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 easy, Grilling, Pork, on September 22nd, 2023.

Easy, easy dry rub, air dried/marinated in the frig, then grilled.

Always, I’m on the lookout for a new way to do pork tenderloin. I was hosting a big family birthday party recently. Karen brought salmon, and her pistachio cole slaw, Karen’s mom brought a veggie platter, Sara brought a blueberry lemon layer cake and I filled in the rest with this pork and a big huge salad platter (see below).

This recipe for the pork came out of Southern Living a few months ago. Once you prepare the dry rub (brown sugar, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard) you plop the tenderloins into a Ziploc bag with the rub. Toss it around a bit, let it sit for a few minutes, toss again, then the tenderloins are placed on a rack on a sheetpan (I used the smaller one) and they marinate in the refrigerator (yes, open, no covering) for 8-12 hours. What happens in that time is the outside of the pork hardens a bit and absorbs all of the dry rub.

When my family comes I almost always assign the grilling duty to my son Powell, or Sara’s husband John. I think they both worked at it – cooking the salmon and grilling the pork. The pork was grilled for 8-10 minutes I’m guessing (I wasn’t at the grill so don’t have an exact number), turning them occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 140°F. If you remove the pork then, let it sit a few minutes and it rises to 145°F, which is what you want it to be. As you can see, the two guys cooked it perfectly.

I wish I’d made some kind of salsa or condiment to go with it – like balsamic onion marmalade, green tomatillo salsa, or pineapple salsa, strawberry salsa, tomato jam, parsley sauce, chimichurri perhaps, or mango chutney. It was fine plain, and we had plenty of food, but knowing my family, it would have been nice if I’d had something to go with it. Just sayin’.

There’s the salad platter I served with it. I cut Romaine in quarters (the ones from Trader Joe’s are smaller and manageable). There are nine wedges of Romaine in the center. Then green beans that I dressed with some of the vinaigrette at the last minute, halved hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and some pomegranate seeds sprinkled over it all. I drizzled everything (except the eggs) with my old-favorite, creamy garlic blue cheese vinaigrette (that I made with Gorgonzola this time). There was nothing left on the platter except a few green beans.

What’s GOOD: oh, how easy this was – made the pork rub in the morning, marinated it for 5 minutes, then it chilled in the frig all day. Easy to grill – just don’t let it go too long, remove it at 140°F. Delicious. The smoky flavor comes from the smoked paprika, which was really nice, I thought. It wasn’t overly sweet at all, though on the pieces you ate with the outside edge, you could taste the brown sugar just a bit. Very good. I’d make it again – just with a salsa or sauce with it. The salad platter was SO easy too – I cooked the green beans the day before and made the dressing. The hard boiled eggs were done in my Instant Pot that morning and chilled. It took about 5 minutes to cut the Romaine wedges, dress everything and arrange on the platter. So easy and a pretty presentation to boot!

What’s NOT: hmm. Nothing that I can think of, other than you need to start this in the morning before grilling in the evening.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Smoky Rub

Recipe: Southern Living May 2023
Servings: 5-6

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 pounds pork tenderloin — about 1 lb each
1 tablespoon canola oil

1. Marinate pork tenderloins: Place a wire rack inside a medium-sized rimmed baking sheet, and set aside. Whisk together brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and ground mustard in a small bowl. Pour sugar mixture into a gallon-size Ziploc plastic bag, add pork, and seal well. Shake bag until pork is coated. Let stand 5 minutes; shake bag again to coat pork. Remove pork from bag, and transfer to prepared rack; discard sugar mixture if any remains. Refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 12 hours.
2. Preheat grill to medium high (400°F to 450°F). Remove pork from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Gently brush pork with oil (do not brush off dry rub).
3. Grill: Place pork on oiled grates; grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest portion of pork registers 140°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from grill; let stand 15 minutes. (Temperature will rise to 145°F.) Slice and serve.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 9g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 118mg Cholesterol; 2876mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 28mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 752mg Potassium; 447mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Pork, Veggies/sides, on July 21st, 2023.

There are SO many recipes out there in the ‘verse for meatloaf. How do you choose?

My friend Dianne and I hosted a PEO fundraising event awhile back and did a menu from Erin French’s cookbook, The Lost Kitchen. I already posted the cocktail we made, the Cider & Rosemary Prosecco Cocktail, and in the photo for the cocktail was a cute little board with the whole menu on it. Here’s the next set of recipes.

We’re talkin’ meatloaf here. So, can I say this meatloaf is all that different from others? Well, yes and no. What’s different: quite a lot of carrots, a lot of shallots, pecorino cheese (that’s certainly different!) and more than a usual amount of bread cubes. Listening to podcasts, or reading articles about meatloaf, more and more chefs reveal that they use a lot of bread in their meatloaf – because it makes it tender. I don’t think my mother used any bread or breadcrumbs in her meatloaf. I might have used a little bit in my old tried and true meatloaf. Hence my old standby is kind of a firm, very firm chunk of meat. I definitely like this better, despite not really wishing I have to add carbs to make it tender. But hey, if it tastes better, then yes, I guess I’ll have to incorporate this into recipes from now on.

