strawberry on the rim of the glass, add a mint leaf and present!

So, back to the chicken. I’m going to post the relish tomorrow – so DO wait until you get that recipe before you make this. The relish is so unusual and different, but goes perfectly with the chicken. Anyway, the recipe indicates using a spatchcocked chicken (my Trader Joe’s has them fresh) or you can ask a butcher to cut it, or you can cut it yourself. You cut through the backbone (and remove it completely) and flatten out the bird so it can lay flat on the grill. You might have to nip a bit around the breast bone to get it to flatten out. I decided, actually, to cut the bird in half as I thought it would be easier for me to maneuver on the grill. It was a 5 pound bird I bought.

Marinate the chicken overnight – I used a big Ziploc bag – first I added in all the marinade ingredients – oil, balsamic, pourable honey, lemon juice, paprika, dry cilantro, cinnamon, garlic, fresh red chile, and a little jot of ketchup. The next morning I turned the bag over and squished the marinade around (it doesn’t make all that much). About 45 minutes before grilling, take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm a little bit. Meanwhile, fire up the grill.

You might find this hard to believe, but truly I’m a novice or an apprentice (but without a teacher) at the grill. You read this here before, my DH Dave was the grill meister in our house, and I merely told him what I needed him to do – cook to what temp and what the internal temp needed to be. He loved everything about mastering the grill techniques. Me, not so much. Because I’m alone now, when I have to manage or monitor what’s on the grill, I have to leave my guests – although every one of my friends understood why I was up and down checking on the chicken. No way did I want it to overcook!

What’s GOOD: really liked the flavor, and it was super-moist and tender. I first grilled it over high heat, then turned it down to medium and kept checking the internal temp. The skin charred well (see photo at top) but the chicken just below it was juicy.  The relish that went with it was a hit – it’s very unusual. The marinade did give the chicken some flavor, and cooking it with the lid down on the grill gave it some smoky flavor too. Likely you could bake this in the oven easily enough too. Yes, I’d make it again.

What’s NOT: nothing other than needing to start this the day before, to marinate the chicken.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

BBQ Chicken (South African)

Recipe By: Sarah Graham, Cooking Channel, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey — needs to be thin in order to dissolve in the marinade
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 green chile — seeded and chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 pounds whole chicken — spatchcocked or cut into 8 skin-on pieces

1. In a sealing plastic bag, mix together the ketchup, olive oil, balsamic, honey, lemon juice, paprika, dried cilantro, cinnamon, garlic, chiles and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
2. Add the chicken, squish it around, seal the bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight. Turn bag over at least once so the other side of the chicken is marinated as well.
3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.
4. Grill the chicken, lid down, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through, turning halfway and basting with extra sauce every 10 minutes. Thigh meat should register 160-165°F.
5. Serve immediately with a side salad and the chakalaka relish on the side. If you have fresh cilantro, sprinkle a little bit on top of the chicken. Cut serving sized pieces and plate it.
Per Serving: 680 Calories; 48g Fat (63.8% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 247mg Cholesterol; 283mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Gundry-friendly, lectin-free, Pork, on September 28th, 2018.

pork_skewers_souvlaki

Delicious, tender pork grilled on the outdoor barbecue, with a Greek influence.

Every so often I have to do some blog housekeeping, to transfer photos to CDs for long-term storage. (Although I hear that sometime in the not too distant future, we’re no longer going to be able to buy CDs, since that’s old-school now). Since I’ve been writing this blog for 11 years, I have a LOT of CDs filled with my food photos. Way too much to keep on my hard drive. At any rate, I was working on that this morning and realized that I hadn’t posted 3 recipes. So I’m fixing that now.

I’d invited friends over for dinner – this was back in early July, and my friend Cherrie’s husband took over as grill meister for me, and I told him whatever he did, not to cook these past 140°F. He was meticulous and brought them in and I snapped the photo. The recipe came from a post over at Kalyn’s Kitchen. I followed her recipe to the letter.

