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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 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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