Erin suggested a variety of sides to choose from (including just mashed potatoes) but I thought the parsnips would be a different side not many people would make themselves. Many of our guests had NEVER had parsnips before – some didn’t even know what they looked like. They’re shaped like big carrots, but they’re a kind of off-white color. They’re quite hard to cut, but become tender when they cook. They’re naturally sweet – not as sweet as sweet potatoes, but still they have a lot of natural sugar in them. Trader Joe’s carries them now and then – I guess when they’re in season. Particularly around the holidays.

The glaze on the meatloaf is a ketchup based one (with brown sugar and Dijon added). I love the topping – wanted some of it with every bite. And I wanted a bit of parsnips with every bite too. Make plenty – you’ll be surprised how well it goes with meatloaf.

All of our guests raved about both dishes and wanted the recipes. We got to talking about meatloaf and many at our table had their own little twists that became family favorites. It was decided that next year Dianne and I are going to do a meatloaf cook-off. She’s going to make two types and I’m going to make two types (all four of them different) and we’ll have sides and a dessert. Maybe we’ll include Ina Garten’s turkey meatloaf in the mix too — not sure. It’s excellent, but I think we’d be comparing apples and oranges to choose between and try to compare a beef/pork meatloaf with a turkey one.

Really, I loved Erin’s Dad’s meatloaf. It WAS very tender, and tasty from the added carrots, shallots and Pecorino  – and the bread! The recipe below makes two big loaf pans of it – you could easily halve it, though. I’m sure portions would freeze easily, however! And the parsnips were a big hit. I have loved parsnips ever since I first tried them in England many years ago. They’re a standard side dish in British cuisine. You don’t have to do much to them to make them delicious – this with butter and heavy cream. Yummy.

What’s GOOD: Loved the meatloaf and the parsnips. The additions in the meatloaf make for a very tender loaf – more tender than usual. And the parsnips are such a lovely sweet surprise. And they go so well with meatloaf. Both recipes are keepers.

What’s NOT: the meatloaf does take a bit of prep (you could use a food processor to hasten the process) but so worth it. Parsnips are a cinch.

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

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Erin French’s Dad’s Meatloaf

Recipe By: Erin French, The Lost Kitchen Cookbook
Servings: 10

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup pecorino cheese — grated
2 cups bread cubes — (1/2-inch-diced) such as sourdough
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 twists pepper — (pepper grinder style)
SAUCE:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, add all meatloaf ingredients and mix with your hands until combined. Do NOT overmix it! Divide the mixture between two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans and set aside.
3. For the glaze, in a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, ketchup, and mustard. Brush the top of each meatloaf with a thick coat of the glaze. Transfer to the oven and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the middle registers 150 degrees F, about 45 minutes.
4. Let the meatloaves rest for 10 to 15 minutes, unmold, cut into slices, and serve. Ideally, serve with parsnip puree on the side.
Per Serving: 340 Calories; 15g Fat (38.7% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 125mg Cholesterol; 797mg Sodium; 17g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 71mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 576mg Potassium; 298mg Phosphorus.

. . .

* Exported from MasterCook *

Parsnip Puree

Recipe By: Erin French, The Lost Kitchen Cookbook
Servings: 8

3 pounds parsnips — peeled, roughly chopped
Salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream — warmed

1. Put parsnips in medium saucepan, add cold water to cover, and seasonw ith salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the water simmers, and cook until just fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Drain parsnips and transfer to a food processor. Add butter and pulse until melted. Pour in cream and process until very smooth. Taste and add salt if needed, though if your cooking water is well seasoned, you probably won’t need more. Serve immediately or keep warm in a double boiler. Can also be made a day ahead and reheated in the microwave oven – be sure the center of the mound of parsnips is hot.
Per Serving: 229 Calories; 12g Fat (43.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 22mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 73mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 654mg Potassium; 131mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on March 31st, 2023.

There aren’t a lot of pasta recipes on this blog – but here is one.

A post from Carolyn. It isn’t that I don’t like pasta – I do. But I do my best not to eat it, or to limit it, for sure. Because of the carbs. But in this case, I’d read about a new pasta that’s sold online, Fiber Gourmet, using a technique for making pasta a resistant starch.

Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. As the fibers ferment they act as a prebiotic and feed the good bacteria in the gut. When starches are digested they typically break down into glucose. Because resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine, it doesn’t raise glucose.

It means also that less of the carb is absorbed into the body, hence reducing its calorie and carb count. Sweet potatoes are a resistant starch. So are plantains. And cooked and cooled rice is one. Here’s a photo of the box of this penne. Note that this is an 8-ounce box. I cooked the whole box, but I’m certain I’ll get about 5 servings out of it. If you’re a hearty eater, probably not, but I ate small portions. That means it’s not all that “bad” for me. Loved that I could have some pasta and not feel guilty about it.

I’ll include the nutrition info about this also. They offer several different pasta shapes, including one that’s like orzo, though they call it rice. It’s not, it’s pasta. I bought the variety box. This stuff is expensive, but considering I’ll get 5 servings out of that 8 ounces, I’m willing to pay the premium.