First I cubed up the pork (I bought a roast rather than pork chops as I wanted to make sure the cubes were thick enough), then I put the cubes into a Ziploc bag with all of the marinade ingredients. What is souvlaki,  you ask: from Wikipedia, it says – Souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It is usually eaten straight off the skewer while still hot. Greek marinades usually start with olive oil, then include a variety of herbs (usually dried oregano) and garlic for sure. This one uses lemon juice as the acid and also includes a tad of red wine vinegar. That was left to sit for 24 hours – although Kalyn said this could sit just 6 hours to work its magic. Do turn the bag over a few times so all the pork pieces are coated in the marinade.

The cooking time is short – max 15 minutes, as the pork is very lean and can go from juicy to dry in a matter of less than a minute. So watch the temp. I’d grill these at the low side of medium-high heat if you’re able to fine-tune your grill that way. Allow the pork to sit, tented in foil for about 5 minutes before serving. I served this with the Cauliflower Slaw I posted recently. It was a perfect accompaniment to the pork.

What’s GOOD: loved the Greek lemon juice and garlic flavors in this. Plus the oregano too. Easy to do for guests, as long as you have time to manage the grilling.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of – just don’t overcook them.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pork Skewers Souvlaki

Recipe By: Kalyn’s Kitchen
Serving Size: 5

2 1/2 pounds boneless pork sirloin chops
2 tablespoons EVOO — for brushing kabobs right before grilling
MARINADE:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic — finely minced
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut pork chops or pork loin roast into cubes about 2 inches square and place in Ziploc bag.
2. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over meat. Crush the oregano between your palms as you add it to the marinade. Marinate in refrigerator for 6-24 hours. Turn the bag several times so all the surfaces of the meat sit in the marinade.
3. When you’re ready to cook, drain the pork cubes in a colander, place in the sink while you preheat grill to high heat.
4. Thread meat on to skewers, pressing meat closely together so it doesn’t spin on the grill. (Double Kabob Skewers or thick blade skewers are great if you can find them.)
5. When grill is hot, brush kabobs with olive oil on both sides, place Souvlaki skewers on grill and reduce heat to medium-high.
6. Grill skewers, turning as soon as you see grill marks on each, until the Souvlaki is very well browned on all sides. This will take about 15 minutes total cooking time, but actual cooking time depends on the temperature of the meat, temperature of your grill, the air temperature and exactly how thick you cut the pork. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check that the pork has reached 140°F for barely pink in the middle.
6. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes after you remove from the grill, then serve hot.
Per Serving: 553 Calories; 40g Fat (66.0% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 134mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 4th, 2018.

greek_marinated_skirt_steak

Have you joined the fans clamoring for skirt steak? It’s relatively inexpensive, as steak goes, but it does require careful grilling and it needs to be sliced thin as it’s a more-chewy cut of meat.

My favorite steak is ribeye. That’s no secret if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time. I haven’t had a steak for awhile – once in a blue moon I do make one for myself – and it’s very satisfying, I must admit. When my DH was alive, we’d have a steak every 2-4 weeks, for sure. Dave love-loved them. And he had perfected the cooking of them on the outdoor grill. My poor barbecue doesn’t get much of a workout with just me these days. We’ve had a really hot and muggy summer here in SoCal. Hotter earlier than usual, and more muggy than usual. So I don’t tend to go outdoors in the early evening as it’s just too uncomfortable. So this recipe would fit perfectly into that routine since it can be done on an indoor grill.

This skirt steak (also called flap meat in some grocery stores – it’s a boneless portion of the diaphragm muscle attached to the 6th through 12th ribs on the underside of the short plate) does need to be marinated for at least 8 hours, or overnight if you can make the time to do it. That helps tenderize the rather chewy cut of meat. And in case you’ve never done a skirt steak, when you buy it, it’s a big, long piece of meat, relatively thin and very grainy when you look at it. Do cut it up into manageable pieces before marinating and then grilling them.

This marinade is heavy in the oil component. It needs it here, although when you’re done, that marinade gets thrown out anyway. Combine the ingredients in a plastic Ziploc bag, and turn the meat a few times to coat everything well. Then seal it up and stick it in the frig until later.

