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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Unsaid: A Novel by Neil Abramson. I think I read about it on amazon because I don’t remember anyone telling me about it. Perhaps amazon recommended it to me because I’ve read several books about African animals lately. The narrator of the book is the soul and voice of a woman who has just died of cancer. So she’s a ghost, of sorts, or an angel. But she’s hanging around her old life (her husband, her friends, her co-workers – she was a veterinarian) because she’s so very worried about her menagerie of animals she owned and worked with. The crux of the story is about a chimpanzee that is part of a U.S. government study – measuring the intelligence and sign language ability of this one chimp. The funded study is suddenly ended, and the intelligent and sentient animal (that word, sentient – I had to look it up – is used several times in the book – it means with “feelings”) is going to be returned to the general population of chimps used for maybe not-so-nice drug studies and likely would die from an inflicted disease. The widower is an attorney, and he’s thrown into battle with the U.S. government about saving the chimp. There’s a huge message here about the use of animals in drug studies and it’s hard to come away from this book without feeling “feelings” for the sweet chimp, whose intelligence was measured as the age of a 4-year old human. You’ll be drawn into the many other animals, the husband’s grief, and the team of people trying to save the chimp. Quite a story.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – many reader friends recommended it, and oh, is it good! If you’re at the end of your tether with reading WW II resistance stories, you’ll want to skip this one, but you’ll be rewarded if you do read it. It’s the story of 2 sisters who live in a remote area of France and both get caught up in the war. There are some very terror-filled moments in this book – I won’t kid you – the deprivation, torture, hunger, betrayal; all the things that make a book real, wartime real. The relationship between the sisters isn’t always good. One becomes a resistance fighter; the other is a mom whose husband fights for France, but is imprisoned for years. She eventually participates by shepherding Jewish children to safety. It’s a riveting book, and the 2 women are portrayed with great realism.

Also read The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a novelized biography of King David, the man who was a sinner from his youth. If you’ve studied the Holy Bible, then you’ll know that he reformed, eventually, and he is credited with writing most of the Psalms. If you’ve spent much time reading Psalms, then you’ll know there is so much angst contained within the poetic verses. David was a consummate writer and poet – no question about that – and he was a musician as well. But he had his appetites, which betrayed him over and over and over. He laments his bad character in the form of the Psalms. I can remember singing in our church choir one of the Psalms about Absalom, his beloved son, that he had killed. King David’s time was primitive, life for life, where trust wasn’t taken lightly. It’s a really fascinating portrayal of the man, his vices, and his eventual redemption.

If you’re already a fan of Molly Wizenberg, then you’ll know about her book Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. Molly started off writing a blog some years ago, called Orangette. She wrote a book (part memoir and cookbook) a few years ago, and her prose is a delight to read. She’s a commander of words. This book is the story of meeting and marrying her husband Brandon, and their journey to realizing HIS dream of opening a pizza restaurant (Delancey) in Seattle. It’s a very interesting read since they built the restaurant in a questionable neighborhood; they had insufficient money. Let’s just say that along the road to getting the restaurant open, there are many hurdles, including her own belief in the project. I loved the book. And yes, there are a few recipes included too.

After I read The Elephant Whisperer (which was a fabulous book), I read online that Lawrence Anthony considered his best book The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures. So I had to read that, of course. It’s the very sad story about his effort to extract 6 rare white rhino from deep in the jungle of Africa, in an area controlled by guerrillas. He’s unsuccessful, and now the only known white rhinos left are in zoos. They’ll likely be extinct in the next generation. I wasn’t as enamored with the book as I was with the elephant book – maybe because the mechanics of trying to find and negotiate to get the rhinos wasn’t as riveting as the elephant stories. Jungle politics, nighttime helicopter flights, slogging in the mud all play important parts. If you want to know more about rhinos, the rare northern whites, then you’ll want to read this book. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have one in your local zoo. Great literature this is not, but it tells an important story about poaching and why we must fight to eliminate it with education.