You know those days when you have something in the frig you need to use (Italian sausage) but don’t want to run to the grocery store to buy food to go with it, and so you raid the frig and pantry for other things (frozen peas, arugula, cream, and an onion from the pantry). That’s how this pasta came to be. I sizzled onion in some butter and EVOO, then added garlic (lots), then crumbled Italian sausage and let that cook a bit. Meanwhile I boiled the pasta – let me share a bit about that. Eh what? Boiling pasta? Yes. This pasta suggested a cooking time of 15-17 minutes, far longer than a normal penne. I began checking at 9 minutes. Uh, nope, still very underdone. Added another 3 minutes. Still underdone. I drained it at about 12-13 minutes because I knew I’d be cooking it just a bit more in the pan.

I added a raw egg to the hot, drained pasta (kind of a carbonara thing going), then mixed it in with the sausage mixture to which I’d added the peas and arugula. I’d also added a bit of cream too. Heated that through, served it and garnished with some grated Pecorino cheese. A swift move to my table and I gobbled it down. Yum.

What’s GOOD: just because I was making and eating pasta was a treat for me. Loved it. Now, is this sausage sauce a standout above many others? Perhaps not. I have some great pasta on my blog. This one won’t be getting extra high marks, but it was GOOD. I liked it a lot. It was easy, which I liked. The fact that this is a resistant starch made it all the better for me. I liked the firm-to-the-tooth texture – like regular pasta. I’ll be buying this pasta again, for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing really. It was not labor intensive, certainly something I’d be willing to make again, especially with this new resistant starch pasta.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Penne with Sausage, Peas and Arugula

Recipe By: My own combination
Servings: 4

1 tablespoon EVOO
1 tablespoon butter
1 whole yellow onion — minced
3 cloves garlic — minced
8 ounces Italian sausage — casings removed
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
1 pinch red chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup frozen peas
2 cups fresh arugula — chopped, or fresh spinach
8 ounces pasta — penne, or other pasta of your choice
1 large egg — beaten with a fork
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — shredded

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you prepare the sauce.
2. In a large skillet add oil and butter over medium-high. When it begins to sizzle, add onion. Reduce heat to medium and saute until onion is fully translucent. Add garlic and cook for about one minute only. Add sausage meat in small pieces and continue to cook until meat has lost all of its pink color. Add Italian herb blend, salt and pepper to taste and red chili flakes.
3. Add pasta to the pot of water and begin a timer so you don’t overcook the pasta. Under cook the pasta by about a minute as you will continue to cook it in the pan for a few minutes later.
4. To the meat mixture add heavy cream and stir as the mixture warms. Add the peas and arugula and stir well.
5. Drain the pasta and pour it onto the top of the sausage mixture. Add the well-beaten egg to the pasta and stir it gently until the egg has fully been incorporated into the pasta. Then gently mix the pasta into the sausage mixture.
6. Spoon portions onto heated plates and garnish with the grated cheese. if you have fresh basil, add some on top.
Per Serving: 663 Calories; 37g Fat (50.3% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 136mg Cholesterol; 742mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 405mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 394mg Potassium; 451mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Appetizers, Pork, on June 19th, 2022.

Another recipe from the wine tasting event last month. So good.

A post from Carolyn. So there’s a little story to go along with this recipe. If you’ll recall, the wine tasting event (a fundraiser for my PEO chapter) at my house was kind of a Spanish wine and tapas affair. Not strictly, but mostly. First we had a Spanish sangria made with a cava rose wine. I have yet to post that recipe . . . and Lois made these wonderful appetizer meatballs, among other Spanish tidbits we served.

Just so you know, there’s a difference between Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo. The Spanish variety is more like cured sausage – it IS a cured, dry sausage. I’d found the recipe online and gave the recipe to Lois. I’d cautioned her to make sure she bought Spanish chorizo which would require cutting the sausage into tiny little (dry) cubes and incorporating them into the meatball mixture. I recommended Lois go to Whole Foods, as I knew they (usually) have Spanish chorizo. She went to the specialty meat counter and pointed to the chorizo in the case and asked the butcher if it was Spanish chorizo. My guess is the butcher was Hispanic, and thought she was asking if it was “Mexican” chorizo, although she said “Spanish.” Semantics. Perhaps he didn’t know there was a difference. So she bought Mexican chorizo (which is a raw meat product) and made these wonderful meatballs.

Meaning that these meatballs weren’t authentically Spanish, but a Mexican version. I didn’t know how they’d turn out . . . but I can categorically say they were fantastic. Everyone loved them. So did I! It’s not as if the recipe was wrong, or bad, just that we didn’t cleave to the original. We all laughed about it. The blog where the recipe originated is written by a young couple who live in Spain and all their recipes are authentic (and in English).

There are two parts to the recipe – the meatballs (ground pork and chorizo) and a tomato based sauce (with smoked paprika) that is spooned over the top of the hot, cooked meatballs. If these were served in a tapas bar in Spain, they’d probably be warm, not piping hot. They might even be at room temp (not a good thing bacteria-wise). We served them hot (picture at top) with toothpicks.

If you wanted to make these into a meal, serve with a side veg, and some Spanish rice version of some kind. And maybe a green salad.

What’s GOOD: these were really delicious. Not authentically Spanish, but very tasty. Very much worth making.