Make the garlic yogurt sauce – it’s easy to do – Phillis Carey (this came from a class with her) prefers regular yogurt, not Greek, but I think I’d use Greek. She said you could, it’s just that the sauce will be much thicker. Do make it several hours ahead too, so the garlic and lemon juice will mix and flavor all the yogurt. Chill it until you’re ready to serve it – can be made the day before if you want.

INDOOR GRILLING:

Use your indoor grill pan and place a piece of heavy-duty foil on top. Oil it and grill as usual. Easy cleanup.

Now, the grilling. I was so impressed – Phillis discovered that you can save all the cleanup of an indoor grill by covering the top with foil – you just lay the foil on top – don’t press it in/on it. Spray or brush the foil with some of the oil from the marinade – try to get just the oil, not the lemon juice part. Or, barring that, just spray with olive oil spray. Pick up the meat pieces with tongs and just let them drain for 5-10 seconds (over the open bag) then place on the pre-heated grill. You’ll be so surprised – the meat gets grill marks just as if it’s right on the pan itself. This meat, however, only wants to be grilled for 3-5 minutes per side. The meat shrinks up something fierce – you might think that 2-3 pounds of skirt steak would feed 10 people, but NO, it shrinks a lot. In case you don’t know, skirt steak is quite fatty – you can’t SEE the fat very much – but enter the meat into any nutrition info and you’ll find that it’s very fatty. Sad to say . . . but it’s full of flavor. More flavor than regular steaks, it’s true.

Let the meat sit, tented with foil, for about 5 minutes once you’ve taken it off the grill then use tongs and a sharp knife and cut it across the grain into thin slices. Pile it onto a heated platter and serve with some of the garlic yogurt sauce drizzled over it, and serve the remaining in a bowl to pass at the table. Or, as I suggested a few days ago, serve this steak with the BLT Salad with Grilled Corn and Buttermilk Parm Dressing.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first of all. Easy to do, easy marinade, easy grilling – just watch it carefully and don’t overcook it – served medium-rare at most (cooking it further may make the meat more tough).

What’s NOT: really nothing except watching the grilling carefully.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Greek-Marinated Skirt Steak with Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Recipe By: Cooking class, Phillis Carey, 2018
Serving Size: 6

2 1/2 pounds skirt steak
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)
MARINADE:
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
YOGURT SAUCE:
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt — full fat (may use Greek, but it will be thick)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. STEAK: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, herbs, salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag. Mix well, then add the skirt steak(s), turning to coat well. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. SAUCE: mash the garlic with the salt into a paste. Stir the garlic into the yogurt along with lemon juice.Cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead.
3. Preheat grill. If using an indoor grill, place a piece of heavy-duty almuminum foil on top of the grill and oil it. Remove steak from refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking time. Using tongs, remove steak from marinade and let it drain for 10-15 seconds (over the bag), then place on grill for 3-5 minutes per side for medium rare (depends on the thickness of the meat), then let meat rest on a cutting board, tented with foil, for 5 minutes before slicing thinly on the diagonal (across the grain). Mound meat on a heated platter, drizzle with some of the yogurt sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve remaining sauce on the table.
Per Serving (assumes you’re consuming all the marinade, which you don’t): 694 Calories; 57g Fat (74.6% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 727mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, Salads, on June 14th, 2018.

ahi_bowl_citrus_rice_spinach

Healthy, easy, refreshing for a summer evening.

A post from daughter Sara . . .

As I’ve started watching my diet a bit, I find myself looking for flavorful, yet easy dinner dishes.  This is a true match for the easy and healthy.  I had my first Ahi Bowl at a restaurant called The Fish District in San Diego, CA (near where I live).  The crisp veggies with warm rice and fish make this a wonderful summer dish. I love the combination of sweet teriyaki with the nose-burning touch of wasabi sauce.  I cook the Ahi outside on the side burner of my grill (well actually, my husband does – I’m banned from the grill as I apparently don’t clean it correctly!)  This is my own at home version.

