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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 Fish, on March 7th, 2016.

shrimp_lemony_watercress

Scrumptious, tart, lemony, textures, ah. Worth making – and it’s easy to boot.

In late January, my friend Ann, who lives in frigid Idaho, flew down to SoCal and I picked her up at the Palm Springs airport. We then stayed at a VRBO condo for a week in La Quinta. Sometimes January is iffy weather in the California desert (rainy) and we did get rain one day. It was fairly cold out there, but in the sunshine it was comfortable. The condo had a lovely kitchen with plenty of kitchen equipment, so we didn’t lack for anything (except sharp knives, alas – there were plenty of them, but they were as dull as ann_pga_westcardboard – next time I’ll take some of my own good knives). I’d suggested to Ann that if I made one or two meals, maybe she’d come up with a meal she would prepare. We worked on all the cooking together, so it was a joint effort. She sent me several recipes and this is the one I preferred. Actually, this one is for scallops, but I don’t eat them – shrimp is preferable for me. So we made the same recipe, just with the shrimp instead. Pictured at left, Ann, at our VRBO condo, overlooking the rather brown golf course at PGA West.

This is really a salad only – there isn’t anything else hiding under all that watercress, but it was perfect for us. Real watercress is a bit hard to find these days – except the type you see above – it’s like baby cress – with the root ball attached. I don’t much like that type because it lacks that unique peppery flavor of full grown watercress. But if that’s all you can find, well, then, make do! The shrimp are cooked in nothing more than a speck of olive oil and seasoned with paprika and lemon zest. We had access to lemons out there in the desert – they were regular lemons, not Meyers (my preference), so depending on the type, you may want to adjust the sugar in the dressing.

The lemon vinaigrette is SO tasty – puckery, but sweet because you do add sugar, and it’s loaded with garlic too. The watercress was tossed with the lemon dressing, then we piled the shrimp on top and added parsley for garnish. The original recipe (with scallops) came from Cooking Light, in 2002.

What’s GOOD: it was so easy to make, and I just loved the lemon flavor. It was a zesty dressing (not hot, just vibrant) with the lemon. The shrimp were perfectly cooked through and we both slicked our plates clean. A definite keeper. Low cal and very low fat!

What’s NOT: nothing at all, except it might not be enough food for some people as a main entrée. Serve with bread and maybe a dessert? Just a thought.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp on Lemony Watercress

Recipe By: Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, Oct. 2002
Serving Size: 4

2 teaspoons olive oil — divided
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
1/2 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups watercress — about 2 1/2 bunches, washed, trimmed, dried
Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish

1. Heat a teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt and paprika. Add them to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Combine rind and parsley; sprinkle over shrimp. Keep warm.
2. Combine a teaspoon of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, and pepper. Place watercress in a large bowl; drizzle with lemon juice mixture, tossing gently to coat. Serve shrimp over watercress mixture and garnish with additional Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 222 Calories; 5g Fat (21.9% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 259mg Cholesterol; 547mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on March 7th, 2016:

    I like the sound of this especially with the Scallops, they are my favourite. I will wait until Watercress is in season here, probably April so not long to wait. I will use lime juice since it is easier on my digestion than lemon.

    The scallops will be perfect, and lime juice should be just great with this too. It’s an easy salad to make, beginning to end. Hope you enjoy it. . . carolyn t

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