What’s NOT: only that you should seek out good quality chorizo. NOT the kind from your local grocery store as it’s usually very fatty and you don’t really know what’s in it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spanish Meatballs

Recipe By: adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 12

MEATBALLS:
3 tablespoons EVOO
2/3 pound Mexican chorizo
2/3 pound ground pork
1 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
SAUCE:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — finely chopped
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 whole bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine — or dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth — or vegetable stock
14 ounces crushed tomatoes — or diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves — chopped, a few larger pieces for decoration

1. MEATBALLS: Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of the EVOO. When it’s hot, add the chorizo and sauté to release the fat, for 5 minutes or until the meat turns a darker, golden color. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent.
2. Add the garlic and sauté together until aromatic (about 1 or 2 minutes). Take off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ground pork, breadcrumbs, paprika, thyme leaves, egg, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, garlic, and chorizo and mix until well-combined.
4. Wet your fingers lightly with water, then roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Makes about 30.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place meatballs on two parchment-lined large sheetpans, leaving space in between each one. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. SAUCE: place a separate saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Sauté the diced onion until translucent, then add the garlic and paprika. Continue to sauté for a further two minutes, until the aromas are strong.
7. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes until the wine is reduced. Add the chicken broth, as well as the tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches a sauce-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
8. To serve, garnish the meatballs with tomato sauce and fresh parsley. Both meatballs and sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat meatballs and sauce separately and proceed as above.
Per Serving: 196 Calories; 13g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 368mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 37mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 305mg Potassium; 120mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Pork, Veggies/sides, on May 20th, 2022.

An easy, easy dinner for two. Sheetpan suppers are just the best!

A post from Carolyn.  I’d bought some fresh chicken sausages (with jalapeno in them) and was contemplating what I’d do with them, and since I also had asparagus, zucchini and sweet potatoes, a recipe was born. Many years ago I started buying a seasoning packet from Urban Accents. They had (and still do have) several varieties, but my favorite is the one for vegetables. You can buy their packets on amazon. See photo at right. The one I used was the middle one with Parmesan in it. Each bag or box of these has several smaller packets inside – I used one packet for the sheet pan’s worth of food. You could use pork sausages in this rendition too – Italian would be perfect. I was trying to go a more healthy route with the chicken.

I have a chart I downloaded from the ‘net about how long it takes to roast just about every kind of vegetable. The sweet potatoes would take the longest. And the sausages too. I tossed them with some EVOO and they went into a 425°F oven. After 20 minutes, I took out the pan and added the zucchini, also oiled with EVOO and sprinkled with seasoning. It went back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then I added the oiled asparagus and the rest of the seasoning and baked again for another 10 minutes – I checked the veggies and they needed another 5 minutes and everything was done. It might depend on how thick the asparagus was, and how thickly you cut the zucchini.

If you wanted something to serve with the sausages – try a variety of mustards (hot, sweet, stone ground) or some salsa, or marinara sauce, or mix up a little bit of sour cream with a little speck of horseradish in it. What can I tell you? This was so easy to make and it was SO delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was to put together on the sheetpan and it cooked in less than an hour. All the veggies were perfectly cooked – crisp tender veggies- and the sausage just right. Love the Urban Accents seasoning to put on it all. Do buy some if you don’t already have it in your pantry (amazon link above).

What’s NOT: only that you need to have some of that seasoning on hand. I always do have it.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sheetpan Chicken Sausages with Veggies

Recipe By: My own recipe
Serving Size: 3

1 pound fresh chicken sausage — links, fresh, not pre-cooked type, or substitute pork sausages if desired
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 medium zucchini
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 packet Urban Accents Veggie Roaster seasonings

NOTE: many butchers now make various chicken sausages with flavors like jalapeno, Italian, Thai, spinach/feta, garlic, spicy Mexican, or with cheese and flavoring. You do not want pre-cooked sausage for this sheetpan dinner as they would be overcooked.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with a baking mat or with foil.
2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes in chunky half rounds. Cut the ends off the zucchini and cut into chunky rounds or half rounds, depending on how big around they are. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.
3. Place the sausages and sweet potatoes on the sheet pan. Drizzle with EVOO and toss around to cover them in oil. Bake for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pan, add the zucchini to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly and sprinkle the entire sheet pan with most of the seasoning packet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Remove pan and add the asparagus, tossed lightly with EVOO and sprinkled with the last of the seasoning. Return to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, making sure you don’t overcook the asparagus. Test the zucchini and asparagus – you want them to be just barely tender.
5. Remove veggies and sausages and serve on a big platter. Serve with hot or spicy mustard on the side (for the sausages) or marinara sauce, salsa, or a mixture of sour cream and horseradish.
QUICK ROASTING INSTRUCTIONS at 425°:
Sausages and sweet potatoes – 20 minutes
Add Zucchini – 12-15 minutes
Add Asparagus – 10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus
Check for just barely tender zucchini and asparagus
Per Serving: 296 Calories; 17g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 76mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 957mg Potassium; 155mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on May 5th, 2022.

Can I just say . . . baking crispy tacos is genius! You get to be judicious in how much oil you use, making them so much more healthy.

A post from Carolyn. My friend Linda used this method of making tacos recently and raved about them to me. They were so good she made them two or three times in a week or two. With that kind of praise, I decided I needed to try them. Rarely do I make Mexican food because we have so many excellent Mexican restaurants within 1-3 miles of my house. It was the method of making them – the oven frying – I was the most interested in here.

