Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Salads, on August 30th, 2007.

There’s maple syrup in this salad dressing. Sounds way too sweet, doesn’t it? Well, it is on the sweet side for a green salad, I’ll admit. But there is something seductive about the mixture of mayo, maple syrup and champagne wine vinegar. You counter the sweet with the vinegar, and it’s sublime. Usually I serve this in the Fall, and we’re steamy here in So. California these days, so I’m waiting for the new crop of apples to come in before I make this again. Although Granny Smiths are good year around, I know. This is kind of reminiscent of a waldorf salad, except there isn’t any celery in it. So think of this as a waldorf-ish green salad maybe.

This came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey, a cooking instructor I’ve mentioned before on this blog. She has such a creative culinary mind. I’m not that inventive – sure, I can put something together if the ingredients are plopped down in front of me, but I’d never have thought to make a salad dressing with mayo and maple syrup. And the combo of the apples, dried cherries and walnuts too.

I think there are too many apples in this salad, although maybe Phillis wanted the apples to be predominant. I prefer to make the lettuce the star (I use more greens than noted) and the dressing shines through. Then the fruit comes in as secondary. The recipe below is exactly as Phillis made it, with my notes in parens. But, as you start thinking about apples, maybe you’ll think about this salad. It’s excellent in whatever proportion you choose to use!
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Salad

Recipe: From a cooking class with Phillis Carey
Servings: 8

Notes: This has a sweet tinge, obviously, with the maple syrup as a sweetener, but it’s very tasty and easy. It helps if you have a mandoline to do the julienne apple strips.

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
6 tablespoons maple syrup
4 1/2 tablespoons champagne wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
10 ounces baby lettuce leaves (I use more)
4 whole Granny Smith apple — or pears (I use 1, not 4)
3/4 cup dried cherries — not sweetened
3/4 cup chopped walnuts — toasted

1. Dressing: whisk mayonnaise, syrup, vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil mixture, until it is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Will keep in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
2. In a large salad bowl combine the lettuce, cherries and half of the toasted nuts. It is not necessary to peel the apples or pears, but you may if you choose. Cut the apples into julienne strips and add to the salad, then toss with enough dressing to coat the salad.
3. Divide salad equally onto 8 plates and sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment