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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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 Soups, on August 19th, 2013.

curried_cauliflower_apple_soup

With a huge cauliflower in the refrigerator, I’d planned making the Cauliflower Soup with Olive Oil Drizzle, a cold soup that we devoured just a few weeks ago. It was SO good. But then I ran across another cold soup recipe . . . well, you know how that goes . . .

Now my trouble will be which one to make in the future – we liked both of them. A lot. This one came from a new blog: Williams-Sonoma Taste. I think I read about the blog on someone else’s blog, since I rarely go to the store’s website. Anyway, up came this recipe for cauliflower soup and it just sounded perfect. And easy. And we love curry. The recipe came from one of the store’s cookbooks: Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends: Fresh ways to entertain with style

I did make a few minor detours: (1) I did not sieve the soup to remove all of the cauliflower and apple pulp (I just didn’t know why I should do that since the solids are good for us); (2) instead of milk, I added half and half because I had it in my frig and needed to use it up; and (3) I served it warm (only out of expediency as it didn’t have time to chill – but we ate it cold the next night and it was just as good if not better).

The soup is very easy to make, as long as you don’t count the step of having to puree it in the blender (it took 2 batches for me). Steaming the cauliflower took awhile as I had a lot of it and I didn’t want to cook it over too high heat, but once done, it was pretty cinchy easy to puree it. I added the half and half in the blender, along with the yogurt. I was lazy and didn’t toast the almonds.

What’s GOOD: the altogether flavor of the cauliflower and apple, and the curry. The crunch of the almonds on top. It was just wonderful.
What’s NOT: zero – it was really good. A keeper.

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MasterCook 5 file and MasterCook 14 file

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Cauliflower Soup with Almonds

Recipe By: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends, by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm (Oxmoor House, 2008).
Serving Size: 8

1 large head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole Granny Smith apple — peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion — finely chopped
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder — (use less if you’re at all sensitive to heat)
4 cups vegetable stock — (I used chicken)
2 cups milk — (I used half and half)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat
1/2 cup sliced almonds — toasted
1/4 cup cilantro — chopped

1. Cut the cauliflower into florets. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cauliflower, olive oil, apple, onion and curry powder. Sauté for 5 minutes, then cover and steam, stirring often, for 5 minutes more. Uncover, add the stock, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the milk, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. (Alternately, add the milk or half and half to the blender.)
2. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Transfer half of the soup to a blender, add half of the yogurt and blend until smooth. (If desired do the following step:) Pour the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Puree the remaining soup and yogurt and pour through the sieve into the bowl. Nestle the bowl of soup in the ice water, stirring occasionally, until cool. Once cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, ladle the soup into chilled cups and garnish with the almonds and cilantro.
Per Serving: 242 Calories; 14g Fat (49.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 855mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on August 19th, 2013:

    I just happen to have a caulifower here, so that will be tomorrow’s lunch I think. Thank you!

    I KNOW you’ll enjoy it. . . carolyn t

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