Linda made chicken tacos, but I decided to make carnitas tacos – actually I thought I had some carnitas in the freezer. Yes, I did, but they’d suffered from freezer burn, so granddaughter Taylor bought some ready-made carnitas (just the meat) at a local restaurant and we were ready to make tacos.

You need to heat the tortillas (corn) a little bit, to make them pliable. Then you brush one side of each tortilla with vegetable oil. Be generous with the oil, because it’s what crisps up the outside of the tacos. Then you lay in the meat and cheese and fold the tortilla over. Be careful as  you do it, so the tortilla doesn’t crack. Hopefully the tortilla will stick in the closed position – sometimes that takes a bit of doing. Gently, though.

Into a very hot oven they go for 6-7 minutes, then you remove them, turn them over and they go back into the oven for another 4-5 minutes to crisp the other side. Meanwhile, make the toppings you want to use: more shredded cheese if you want it (we didn’t), chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and for sure some guacamole, or in this case it was avocado cream (crema). It doesn’t have any dairy in it – it’s just a creamy texture. That part is whizzed up in the blender with lots of lime juice (I used lemon because I didn’t have any limes) and cilantro, plus salt and pepper. Oh, and some pickled jalapeno peppers. They add a wonderful piquant flavor to the avocado.

Chow down. Crispy deliciousness. Now that I have this technique down pat, there may be more oven-fried, oven-baked crispy tacos in my future.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. It was easy, nice enough for a company meal, even. Definitely I’ll be having more of these, maybe using different meat – chicken, beef? Who knows.

What’s NOT: only that you need to have carnitas on hand and fresh tortillas.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oven Baked Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cream

Recipe By: Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serving Size: 6

3/4 pound pork carnitas — buy ready made, or make your own, shredded
1/2 cup enchilada sauce — red sauce, not green
12 corn tortillas — warmed (12 to 16)
vegetable oil or olive oil for brushing tortillas
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese — shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — shredded shredded lettuce, tomatoes, chopped cilantro and pickled onions, for garnish
AVOCADO CREAM:
2 large avocados — halved
1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic — grated
1/4 cup lime juice — or lemon juice salt to taste
PICKLED ONIONS:
1/2 red onion — thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 cup water

1. PICKLED ONIONS: cut half of a red onion into slices. In a bowl combine about 2 T vinegar and 2/3 cup of water. Add onions and set aside (make sure all onions are below the surface) for about 10 minutes. Drain and serve with the tacos.
2. Shred the meat and toss with the sauce and warm in the microwave until just hot throughout.
3. Preheat the oven to 435° F.
4. Wrap 3-4 tortillas in a towel and warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until soft. Repeat for additional tortillas. Keep them wrapped to remain warm.
5. On a sheetpan, brush the tortillas ON ONE SIDE liberally with olive oil. Lay each tortilla flat (oiled side down) and add meat and cheese. While the tortilla is still warm, fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, gently pressing to adhere. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip the tacos over and bake another 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp and golden brown.
6. Meanwhile, make the Avocado Cream. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt.
7. Very gently pry apart the tacos and top each one with avocado cream, lettuce, tomatoes, lime juice, and any other desired toppings.
Per Serving: 482 Calories; 27g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 923mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 348mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 541mg Potassium; 377mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, Pork, on March 10th, 2022.

This recipe comes from my friend, Linda. 

A post from Carolyn. First off, I have to apologize to my readers . . . I’ve not been very “present” with my blog lately as I’ve been so crazy-busy – I’ve felt like I hardly have time to think. After four years, I’m finally going to be turning over my presidential gavel in my P.E.O. chapter to someone else. I’m hoping that’s going to free up a lot of my time. That happens exactly two weeks from today. I’ve hardly done recipe testing of late. My granddaughter, Taylor, the one who is in nursing school and is living with me, went home to Northern California on a 2-week break. Cooking a nice meal for her sometimes motivated me to try a new recipe or two. It’s not that I am eating out all that much, or buying ready-made food. I don’t really. Writing up a blog post about my usual evening green salad with everything in it but the kitchen sink wouldn’t be very noteworthy for you, my readers.

Anyway, my friend Linda offered to take a picture of a pork chop dish she made recently, these deviled pork chops. She said they were the best – the moistest – pork chops she’d ever had. Ever! That’s high praise, for sure.

As I was thinking about this recipe, the name for sure, how did anything get to be called “deviled” I wondered. Well, the web is certainly helpful: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1786 to “devil” a food meant to cook it with a spicy seasoning or over very high heat. For hard boiled eggs, it meant to garnish it with red (meaning from the devil), and that would mean using  paprika. Who knew?

So this recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen. Linda and I are faithful watchers of that PBS program. Linda’s comments: Made this tonight after seeing it on ATK. SUPER EASY! Takes about 15 minutes.  Brown panko crumbs in butter, make a paste of good stuff. Smear on chops, pat crumbs on & bake on a rack at 275 for 40-50 minutes. Sounds very straight forward! Easy. Do use THICKER pork chops – you probably can’t do this with the thin ones at all.

