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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

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 Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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 Grilling, Miscellaneous sides, on September 7th, 2007.

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My friend, Sue, another of my friends who is a very good cook, served this sauce one night several years ago when we dined at their home. It was served as a major condiment on pork chops, I believe. And was it ever good! She told me the recipe came from a cookbook she’d purchased after hearing Lynne Rossetto Kasper talk about it on NPR. I tried to find the recipe online, but had no success at all. So, of course, I had to go buy the book too. Amazon being my good friend, it took no time at all to get it. I enjoyed reading it, The Italian Country Table, all on its own. The author includes lots of fun little stories about the different dishes, about the foodstuffs of Italy, and hundreds of little cooking tips. The sub-title of the book is: Home Cooking from Italy’s Farmhouse Kitchens.

The recipe suggests this can be served with almost any grilled meat. It would be wonderful with grilled Italian sausages, over chicken, or even served as a side to a pork roast. It has a jammy consistency. In fact, Kasper even mentions it in the recipe write-up, that’s it’s more like tomato jam than a tomato sauce. So, this isn’t a sauce for pouring over pasta. This is a tart and sweet reduced (side) sauce that will mound high on a spoon because it’s so thick and goes WITH a protein. Or maybe grilled onions. Or grilled portobello mushrooms. And one of the best things is that this sauce will keep for several weeks. The recipe indicates a week or so, but I’ve kept this much longer than that with no problem. You could also freeze it in small quantities too. I always double this recipe because we use it on lots of different things. Being this is the end of tomato season, you probably could make this with fresh tomatoes too; it just so happens that the author uses canned ones.
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Siciliana Sauce

Recipe From: The Italian Country Table, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Servings: 4-6
COOK’S NOTES: Sweet, tangy and tart all at the same time. Absolutely the best using San tomatoes from Italy.Spread this on grilled lamb or tuna, thick slices of grilled onions or portobello mushrooms. Or, daub it on bruschetta.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion — minced
1 1/2 inches rosemary sprig salt and pepper — to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil zest of one large orange
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup canned tomatoes — drained, generous cup

1. In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion begins to color, then add the sugar. Stir with a wooden spatula as sugar melts and bubbles (taking care not to burn), the finally turns pale amber, while the onions remain light-colored. 2. Immediately add the herbs, zest and garlic. Standing back to avoid splatters, quickly add the vinegar. Stir and boil down until the vinegar is a glaze, coating the onion and barely covering the bottom of the pan. Continue to scrape down the sides, to bring the developing glaze back into the sauce. Watch for burning.
3. Stir in tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pan. Boil, scraping down the sides and stirring, until the sauce is almost sizzling in its own juices. It should be a thick jam that mounds on a spoon. Finish seasoning with a few grinds of black pepper, turn out of the pan and cool. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store covered in the refrigerator.
Per Serving: 62 Calories; 2g Fat (32.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 61mg Sodium.

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  1. I am a mom

    said on September 7th, 2007:

    Carolyn, I was trying to find answers to my paragraph spacing frustration and found yours. I noticed that you have spaces now. Did someone give you a solution? I couldn’t find one. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

  2. Carolyn T

    said on September 7th, 2007:

    Well, I have a partial solution. Probably 80% of the time the paragraphs space correctly, but then there are others that no matter what I do, they publish without a line of white between. Someone else suggested going into the html window of the post and adding a /br (I don’t know if this posting will allow this to show here – so, its a left bracket with a /br, then a right bracket). That means it’s a “break”. You don’t have to have a beginning br, just an /br and it will force a line of white space. Has worked every time I have had to resort to it. Try it.

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