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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 easy, Veggies/sides, on September 8th, 2013.

garlic_green_beans_dry_pan_roasted

Well, the pan wasn’t quite dry, but almost. Just a little dab of butter was used to pan roast these delicious little beauties. It can’t get much easier than these.

Catching up on all the blogs I read is a steady, ongoing thing for me – I read so many, and if I let it get away from me, I’ll have over a thousand to read. Definitely over the top, and almost depressing to me – makes me feel like I can’t ever catch up! I can power-read occasionally – because it’s something I don’t like, or don’t think I’ll like, or it’s a subject not-dear to my heart. But when I read the Food52 blog pieces, generally I’m clicking over to the actual story and recipe on nearly every post. And they post several a day.

Perhaps you’ve already done these beans before – I never had, and it boggles my mind that you can actually cook green beans in nearly a dry skillet. Yup! The recipe is Spanish in origin, and a simpler method could hardly be found! Penelope Casas posted it on Food 52 recently. Mine, in the photo up top there, got a tad overdone, but they were still so tasty that my DH ate every single one on his plate before I could blink an eye, just about. And I finished off mine in a jiffy as well, before I even took a bite of the pork chops. And talk about easy.

Melt a little bit of butter, heat the pan to medium-high, toss in a bunch of cleaned, stem-trimmed green beans (dry them off well if you’ve washed them) and stir them around. In a few minutes they’ll begin to brown – you want those toasted brown spots on them. Not black, but several little strips of dark brown is just how you want them to be. Then, put a lid on it and turn down the heat. The instructions are specific – resist the temptation to add water, or anything at all. Just turn down the heat and cover, and cook them for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the beans – if they’re those tiny haricot verts, less time will be needed). The moisture from the beans themselves will steam them done. Really. Yes. It works. Trust me. Then you toss them with the garlic and salt, and they’re ready to serve. Just like that.

What’s GOOD: How incredibly easy they were to make, and yes, I did want to put a little bit of water in that pan, but could hear the directive in my head – resist the temptation, the voice said. Delicious. I almost dare you not to like them! And yes, I’ll definitely be making them again. Sooner rather than later, if that tells you anything.

What’s NOT: Nothing at all – maybe just being careful about the heat levels – not too hot when you’re browning them (no burning) and then much lower when you’re cooking them (no burning then, either).

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Garlic Green Beans (Judias Verdes con Ajo)

Recipe By: Penelope Casas, on Food52, July 2013
Serving Size: 4

3/4 pound green beans
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic — crushed
Coarse salt

1. Snap off the tops of the beans. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the beans, and cook them over a medium to medium-high flame, stirring, until they begin to brown.
2. Lower the flame, cover, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until the beans are the desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.
3. Mix in the crushed garlic, sprinkle with salt, and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 50 Calories; 3g Fat (48.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on September 8th, 2013:

    Why had I never thought to do that? After all, I pan roast Asparagus…

    You may never go back to the more traditional methods. This may be my new go-to recipe for green beans. My mouth is watering as I type this, and it’s been a couple of weeks since I fixed these . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on September 8th, 2013:

    I like this idea! Sounds like the easiest way yet to cook green beans–no boiling big pots of water or getting out the steamer basket. You can be sure I’ll try this as soon as I can get to the produce store!

    I’m sure you’re going to love these. I will be making them again very, very soon. Just bought some new haricot verts type today, so I’ll be trying this method with those . . . carolyn t

  3. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme

    said on September 9th, 2013:

    What a deliciously different way to cook green beans. Definitely going to give this a try soon!

    You’ll love it, I just know it! . . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on September 9th, 2013:

    Do let us know how it works with the haricots verts.

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