What’s GOOD: I’m paraphrasing from what Linda told me via email and phone that this recipe was just so very easy. The chops were extremely moist (often a problem with today’s lower-fat pork chops).

What’s NOT: only that you need to allow for 40-50 minutes of baking time. And be sure to buy thicker pork chops.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Deviled Pork Chops

Recipe By: America’s Test Kitchen
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko break crumbs
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic — minced to paste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
24 ounces boneless pork chops — ¾ to 1 inch thick

Notes: For the best results, be sure to buy chops of similar size. This recipe was developed using natural pork; if using enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution), do not add salt to the mustard paste in step 2. Serve the pork chops with mashed potatoes, rice, or buttered egg noodles.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275°F.
2. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add panko and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir Dijon, sugar, dry mustard, garlic, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in second bowl until smooth.
3. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Transfer chops to prepared wire rack, spacing them 1 inch apart. Brush 1 tablespoon mustard mixture over top and sides of each chop (leave bottoms uncoated). Spoon 2 tablespoons toasted panko evenly over top of each chop and press lightly to adhere.
4. Roast until meat registers 140°F, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest on rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 390 Calories; 19g Fat (44.9% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 348mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 52mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 698mg Potassium; 432mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Lamb, Pork, Uncategorized, on October 25th, 2021.

A tasty way to use up that summer zucchini!

A post from Karen.  Among the things I loved about this creation is it is one of the few ways I can get my son to eat zucchini.  He not only ate it…he went back for seconds!  And that was my motivation for coming up with this.  My fruit truck guy, Roberto, visits every Thursday morning in our neighborhood with his picks of the freshest and most tasty produce.  On this day he had gorgeous-looking zucchini.  I couldn’t resist, even though I knew it would be tough going to convince my son to enjoy it with us.  So I started thinking about what I could pair with the veggie to make it more palatable to him.  Sausage was a good starting point.  I looked online for existing recipes for zucchini casseroles, but on this particular day, nothing looked like something that would tempt my son.  So, it was time to get creative.

I’m all for making your own sauce, but if you need to save time, we really liked the Vero Gusto Calabrian Marinara.

In addition to the sausage, I had some stale ciabatta bread that I didn’t want going to waste.  I also had cottage cheese and started thinking about layering ingredients like lasagna.  So that was the impetus for cutting the zucchini lengthwise instead of in rounds.  Among the recipes I had read on casseroles, more than one mentioned taking the time after slicing to salt the zucchini to draw out the extra moisture so you would avoid an overly mushy casserole.  sounded sensible to me, so I incorporated that step.

I hadn’t made a lot of casseroles using bread cubes but knew I wanted to make sure they absorbed enough flavors and moisture, so I decided I would try folding them in with the cheese, egg, and cream mixture.  This ended up working really well.  I have made this recipe more than once experimenting with different types of bread.  We have decided the ciabatta has both a nice chew texture and savory flavor profile that we prefer.  The Savory Spice “Limnos Lamb Rub” was a wonderful blend of herbs to add to both the white sauce and for topping off the casserole.  If you need to select a different rub or make your own, this particular rub is a blend of coarse sea salt, garlic, lemon peel, onion, black pepper, fennel, rosemary, Mediterranean thyme, sage, basil, parsley, Greek oregano, spearmint, marjoram.  As for the different sausage choices, we enjoyed both the Hot Italian Sausage and the Lamb Merguez, so I’m content to let my mood or freezer dictate which one I use.  Speaking of the freezer, I have tested freezing the leftovers into individual portions and it worked really well!

What’s Good:  My son will willingly eat this dish.  Paired well with a lite salad for a complete meal.  It’s a great way to use up some bread that is past its prime.

What’s Not:  Only that I have to be organized enough to make sure I have the ingredients on hand.

Printer-Friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Zucchini and Sausage Casserole

Recipe By: Original by Karen
Serving Size: 12

28 ounces zucchini slices — about 1/4 inch slice, length wise vs. rounds
1 pound hot Italian sausage — no casing, or a lamb merquez sausage
1 large onion — chopped
20 ounces tomato sauce — Vera Gusto (Medium Heat)
8 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups bread cubes — dried thick cut,1 inch cubes, I prefer Ciabatta, crust removed
1 tablespoon herb rub — I use Limnos Lamb rub from Savory Spice or similar
1 pound mozzarella cheese — low moisture, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese — grated
kosher salt — for sprinkling

1. Place sliced zucchini on clean kitchen towels and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes to draw out moisture. Then wipe dry with a clean towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350*
3. Saute loose and broken up sausage – let brown on one side then add onions and continue to saute until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes.
4. Mix egg into cottage cheese (or can substitute Ricotta) with 1 TBS. Limnos Lamb Rub and heavy cream. Pour mixture over dried bread cubes and mix well.
5. Grease a 9×13 casserole pan and pour in 1/2 the red sauce. Place 1/2 the zucchini slices in an overlapping layer over the sauce. Pour bread mixture on next and spread evenly. Sprinkle sausage and onion mixture and then 1/2 of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. Create another overlapping layer with the remaining zucchini. Spread remaining red sauce over zucchini, followed by remaining Mozzarella. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with more Limnos Lamb rub if desired.
6. Bake for 1 hr or until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
Per Serving: 377 Calories; 26g Fat (62.0% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 597mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 326mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 503mg Potassium; 321mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pork, on February 28th, 2021.

