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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.

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Posted in Appetizers, on June 13th, 2016.

edamame_hummus

Healthy, but you’d never know it. Rich and creamy. Slightly green because edamame are green. No dairy in it at all – just oil and seasonings. Divine.

A few weeks ago I spent Mother’s Day with son Powell (and family) at his wife’s sister Janice’s home. They did a fabulous full-on Indian dinner catered by a great restaurant here in my neck of the woods called The Royal Khyber. Janice’s husband, though English by birth, is Indian and he’s on a first name basis with all of the staff and owners at the restaurant. When we go there we usually just tell Julian to order for us. He always orders lamb vindaloo (one of his favorites). I was particularly enamored with the ground lamb appetizer skewers. Am not sure what they were called, but they were tender, juicy and fabulous. I ate some of everything.

Janice had made this hummus with edamame which she served with a variety of fresh vegetables for dipping. She said she’d tried several similar recipes and finally settled on this one – I think it may have come from the food network, though I’m not sure. In any case, I really, really liked it, so asked Janice for the recipe, which she kindly sent.

I made this in the late morning and had that little plate full for my lunch, though I didn’t quite finish all the hummus in that bowl. I have heaps left for another day. I particularly liked it with the Persian cucumber slices, and with the more tender interior of the celery hearts. The last few bags of celery I’ve purchased have been particularly chewy and stringy. I buy organic celery because the stuff contains so much water and I want it to be non-influenced by pesticides, etc. I had to de-string several of the outer stalks and even then they were tough. Throw that bag out except for the very center.

The hummus – well, just to recap – usually it’s made with garbanzo beans – and it would be yellow. This, made with edamame was made from cooked and frozen beans (Trader Joe’s), merely defrosted and plopped into the blender along with all the other ingredients and whizzed up. I added more oil and water, and more salt and lemon juice, so I added those notes to the recipe below. I didn’t exactly measure the edamame – I think the 12 ounce bag contained about 2 cups, so I used most of it. A half a pound of cooked edamame is about 1 1/2 cups, exactly what was needed for this recipe.

I’m sure that tomorrow it will taste better once the flavors have melded together. It was so refreshing and filling. Amazingly filling, I thought. It probably would freeze okay too, just in case you need to do that. This is a really great recipe and it makes me feel good to know that I ate a very healthy lunch today. Thanks, Janice!!

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost. Very clean, tasty, creamy and filling. I particularly liked it with the cucumbers, but any veggies would be fine, even cauliflower. I don’t know about broccoli, but maybe. Carrots for sure, and celery. It might even be good in a sandwich with some lettuce, tomato and sliced mild, white cheese. It might ooze, however, just so you know.

What’s NOT: nothing I can think of – easy to make, healthy for sure. It makes a lot, so reduce the quantity if you are feeding a small group or your small family. Am sure it will keep for a several days.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Edamame Hummus

Recipe By: From a family member, Janice G
Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 cups edamame — (green soy beans), 1/2 pound = approx 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest — freshly grated
3 tablespoons lemon juice — or more if needed
1 clove garlic — smashed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — or more if needed
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley — chopped fresh
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley — for garnishing the serving bowl
Suggested serving: Sliced cucumbers, celery, carrot sticks and olives

1. If the edamame is raw, cook it in boiling water for about 4 minutes.
2. In a blender combine the tahini, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, parsley, spices and the edamame.
3. Drizzle in the oil and continue to blend until it’s the consistency you prefer. Add more water or oil and/or lemon juice to taste. The mixture should be soft, not overly thick. Taste for seasonings [mine needed more lemon juice, salt and oil].
4. Sprinkle with more parsley when serving with vegetables of your choice.
Per Serving: 117 Calories; 9g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 151mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on June 14th, 2016:

    The minced lamb starter was probably a Kofta.

    I wonder if I would like that hummus? I wasn’t very keen on the Edamame when I tried them, I think, in fact, that I have a disdain for anything from Soya. I am pleased that you enjoyed it though. Have you tried Broad Bean (Fava) hummus?

    Oh yes, I think that IS what it’s called, a kofta. Next time I go to the restaurant I’ll order it. As for the edamame, I don’t dislike it – I like it infinitely better than soy – tofu – but the bean is bean-like. A local restaurant here prepares it with chili spices as an appetizer. You have to remove the beans from the pod. They’re quite good. As for fava – when I was in Italy a year ago it was fava season and we were served a tasty puree as an appetizer several times. I thought it was fantastic. We rarely seem to have fresh fava here in California. Sometimes we can find them frozen. But no, have never had fava hummus. Sounds like it would be good, but much like hummus made with garbanzo. Although garbanzo beans have a unique flavor. Fava is probably more neutral flavored. . . carolyn t

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