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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 Miscellaneous, on June 18th, 2015.

perfect_hard_boiled_egg
No credit is due here to my invention or my years of kitchen skills. I read it all over at Serious Eats, a blog that’s been in existence for about as long as mine has (8 years). The difference is that one of their contributors is a restaurant chef (and I’m not), and she just set out to share her years of experience in a restaurant kitchen. So I took her advice.

Never again will I put cold eggs in a pan of cold water, cover them and bring them up to temp and simmer for awhile. Never again will I bring the eggs out of the refrigerator to let them “warm up” a little on the kitchen counter. Never again will I put eggs in their shell IN water in a pan. Never again will I just guess at how long they need to cook – 15 minutes? 20 minutes? Nope. Never again will I rap the just ice-chilled egg (in the shell) onto my sink side to “break” the air bubble at the flatter end, that membrane inside, hoping the cold water will circulate around in there and make it easier to peel (because that’s what my mother taught me to do). Never again will I try to peel them when they’re just newly chilled in ice water. And lastly, never will I try to make them in a pressure cooker (I never have, but just thought I’d add that in since Kenji mentioned it also).

breville_risotto_cooker_acting_as_a_steamerIf you’re curious about all-things-hard-boiled-eggs, then you must go read the extensive and very scientific blog post over at Serious Eats. And if you want to read the short version, with just the recipe, then do this one.

cold_eggs_ready_for_steamingWhat I WILL be doing is what Kenji taught me – to cook them exactly 12 minutes in the steamer insert of a pan. I did it in my risotto cooker (pictured above right, set on the sauté function so I could keep the water boiling), which is just like doing them in a steamer insert of any old pan set you have and doing them on the stovetop. And after exactly 12 minutes, I’ll be plunging that steamer insert full of hot, just hard-cooked eggs eggs_steaminginto a big bowl of extra-cold ice water (with ice cubes) to bring the temperature down right away quick. And I will be chilling them for a few hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator before trying to peel them.

Here’s the short course:

1. Bring about an inch of water to a boil, in a covered pan for which you have a steamer insert. Place the steamer insert inside while it’s heating up.

2. Once the water is boiling solidly, add the cold (right out of the frig) eggs to the steamer insert and cover again.

3. Set the timer for 12 minutes.eggs_chilling_ice_water

4. Meanwhile, get out a big, deep bowl large enough to contain the steamer insert and fill it with cold water and with lots of ice cubes.

5. After the 12 minutes, remove the steamer insert with eggs inside and plop them down, altogether, into that icy water. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

6. Remove eggs and refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight if possible.

Kenji does say, and I think rightly so, there probably is no 100% perfect way to hard cook eggs – you’ll have an occasional failure, but this method, which is new to me, worked like an absolute charm. But all the credit is Kenji’s!

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

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  1. hddonna

    said on June 18th, 2015:

    This is an amazing technique. Not only does it work beautifully, but it saves time, since you don’t have to bring a whole potful of water to a boil. Do you like soft-boiled eggs? I do, and I had been searching for decades for a method that would yield consistent results. A year or two ago, America’s Test Kitchen Radio reported on their recommended method for making soft-cooked eggs–steaming! That was the first I’d heard of steaming eggs in the shell. In this case, the eggs were put directly into a saucepan with a half inch of boiling water, covered, cooked exactly six and a half minutes, then drained and held under cold running water for thirty seconds. I discovered that for me, setting the timer for 6 minutes instead of six and a half resulted in my ideal soft-cooked egg. This has worked consistently for me ever since. It doesn’t even seem to matter what size the eggs are–I get farm eggs, and they are all sizes, but six minutes still works perfectly. I decided to try the same method for making hard-cooked eggs, and found that 11 or 12 minutes worked well. I do cool them in ice water, but I don’t chill them overnight unless I am making extra–I rarely know the day before that I will be wanting hard-boiled eggs! Still, they have been easy to peel for the most part. I’ll definitely try the day-before method next time I actually have time to plan ahead, though.

    I’ve now used up my first batch of 7 eggs that I made about 10 days ago (when I wrote up the post) and every single, solitary egg peeled perfectly. It was magical! Ready for my next batch. . . carolyn t

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