 

risotto_ital_saus_leeks_corn

Yes, I am giving you a recipe, but this post is also about today, mid-to-late Covid time.

On Wednesday last week I finally had my 2nd Covid-19 vaccine. Until I received the confirmation of my appointment, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because California (and other states) experienced a shortage of serum because of the awful weather. Understandable. I won’t bore you with the details of the vaccine appointment (long, tedious lines, parking issues, awful) but the side effects hit me like a brick about 7 hours afterwards. I had a very hard night, little sleep, with body aches and pains like I’ve never experienced in my life. Headache too, and chills/shivering. Crazy. The next morning I took Tylenol and that helped, but I was not feeling good all day. Even the following day was not normal, either. Still had aching in my back and neck and general malaise. But about 4pm (this is 2 days post-vaccine) my world brightened. I could see the sun shine. I was back to the land of the living. I was rejuvenated, ALIVE! What a transformation!

Starting about a week ago I couldn’t stand it anymore, not going grocery shopping, so I’ve been visiting my local markets when needed. And yes, of course, I’m masking, even double masking sometimes. What a joy it has been to realize that if I need to go buy a leek, I can go buy a leek, and not wait until I do my once a week online shopping (that needed to reach $50 in order to be free of an extra fee). What I feel is liberated – from this long year of quarantining, from living indoors nearly every day of the week, week after week, after week. I’ve still been doing my walking (around my house for 30 minutes every other day) so I do get outdoors. But still, 2020 will be a year that will live long in our memories. And for many people 2021 isn’t immune from those bad memories, either.

What I am is grateful, too. That I fit in the age range so I could GET the Covid vaccine (I got the Moderna one). This might be the only time in my life I’m grateful for being OLD! Grateful that I’ve survived this year and not caught Covid. I’ve been careful – very careful. Rarely out in a public setting, not frequenting any stores, really. Rarely eaten out. Just being home. Alone. But grateful. Because I’m a believer, I thank God that I survived this year, have now had my 2 vaccines, and I can return to more normal life.

Earlier last week my friend Linda visited me (yes, we kept socially distant), and she and I visited Claro’s, a specialty Italian market not too far from my house. I hadn’t been in Claro’s for over a year. Yippee! I bought some fennel salami and thinly sliced provolone, plus some sweet Italian sausage. Hence I had this sausage in my frig and it needed to be frozen or used.

Maybe because I was in a state of euphoria (about being post-vaccine and about life in general) I decided to make one of my favorite dishes. And it’s full of carbs, which I try to avoid. For me, eating carbs is kind of like pigging out; like hitting a home run; like celebrating. Certainly like over-indulging!

This recipe is already on my blog, but it was years and years ago that I posted it. It’s a Phillis Carey recipe, and in 2011 when she taught this in a class, she said it was one of her home mainstays, that it’s comfort food for her on any given weeknight. It’s on my list of favorites, and rightly so. It’s a one-dish meal. Except for a few small things, it’s the same recipe as before . . . but this time instead of turkey Italian sausage, I used real pork Italian sausage. I made it for more servings that I needed – but remember, I needed to cook that Italian sausage! I’d purchased some leeks at Trader Joe’s (theirs are just the best – not only inexpensive, but they’re all cleaned and trimmed), I had the specialty rice for risotto, I had frozen corn, cherry tomatoes. I didn’t have spinach, but I did have baby arugula. I was in business!

Why do you need hot broth to add to risotto:

Pouring cold broth onto the hot rice shocks it, and the whole pot of food has to warm up again – making the cooking time much longer.

Ideally, have all the ingredients out and ready when you begin, including a pot of hot chicken broth to add to the risotto. Some people wonder why you have to have the broth hot – simple reason – if you add cold broth to the rice, it not only sort-of shocks the rice and it has to get warm again before it begins absorbing more fluid. The cooking process slows down. It takes a lot longer if you add cold or room temp broth. So I did everything as the recipe indicated and I had a big pan of risotto in about 40 minutes or so.

I ate with delight – that nice bowl of risotto with Italian sausage, corn, leeks and tomatoes. I hadn’t planned ahead about this, so at 6:45 I phoned my neighbor, Josee, (the neighbor who has been so kind to do Costco and other shopping for me over this last year) to see if she wanted dinner for her family. Long story – she was SO thrilled I had called. So, I used all the Italian sausage, feasted on it myself, then did something nice for my neighbor. That made me feel good.

What’s GOOD: such a wide variety of flavors – the sausage, the leeks, the corn, and the lovely creaminess of risotto, made right so it’s like thick soup. So good.

