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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

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.

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Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 14th, 2016.

linguine_cauliflower_peas_butter_pepper

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you already know that I don’t post very many pasta recipes. I love pasta, but when my DH was alive (he was a Type 1 diabetic), he/we were convinced that pasta just wasn’t a good dining choice for him – he could never seem to regulate how much insulin to take based on the size of the pasta portion (even though I measured it sometimes). I’m not a fan of whole wheat pasta, so I just don’t order pasta much, and you can count on one hand how many times in the last year I’ve eaten it or prepared it. Sad, huh? I’ve convinced myself that pasta just isn’t a very healthy thing for me to eat (too many carbs). But once in awhile . . . .

So, I was looking for recipes to use up a whole head of cauliflower I’d purchased. I went to Eat Your Books, where I have an account, put in cauliflower, and up came 200+ recipe titles from my own cookbooks. In 15 minutes time, I’d spread out 4 cookbooks and was trying to decide which one to make. This recipe just called my name, although I altered it just a bit. The original came from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She had any number of cauliflower recipes, but the pasta one seemed to be the one I gravitated towards. I decided to add peas (for color mostly). And I didn’t use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – only because I had 2 packages of Gruyere pasta_cooking_pan_on_topbegging to be used for something. And, I added in some olive oil at the end also. Her recipe called for spaghettini, and I didn’t have any of that, so small linguine seemed the closest. I suppose any pasta would do, though.

The cooking technique is quite standard EXCEPT for how you keep the cauliflower and other ingredients hot while you cook the pasta. See the contraption at left – I used my All-Clad deep sauté pan and it nestled on top of the big, wide Le Creuset pot, with room to spare around the edges. That’s what you want/need to keep everything hot. That worked like a charm!

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and toss in with the veggies, scoop a portion onto a plate or bowl, top with cheese and you’re done. My dinner came together in about 20 minutes time.

What’s GOOD: well, let me just tell you, I gobbled that dinner down in nothing flat, and I went back for a tiny scoop of seconds. I cut the recipe in half and still have a generous portion for another dinner. The cauliflower and pea mixture gave nice texture to the dish, and the butter and oil added in certainly gave it nice richness. Next time I’ll add a few more red pepper flakes – it’s easy to make things too hot with those little things. Do use a generous amount of pepper, too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – this was a very easy meal, providing you or your family won’t miss a big hunk of protein. You probably could add some leftover chicken. Or bacon perhaps. I liked it just the way it was.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Linguine with Cauliflower, Peas, Butter, and Pepper

Recipe By: Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Serving Size: 5

1 whole cauliflower — cut into tiny florets
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parsley — chopped finely
1 teaspoon coarse mustard
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguine — or spaghettini
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese — shredded, or Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs — optional

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt it to taste, add the cauliflower, and cook for 3 minutes. Select a large bowl or saute pan that will sit on top of the pasta pot, but doesn’t seal around the edges – I chose a saute pan with handles and the handles propped up on each side. Scoop the cauliflower into the bowl or pot and add the butter, parsley, mustard, peas and pepper flakes.
2. Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and once you’ve maintained the high simmer point, set the bowl or pot over the pasta to keep it warm. Watch the pasta pot during the cooking time that it doesn’t boil over. Cook until pasta is al dente.
3. Drain pasta and add it to the cauliflower. Add a generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Grind a generous amount of pepper over all, then toss with the cheese and crumbs, if using. Add salt it needed. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 15g Fat (25.6% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 79g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 225mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on April 14th, 2016:

    Always loved cauliflower and peas together. Nice way to make it a meal.

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on April 15th, 2016:

    That sounds delicious. I eat a lot of vegetables and this dish would suit my taste. I have so many packages of pasta of varying type – and seldom remember to cook it!

    Well, good! Try it. . . carolyn t

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