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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save (remember where), run MC, File|Import

* Exported from MasterCook *

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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