What’s NOT: only that you have to stand near the stovetop for 20-25 minutes stirring frequently while you’re making the risotto rice part.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Risotto with Italian Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Spinach and Tomatoes

Recipe By: Phillis Carey
Serving Size: 5

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1/2 pound Italian sausage — or use turkey sausage
3 cloves garlic — minced
3/4 cup dry white wine — like Sauvignon Blanc (not vermouth), divided use
1 1/2 cups leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup frozen corn — fire roasted, preferably
6 ounces baby arugula — or baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, using more to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes — halved
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Lower heat and keep the broth hot.
2. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and garlic. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup wine to the sausage and simmer until the wine evaporates.
3. Heat remaining 2 T. oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (Phillis suggests Le Creuset is the best pot for making risotto). Add the cleaned and dried leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes until they are softened. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until it turns white, but not brown, aout 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated.
4. Add a cup of broth to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, lowering heat to just a simmer, until rice absorbs all the broth. Stir in another cup of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring until rice is just tender, about 20 more minutes.
5. Stir in the corn and sausage and then add the arugula or spinach by handfuls, cooking until wilted; season to taste with salt and pepper. Do not let the rice cook until it’s dry – add small amounts of broth (or water if you run out) even up until the end. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and stir until melted. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes, parsley and basil and serve immediately with additional Parmesan to sprinkle on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 28g Fat (57.5% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 105mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 680mg Potassium; 220mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on November 18th, 2020.

pasta_alla_gricia_plated

Ever had this one? The Italians haven’t quite determined which definition they agree on for the word “gricia,” other than it’s for this pasta dish.

Curious as to what gricia meant in Italian, I found out it was a dish created waaaay back in Roman times, 400AD, they think. The other day I was watching a Rachel Ray show and she prepared this. It just spoke to me – since I had radicchio; I had ample mushrooms, although not the type Rachel used. She used hen-of-the-woods – I had just ordinary white mushrooms. I had shallots. I had pancetta too. mushrooms_for_griciaShe talked about guanciale, the fatty sister to pancetta, but she prefers pancetta – mostly, she said, because her husband wants chunks of meaty bits in any pasta she makes. The original of this dish is just shallot – maybe garlic too – and the pork, either pancetta or the guanaciale – pepper, plus pasta, of course. That was it, but Rachel described several riffs she makes on this dish. I took the original recipe and added the radicchio and the lemon zest that she mentioned. I didn’t have any Pecorino, so had to use Parm. I also had leftover Capello’s almond flour pasta (linguine) and certainly wanted to use it, as it’s quite dear. My house smelled so wonderful – the shallot, the garlic, the pancetta plus EVOO.

First up was to roast the mushrooms. See photo above left. They took about 20 minutes in a very hot oven. They were dried out mostly, but still had some moisture inside. And what they did have was concentrated flavor.

gricia_cookingThen I started cooking the sauce. Well, not really much of the sauce part as the only liquid is a little bit of cooking water (from the pasta) added to this. The pancetta was added to a large skillet along with a bit of EVOO, and the pork was rendered down, but leaving the fat that came from it in the pan (for flavor). Then I added shallot and continued to cook that (I forgot to add it to the mushroom pan).

pasta_alla_gricia_pan_mixedThen the sliced radicchio and lemon strips were added and stirred often as it cooked. That really takes but a few minutes. I ladled out some of the pasta water and added that to the pan too. Some cheese is added in the pan when you add the pasta and that’s stirred well (which is why you want to undercook the pasta a little bit). Serve and add more lemon zest and grated cheese on top. I will mention that this dish is very rich. Probably from the pancetta – meaning it has a bit of fat, but that’s what gives it so much flavor. And, I think if you made the full recipe, it would serve more than 4 people.

What’s GOOD: Oh my. SO very delicious. I loved this dish. It’s big on flavor – mostly, I suppose, from the mushrooms, shallots and pancetta. Did I mention how fragrant my house smelled? I had to go out to run an errand immediately after I ate my dinner (leaving my kitchen still in a mess) and when I returned and walked through the door, oh golly did it smell good. This recipe is a keeper. It’s beautiful to look at too, with the dark purple from the radicchio, and the pasta, contrasted with the mushrooms and the bright yellow from lemon strips.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything. As I said, this one’s a keeper.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pasta Alla Gricia

Recipe By: Rachel Ray, on her TV show, 9/20
Serving Size: 4 (maybe 5-6)

12 ounces mushrooms — hen-of-the-woods (maitake) pulled into thin strips, or any other type of mushrooms
2 large shallots — halved lengthwise, then peeled and very thinly sliced
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 pound pancetta — or meaty guanciale
1 tbsp. EVOO
3 cups radicchio — sliced
3 tablespoons lemon rind — minutely sliced
1 pound spaghetti — or linguine
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — grated, or Parm

1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 475°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray evenly and liberally with the cooking spray and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the vegetables with the thyme. Roast, stirring halfway through cooking, until the mushrooms are crispy and fragrant, about 20 minutes.
2. Place the pancetta or guanciale in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once it’s firm, slice it into thin 1/2-inch-long pieces.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the EVOO, one turn of the pan, then add the pancetta. Cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Then add the radicchio and lemon zest and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the radicchio is barely tender. Season with pepper and remove from the heat.
5. Salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook for a minute or two less than the package instructions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
6. Add the pasta, half the cheese, and 3/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Toss the pasta for a minute to coat, adding more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and top with the remaining cheese, a pile of crispy mushrooms and shallots, and a little lemon zest.
Per Serving (yikes): 972 Calories; 42g Fat (38.8% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 99g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 1172mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 777mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1259mg Potassium; 868mg Phosphorus.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...