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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 Veggies/sides, on April 30th, 2016.

indian_spiced_cauliflower

Can I see frowns on your faces? Curry? Oh, I don’t like curry, you say, skip this recipe. Well, you’ll be missing out if you don’t at least try it. There is so little curry in this you can’t exactly identify it. Yet it adds a very elusive flavor.

A couple of weeks ago (when I made this) I’d just gotten home from a 5-day trip to Northern California to visit Taylor, my granddaughter who’s attending Sonoma State, and my daughter Dana and her family near Placerville. Once home from the trip I knew I needed to use up some things in my refrigerator and a head of cauliflower was first on the list.

And actually, when I threw together a dinner the next night (you know how it is – you get back from a trip – there’s laundry to do, phone calls to return, mail to go through, bills to pay) and I didn’t have much time to cook dinner. And it wasn’t even in my mind that the recipe would be worthy of a post here on the blog. I just needed a quick dinner and I’d get back to the things that needed doing.

I drizzled some canola oil into a frying pan and then added a bit of butter too. While it was heating up I quick-like sliced and chopped up the cauliflower. The pieces that I sliced were the ones that had more of the caramelization, so I’d vote for doing a lot of slicing rather than floret-ing. I grabbed my bunch of cilantro and twisted off a little chunk to mince. Once the pan was just about smoking (be careful as the butter could burn, and you don’t want that) I threw in the cauliflower, turned the heat down just a bit, turned on the overhead fan and let those pieces caramelize. It doesn’t take long – there is a fine line, though, between hot and burning. It took very little time to get those pieces of cauliflower to brown. I tossed and stirred, along with the bit of dried thyme I sprinkled over it. Once browned to my liking, I added some water to the pan, on went a lid and I let it steam for about a minute. Just a minute. Then I sprinkled on the curry powder, salt and pepper. I tasted a piece because I did want the cauliflower to be done. Oh my goodness was it delicious – so into that little bowl it went – and I took a photo.

As it happened I only cooked a half of a head of cauliflower, but shall I just confess? I ate it all. Every single bit. Does that tell you how wonderful it was? In my defense, I will say that it was a small half head!

What’s GOOD: If you read my last sentence, I ate a half of a cauliflower when I made this. The entire amount. It was that good. The curry powder (I use Madras because I like that type, but you can use any curry powder) isn’t predominating by a long shot. In fact, you can hardly taste it. If you want to make it more special, throw in some pine nuts. Toast those in the frying pan during the last minute of cooking. You could add some turmeric too. If you don’t like cilantro, add some Italian parsley (it was as much for color as anything else). If your family doesn’t much like cauliflower, they might like it this way. The vegetable almost tastes sweet – caramelization or roasting does that to a lot of vegetables.

What’s NOT: not a thing. I love cauliflower, so it was a no-brainer that I’d enjoy it. I just didn’t know how MUCH I’d enjoy it!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Indian Spiced Cauliflower

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

1 tablespoon canola oil — or olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 head cauliflower — cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme — crushed between your palms
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder — slightly heaping
3 tablespoons cilantro — minced (garnish)
salt and pepper to taste

NOTES: As you cut up the cauliflower, it’s fine to cut some into slices, because they will lay flat in the pan and caramelize easier than florets. Just make them small, bite-sized. I advise you not to wash the cauliflower just before making this as it really will spit at you while cooking.
1. In a saute pan large enough to hold all the cauliflower in one layer, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat until melted and almost spitting. Toss in the cauliflower and the dried thyme and maintaining fairly high heat as you brown (caramelize) the cauliflower. Use a spatula to turn the cauliflower periodically so browning occurs over all the surfaces. Watch the pan carefully so it doesn’t burn, and turn down the heat as you need to. Once all the pieces are nicely caramelized, add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover for just a minute or two to cook the cauliflower through.
2. Sprinkle on the curry powder and toss in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 68 Calories; 6g Fat (80.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 11mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on April 30th, 2016:

    Roasted/caramelized cauliflower, with or without curry, is hard for me to stop eating, too! In a big pan of roasted vegetables, the cauliflower bits are the ones I go for first. Good thing it’s good for us!

    You and I really are a lot alike, Donna! I think I could even eat hot, roasted cauliflower for breakfast! Not every day, however. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on April 30th, 2016:

    I would eat it for breakfast, too. With an egg on it. I love to make breakfast with odds and ends of leftovers. Yesterday, I had crab legs with a green peppercorn sauce at a restaurant, and I brought home the shells and sauce, which had slivers of red bell peppers and jalapenos in it. I used the sauce for today’s breakfast, drizzled over a poached egg. Delicious! This afternoon I made crab stock with the shells, strained it and set it to reduce while I practiced my dulcimer. A smell of burning crab brought me back to the kitchen an hour later. My stock was reduced to black crumbs. Fortunately, I caught it in time to save the pot. Forgive me for going off topic, but I thought you might might appreciate the story.)

    Oh my goodness!! Not that something similar (burning the stock) hasn’t happened to most every cook – thank goodness you didn’t ruin the pan!! . . . carolyn t

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