With blackened seasoning to go on the fish, and julienned veggies to fix, I can bring this dinner together in about 20-25 minutes. With a bottle of teriyaki sauce to drizzle and a squirt of wasabi sauce (don’t use the pure wasabi) it’s so easy to just make a big platter with everything on it (rice on the side) and everyone can take what they want from the platter. For me, it’s no rice, but my family loves the lemony rice to go along side. Everyone loves it! And by the way, I buy my Ahi at Wal-Mart. I’ve found it to be really fresh. I buy it in a big pack and stick it in the freezer, then defrost what I need (one small steak per person, usually).

What’s GOOD: my family particularly loves lemon rice (which I make to serve with other things too), and they like ahi. We all do, and we can pick what we want to eat on the “bowl” with, or without rice. I use spinach only instead of rice. Easy dinner and healthy too.

What’s NOT: nothing really – maybe only the time it takes to julienne the carrots and cucumber. Otherwise, it’s such a cinchy-easy dinner to prepare. Be sure to not overcook the ahi – you want it bright red in the middle.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ahi Bowls

Recipe By: Sara C
Serving Size: 4

1 pound ahi tuna — (4 oz filets) seasoned with blackened spices
CITRUS RICE:
1 cup white rice
1/2 cup lemon juice zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups water salt to taste
SALAD:
1 cup carrots — julienned
1 cup cucumbers — julienned
pickled ginger — (optional)
1 whole avocado — sliced
1/2 cup cilantro
4 cups fresh spinach
Terriaki Sauce
Wasabi Sauce (not straight wasabi)

1. Using outdoor grill, rub grill lightly with oil (use tongs and a saturated, folded square of paper towel), then place ahi over high heat until grill marks appear. Turn ahi over and repeat. Do not cook for more than about 45 seconds on each side – you want grill marks on the outside but the ahi to be rare/raw in the middle. Remove to a cutting board and cut across the grain into this slices. Quickly serve while it’s still hot.
2. If preferred, use a very large platter and place salad ingredients in decorative piles, with ahi in the middle. Serve rice on the side. For each serving, place rice and/or salad on bottom of bowl. Arrange each veggie separately around edge of bowl. Place just-off-the-grill sliced Ahi in center. Sprinkle cilantro on top. Drizzle with terriaki and wasabi sauce.
Per Serving: 438 Calories; 9g Fat (26.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 115mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on June 4th, 2018.

grilled_flank_steak_onions_ancho_chili_rub

Is it hard to see what’s in that photo? Grilled sweet onions on the left, a nice pile of thinly sliced, grilled flank steak, then a creamy horseradish sauce with onion.

I can’t say that flank steak is one of my favorites. Although you can make it tender with a marinade (this one wasn’t marinated for tenderness, just spice rubbed for flavor), it’s tricky to do just the right amount of tenderizing without the meat becoming mushy. If you’ve ever had mushy meat, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This steak was served at a great cooking class with Phillis Carey, and although I love-loved the flavor of this combination, I think I’d do the same rendition but with ribeyes instead of flank. Or maybe with a nice piece of sirloin, sliced thin. By far, the onions were my favorite part (sweet onions grilled with a spice rub on them too) and I lapped up the horseradish spiked mayo sauce with every bite of meat.

This sauce, what Phillis called an Onion Blossom Horseradish Sauce (she was mimicking the jarred Orange Blossom Horseradish Sauce, is it made by Rothschild?) and it’s really good, and very easy. It needs a few hours to combine the flavors – do NOT just make the sauce as you’re preparing the meat – it needs at least an hour to meld. It wouldn’t hurt the meat to be spice rubbed at the same time then kept chilled until ready to grill.

You used to not be able to find ancho chili powder in stores, but you can these days, so do seek it out. The rub comes together very easily with standard ingredients in most spice cabinets. The rub is used on both the steak and the onions, with you having tossed the onions with some olive oil first so the rub will stick to it. You’ll use most of the rub on the steak and the remainder on the onions.

The flank steak is rubbed all over with oil just before grilling for 7-9 minutes per side (no more than that or it will be overcooked). Once grilled, transfer the steak to a cutting board and tent it with foil for 8-10 minutes, then slice thinly on the diagonal and pile it onto a heated platter along side the onions and then drape the sauce over the top. Delicious!

