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Currently Reading

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Just finished another great book, The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.


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.


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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