Also read, for one of my book clubs, Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain. It’s the biography of Beryl Markham, but only of her early life. Beryl’s own book, West with the Night has long been a favorite of mine, but she only wrote about her later life once she learned to pilot a plane and flew all over Africa. The McLain book is about her youth on her father’s horse farm, her coming of age and about falling in love (she was a philanderer from way back), her young adulthood, her marriages, her successes in life and her failures. It’s a VERY good book that I enjoyed reading from beginning to end. Markham is known more compellingly for her piloting career, but she led a fascinating life before she ever began to fly. Worth reading.

Read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Oh my goodness. When one of my book groups met to discuss this book, we all talked about the crying we did at the end. Oh yes, me too. This is a novel with a point to make (somewhat like Jodi Piccoult’s books). In this case it’s the right to die issue and it’s cloaked in a fast-paced page turner. A young woman who is a bit at loose ends, accepts a new job as a caregiver, something she’s never done before, to a young man who had recently become a quadriplegic. There are numerous sub-stories (about her family, her relationship with her sister, her boyfriend and her relationship with him, the patient himself, who is grumpy, and his relationships with his mother and father and ex-girlfriend). And, it’s about his wish to end his life. During the last 100 pages I could hardly put it down. I don’t want to jinx the story. It’s a romance of sorts. It’s gritty in a way, but charming. Loved the book. Now I’m going to order the sequel, the book the author never really intended to write, but so many people wrote her asking for one. I’m right there too. This book is being made into a movie.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Veggies/sides, on May 23rd, 2013.

asparagus_bits_of_bacon

Lovely steamed asparagus tossed with walnut (or hazelnut) oil and lemon juice, topped with a crispy mixture of bacon and onions. Very tasty.

‘Tis the season for asparagus and I love the stuff. I have my favorite ways of making it, the Crumbled Asparagus, and Roasted Asparagus with Chile Butter. But I wanted to try some new version of the green stuff. Out on my kitchen counter was Dorie Greenspan’s book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. There was a recipe, and I had all the ingredients on hand. Even better!

Actually, I pan-steamed the asparagus (large-ish skillet, a little olive oil, a little water, lid) until it was just barely done. Meanwhile I cooked up the bacon. I’ve changed the recipe just slightly, below, because 3 slices of extra-thick bacon was just too much, I thought. But when I served it, it was there, and 3 of us ate that entire platter of asparagus. And all the bacon. Ah-hem.

The asparagus is drained and then drizzled with the mixture of walnut oil (or hazelnut) and lemon juice. I did it with my hands because I needed to gently work the little bit of fluid all over the asparagus. A tall order. I think I probably used a bit more oil and lemon juice, then the warm bacon-onion mixture was lapped on top. Done.

What’s GOOD: Good texture, good flavor from the walnut oil and lemon juice. And the bacon. Well, what’s there not to like! It was relatively easy – 2 pans and a bowl.
What’s NOT: really nothing. I won’t call it a “wow” dish, but it was really good.

printer-friendly PDF – created using Cute PDF Writer, not Adobe
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save (remember where), run MC, File|Import

* Exported from MasterCook *

Asparagus with Bits of Bacon

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s book, Around My French Table
Serving Size: 4

2 slices thick-sliced bacon
1/2 small yellow onion — finely diced
3/4 pound asparagus — ends trimmed down, partially peeled if they’re large
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon walnut oil — or hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small skillet render the bacon over very low heat for 8-10 minutes, until it’s crispy and browned slightly. Remove to a paper towel.
2. Pour out all but a teaspoon of the bacon fat and return skillet to the stove. Add onion and cook it until it’s softened but not brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add bacon back to the pan and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, in another skillet large enough to hold all the asparagus, add the water and then the asparagus. Gently move the stalks around, cover and cook over medium heat. Periodically move the asparagus so they all cook evenly. Press the tip of a sharp knife in the asparagus – when it gives with no pressure remove it from the heat and drain.
3. Combine the oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Place the cooked asparagus on a serving plate, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and add the bacon and onion mixture. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 83 Calories; 7g Fat (69.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 103mg Sodium.

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