What’s GOOD:  the flavors are marvelous. I particularly loved the onions, but then I love grilled onions. Just remember to buy the sweet ones and slice them thickly. Do slice the flank steak thinly across the grain and pile them onto a serving plate (looks pretty that way).

What’s NOT: the meat will be a bit chewy – some folks like steak that way (me not so much). Otherwise, this is a stellar recipe – you’ll need only a green salad to complete the meal.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Flank Steak and Onions with Ancho Chili Rub

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 4

SAUCE:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. ketchup
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika — or regular paprika
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 Pinch cayenne pepper
STEAK:
2 T. ancho chili powder
2 T. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. flank steak — (1 to 2 1/2)
2 large sweet onions — peeled and sliced in thick rings
Grapeseed oil for brushing

1. For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 days.
2. Preheat the grill. In a small bowl combine the ancho chili, cumin, coriander, mustard, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl to make the rub. Pat dry the flank steak with paper towels and coat well with most of the rub. Sprinkle onions with some of the rub as well; brush or toss onions with a bit of oil.
3. Brush the flank steak with oil all over and place on the grill. Cook the steak 7 to 9 minutes per side or to desired doneness; cook the onions next to the steak. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest, tented with foil, for 8 to 10 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve steak with onions and drizzled with sauce.
Per Serving: 447 Calories; 36g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 1277mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 10th, 2017.

top_sirloin_cheesy_herb_sauce

Plenty of flavor here, and you just won’t believe how easy the cheese sauce is.

At a recent cooking class, the instructor, Susan, said she prefers top sirloin steak to any other kind. So I had to stop and think . . . when I first met my DH, he wouldn’t even try anything else except top sirloin. I thought it was too chewy and sometimes tough. Eventually, I lured him to ribeye (my favorite) and he never went back. When we’d have Sunday night family dinners (mandatory for the teenage kids to be home) we often had a big one that Dave did on the grill. His favorite way was with Bearnaise sauce on the side, but for me, that sauce was a lot of work to make, and sometimes it failed, so I gave up on that. But oh, THIS sauce. You won’t believe it!! It’s nothing but a container (or two) of Boursin or Rondele cheese, very gently heated until its melted. That’s IT!

But, there’s one other unusual item in this steak preparation – it’s marinated with oil, balsamic vinegar and a little bit of FIG PRESERVES. Interesting, huh? The marinade doesn’t penetrate the meat very much, but it does leave a little residual of the fig on the outside, and that gets nicely caramelized when it’s grilled. Altogether delicious. This steak is so cinchy easy, you won’t believe it. The key to the meat is cutting it into thin slices – I’d probably slice it even thinner than shown above – that way if there are any tougher bits, they’re manageable. Or, you could certainly make this with a ribeye, New York, filet mignon, or even flank steak. I’d put a tenderizer on the flank, but the others don’t need it.

Once the steak is off the grill and resting for a few minutes, heat the cheese and pour onto the individual servings. Or, you could serve it on the side. The sauce is not overwhelming at all – you might think it would be, but no. Altogether delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy this meal is to make – marinating for a couple of hours, draining, grilling, then melting the cheese. How much easier could it be?

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Top Sirloin Balsamico with Garlic-Herb-Cheese Sauce

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan Vollmer, 2017
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fig preserves
1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak — or ribeye
6 1/2 ounces Boursin cheese — garlic-herb type or Rondele

1. Process vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and fig preserves in a blender until smooth. Place in a ziploc plastic bag. Add steak and squish it well so all the steak is covered. Refrigerate for 2 hours (more isn’t needed).
2. Remove steaks from marinade, drain on paper towels, and discard marinade.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high and grill steak for 5-7 minutes per side, until it reaches about 125°F, for medium rare. Remove steak and allow to rest about 5-7 minutes, loosely covered in foil.
4. Place cheese in a small saucepan and VERY gently heat it until it’s hot.
5. With a sharp knife, cut steak across the grain in about 1/4″ thick slices. Nap the slices on serving plates and drizzle each with some of the cheese sauce.
Per Serving: 670 Calories; 54g Fat (71.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 152mg Cholesterol; 414mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...