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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on June 26th, 2013.

lemon_risotto

This just LOOKS like an ordinary bowl of rice. Oh my, no, it isn’t. It’s spectacular rice. You’ve got to make this if you are a risotto-lover and you also crave lemon in just about everything.

Why hadn’t it ever occurred to me to enhance risotto with lemon juice? It just hadn’t. But I saw Nigella Lawson make this recipe on one of her old-old TV shows, and when she put the spoonful in her mouth (and you wait for the oohs and aahs that every Food Network host makes), well, I just knew I had to try this version. The truth of the matter is that about 2 weeks ago I came down with the flu. I thought I’d managed to get through flu season, but no, I didn’t. I was down for 2 full days. I watched every single TV program on my Tivo and then some, although the first 2 days I couldn’t watch any food-oriented programs as my stomach lurched, but after 2 days that part improved – that’s why I was watching an old Nigella Lawson program. Anyway, for those first 2 days I couldn’t eat a thing, and even on day 3 I was only able to down some corn flakes and sip sparkling cider off and on all day. And even though it’s been 2 weeks (as I write this) I still have times when my stomach gives me a little turn. I’ve barely eaten any meat – a little bacon, a little chicken, one fish dinner that didn’t go down well. We spent the weekend at a lovely resort and I had difficulty eating some of the wonderful food. And yesterday my stomach revolted a little after I had breakfast. So when dinnertime came around, I craved carbs only. Not my usual shtick, for sure. I know . . . too much information, right? Sorry.

On to the recipe . . . there is nothing that difficult or unusual about this risotto. It contains shallots and celery (that’s a bit different), butter, Arborio rice, broth (I used chicken because I didn’t have any vegetable broth), a fresh lemon (preferably a home grown or organic one), olive oil, and the final fillip to this version – an egg yolk (that IS different), 4 T. of heavy cream, fresh rosemary and of course, Parmigiano. I added on the chopped chives to give the dish some color. The recipe calls for a quart of broth – I had to add about another cup of water because the rice wasn’t quite done, but that was easy enough. lemon_risotto_wide

This was all we had for dinner. No salad. No veggies. And it was so comforting. Oh yes! My hat’s off to Nigella for a spectacular recipe.

What’s GOOD: well, everything about it was fabulous. And I mean fabulous. This recipe is going onto my FAVs list if that’s any indication of how much I liked it. I’d use words like unctuous, smooth, silky, comfort food. I just loved the lemon juice and zest added in, and the egg yolk? Well, I’d never thought to add one, but when mixed with the cheese and little jot of cream, well, that’s how the dish went from ordinary to unctuous. Make this, okay?
What’s NOT: only the 30+ minutes of near-continuous stirring required, but I managed to keep it on a very low heat (I forgot to get out my battery operated Stirr thing that would have just kept the mixture moving while I did other things like zest the lemon, chop rosemary, etc.). I didn’t actually stir it continuously, it just seemed like it.

printer-friendly PDF – created using Cute PDF Writer, not Adobe
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Lemon Risotto

Recipe By: Nigella Lawson, Food Network
Serving Size: 4

2 shallots — chopped
1 rib celery — chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter — divided use
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/3 cups risotto rice — preferably Arborio or Vialone Nano
1 quart vegetable stock — and probably more (I used chicken stock)
1/2 lemon — unwaxed, zested and juiced
Needles from 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary — finely chopped
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, plus more, for garnish
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Good grating black pepper — preferably white
Maldon or other sea salt — to taste
2 tablespoons chives — minced [my addition]

1. Put the shallots and celery into a mini food processor and blitz until they are finely chopped. Heat half the butter, the oil and the shallot and celery mixture in a wide saucepan, and cook to soften the mixture for about 5 minutes, making sure it doesn’t stick. Mix in the rice, stirring to give it a good coating of oil and butter.
2. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another saucepan and keep it at the simmering point.
3. Put a ladleful of the stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Continue doing this until the rice is al dente. You may not need all of the stock, equally, you may need to add hot water from the kettle.
4. Mix the lemon zest and the rosemary into the risotto, and in a small bowl beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, Parmesan, cream and pepper.
5. When the risotto is ready – when the rice is no longer chalky, but still has some bite – take it off the heat and add the bowl of eggy, lemony mixture, and the remaining butter and salt, to taste. Serve with more Parmesan if you wish, check the seasoning. Garnish with chives, if desired.
Per Serving: 614 Calories; 27g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 78g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 1749mg Sodium.

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  1. Lisa

    said on June 27th, 2013:

    Hope you are feeling better. I’ve only made risotto in the pressure cooker! Wondering if I could adapt your recipe for that method? I love anything lemon so this sounds perfect!

    I’m back to normal now! Thanks. And YES, I’m sure you could do this in the pressure cooker. I’ve done it that way too and it worked quite well. Try it and let me know . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on July 1st, 2013:

    This looks like one I will have to try! I’ve done lemon risottos and loved them. I, too, like the pressure cooker for risottos–there’s a great recipe in Cooking Light from two or three years ago that I’ve made several times, though I can’t remember off the top of my head whether that one has lemon in it. I believe it’s called Champagne Risotto, but I use Prosecco. I think when I do this recipe, I’ll follow those guidelines, as it turns out great with only a little stirring at the beginning. I like the use of rosemary in this one and am eager to try the addition of cream and egg yolk.

    I know you’ll like it – just because of the cream and egg yolk, for sure. But the lemon flavor. Ah. Delish . . . carolyn t

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