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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. 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 Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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, Pork, on October 28th, 2016.

First off, I have to tell you about one of my birthday gifts. I happened to mention to my daughter in law, Karen, about Rachel Ray’s pasta pot, about how it’s an elongated oval in shape so you can plunge the entire length of linguine or spaghetti or whatever long pasta you’re using and you don’t have to stand there over the steam facial trying to stuff the pasta down into the boiling water. Always seems to me like that’s problematical at times. I thought my DIL would want one for herself, since she makes pasta with some frequency for her family. I never thought she’d buy it for ME! But she did – for my daughter Sara (our birthdays are 5 days apart) and for me. Then she went shopping and bought some lovely California olive oil and several packages of long pasta and some high-end tomato sauces and wrapped it all up in cellophane and gave it to us. What a fun gift.

rachel_rays_pasta_pot

This is Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel II Nonstick 8-Quart Covered Oval Pasta Pot with Pour Spout, Red Gradient– it’s quite long – oval in shape. Comes in 3 or 4 colors. It’s available at Amazon – click the link.

This new pot is SO great. I just LOVE LOVE the long oval shape and I made pasta last night just so I could use it and try it out. On the far side – the edge – you can barely see it, there’s a pour spout. The handles (can’t see them in the photo, sorry) have soft red covers so they don’t get too hot to handle. The pot is nonstick, though I don’t know that I’ll use it for actual cooking. It’s not a super heavy pot, not like cast iron. I was gleeful as I decided to make some pasta since I consider it a real treat.

I’ve been working on a project – it’s taken me weeks and weeks – sorting through and throwing away most of my old-old recipes that I’ve been collecting (these are clippings from numerous magazines and newspapers, 3×5 cards sometimes, a few from the early internet days and some stray cooking class recipes on which I’d made no notes whether the dishes were good, bad, etc.) since the mid-1960s. Most of them I’d never made, but they were sorted into categories and I’d rarely dip into the folders. Some of the pocket folders I haven’t touched for 5 or more years. Definitely time to do something about them. None are in my recipe software. So I’d dump out a pile of recipes – somewhere between 50-300 in each folder and standing at my kitchen island I’d start a discard pile and a few would go the other way to be input into MasterCook. In the pasta pocket folder containing about 100 recipes I saved out 5 recipes, of which this was one.

creamy_sausage_sauce_pastaThe recipe I decided to try comes from one of the Café Beaujolais (Mendocino, California) cookbooks. Don’t know which one. It called for andouille sausage or linguisa. I had regular Italian sweet sausage instead. And it might be really good with chorizo too. And I added onion which wasn’t in the original recipe. Otherwise it’s mostly Margaret Fox’s recipe. I used less cream, more cheese and maybe a few more slivered peppers.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, was it good. Maybe I was just over the moon at having pasta in any way, shape or form, but I loved the combo of sausage and cream – which is what Margaret Fox wrote in the original recipe, about the affinity of the two; something she’d never tried before until her husband created this dish. I used half a cup of cream for the whole dish which serves at least 3, maybe 4 small servings. So, not too bad. Loved this. I’d definitely make it again. And, it came together in a jiffy.

What’s NOT: not exactly a low calorie or low fat dish, sorry to say. It satisfied all my cravings for sausage and pasta and then some. Seems like I dirtied up a bunch of pots and pans, but really only two; it’s just that they were both big ones.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Creamy Sausage Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino (from Margaret Fox, the original owner/chef)
Serving Size: 3

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage — cut into chunks
1/2 yellow onion — slivered
1/2 cup bell peppers — slivered
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup green onion — chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
8 ounces linguine
1 teaspoon salt — for the pasta water
Save some of the cooking water

1. Set aside some of the chopped green onions and parsley for garnishing.
2. Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the Italian sausage and brown well on all sides (helps develop flavors). Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add peppers and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes until onion is cooked through. Add garlic and red chili flakes and stir for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.
3. Add the white wine and cook for 2-4 minutes to let the flavors marry.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large stock pot with water and add salt. Cook linguine until barely tender (al dente).
5. To the sausage pan add heavy cream, the green onions, parsley and grated cheese. Stir as you heat the sauce through.
6. Drain pasta and add to the meat mixture, stirring to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to make the mixture fluid. Immediately serve and garnish with the reserved parsley and green onions.
Per Serving: 942 Calories; 61g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 1574mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on November 1st, 2016:

    If I had one of those pans, I would have to sleep in it – there would be nowhere to store it in my tiny kitchen!

    Oh, dear! But you don’t do a lot of cooking anyway, right? I’m blessed to have a very large kitchen, although that pan (which has no home in my actual kitchen) must live in my laundry room on some deep shelving that holds a whole lot of kitchen stuff I don’t use all that often. If you saw my kitchen you’d think there’s no way I’d have more stuff than would fit in all the shelves and cupboards, but I do. I suppose some day I’ll have to pare down, but I’m not ready to do that yet! . . . carolyn t

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