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Just finished a stunning book, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

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 Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on January 17th, 2017.

mushroom_cauliflower_risotto

Brown food doesn’t always look all that great in photos. But what it might lack in picture worthiness, is more than made up for in flavor. And low calories. And low fat. And nearly zero in carbs. There is no RICE in this dish, just so you know.

Cauliflower “rice” is sold at Costco, and at Trader Joe’s. Perhaps at other food purveyors as well. Trader Joe’s has both cauliflower and broccoli (more stems than green part) that’s been “riced.” That’s not what one usually means by riced, as in using a RICER with a cooked potato – no, this is the fresh, raw vegetable chopped up finely in a food processor so it has somewhat a similar shape as a kernel of rice. You can do it yourself with your own food processor. I’ve not tried it, but you could try using the grater with cauliflower too.

This dish was prepared at a cooking class I attended last month – a great class of French food, and this was served alongside a delicious beef tenderloin. Since then I’ve made it myself as well, and it was every bit as good. Using the word risotto, of course, connotes rice and a creamy consistency. I won’t tell you that it tastes just like risotto, but if you don’t think about it, you can conjure up the toothsome-ness of rice and slightly creamy texture. The success of the dish is all about the mushrooms, actually, and probably the jot of soy sauce added in for umami flavor. You absolutely do NOT taste cauliflower. I can guarantee it!

I’ve mentioned it here before, that one evening several years ago I served mashed cauliflower as “mashed potatoes” and fooled a friend, Lynn, about it. I didn’t know he detested cauliflower – I just thought it was so fun to mimic mashed potatoes, so I didn’t tell anyone it was cauliflower. Lynn lapped it up and liked it. Ever since, when he and Sue visit me, Lynn is wary of what I’m going to serve him. If he knew this was cauliflower he probably wouldn’t eat it, but if I didn’t say anything, I’m sure he’d wolf it down like everybody else did!

Shallot, minced up finely, starts the dish. Along with both Crimini mushrooms and Shiitake types (you need the Shiitake for extra flavor – they’re expensive, but you don’t need all that much of them). Dried thyme and garlic are added, then the cauliflower rice. You add a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, just a tiny bit of heavy cream, and truffle salt (if available). You cook it briefly – about 2 minutes for the Trader Joe’s type, and a bit longer for Costco’s (because theirs is a bit bigger chunks). Parsley is added at the end, and you serve it immediately while it’s still steamy hot. I did make it and had leftovers. When reheated, it wasn’t quite as good, only because the cauliflower was softer with further cooking it.

What’s GOOD: this is a veggie dish that’s loaded with flavor and it’s very satisfying. Add some grated Parm on top if you want to make it extra special. The soy sauce is almost indistinguishable, but it adds good umami flavor. I think this dish is spectacular – I’m fooled that it IS rice.

What’s NOT: nothing, really – it’s quick and easy – certainly comes together a whole lot quicker than making real risotto!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mushroom Cauliflower “Risotto”

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon EVOO
10 ounces Crimini mushrooms — sliced
3 1/2 ounces shiitake mushroom — sliced (discard stems)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large shallot — sliced
1 large garlic clove — chopped
1 pound cauliflower — in “rice” form (Trader Joe’s or Costco)
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Truffle salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped

1. In a large skillet or 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt and shallot. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute only.
2. Add the cauliflower “rice” and stir well. Add soy sauce, cream, truffle salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and cook for a minute or two (longer if using Costco’s cauliflower) until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not so long that it becomes mushy. Stir in parsley and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 126 Calories; 5g Fat (29.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 7mg Cholesterol; 587mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 17th, 2017:

    In the past, I haven’t considered cauliflower “rice” worth the bother. I like cauliflower as cauliflower, and I dislike chopping it, even in the food processor–little bits all over the place. This, however, definitely looks worth trying, since I won’t have to do the chopping, I love mushrooms, and I’m always looking for low-carb dishes to round out a meal. And I bet any leftovers would be great with a fried egg on top–a low-carb breakfast as a bonus!

    You’ll be surprised at the taste. Be careful of the soy sauce – if you use too much it’ll have an Asian taste, and that’s not desirable, of course. And don’t overcook it, or the cauliflower takes on a mushy taste. Let me know what you think. I’m not a big fan of cauliflower in much of any form unless it’s got a significant amount of butter or cheese on it. Even cauliflower “steaks” don’t wow me, though I’ve made them and even wrote it up here on my blog. I know it’s good for us, though. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on January 18th, 2017:

    First I’ve got to find the riced cauliflower, which might mean waiting until I can get to Trader Joe’s. But I’ll let you know what I think when I get a chance to try it. I do agree that butter and cheese work wonders for cauliflower, but I also enjoy it roasted until there are crispy bits. I tried a whole roasted one once, with a yogurt sauce, and it was a big dud. Did Smitten Kitchen’s Silky Cauliflower Soup a few days ago, and liked it a lot. It was super simple and didn’t call for much fat, and no milk or cream. It just has half a cup of parmesan–the good stuff–which was different. Wouldn’t mind a little more of it, though.

  3. hddonna

    said on January 22nd, 2017:

    We just had this for dinner tonight. I found the riced cauliflower at my usual supermarket, but it was $4 for 10 oz. I was determined to try this, so bought the cauliflower, but I wasn’t about to get two. I happened to have part of a head of cauliflower in the fridge, so I did what I said I didn’t want to do and whizzed it up in the food processor to make up the amount called for. Turns out there’s nothing to it–it wasn’t messy and took practically no time at all, and you could not tell the difference between that from the supermarket and the stuff I did myself. I was surprised at just how good it was. I thought it would need parmesan, but it didn’t. Mine was a bit too salty, even though I used light soy sauce–maybe mine’s saltier than yours. I could definitely taste soy sauce, too, but that was OK with me. Next time I’ll hold back some until I taste it for salt, though. And there will be a next time! Thanks for the recipe–without you, I would not likely have gotten around to trying riced cauliflower.

    I’m glad you liked it, Donna. I found it too salty also, and I used low-sodium soy sauce. And I agree about thinking it needed Parm, but it didn’t. Maybe it needs less soy sauce altogether. I can’t imagine making it with the full 3 or 4 T the chef recommended. And yet when I had it at the class, I didn’t notice the saltiness, though she also used a low-sodium soy sauce. I suppose every brand IS different. . . Carolyn T

  4. hddonna

    said on January 23rd, 2017:

    I did put in the full four tablespoons of soy sauce. Had you meant to reduce the amount in the version of the recipe you posted?

    No, I think I mentioned in my first comment here to be “careful” about the soy sauce, but I didn’t clarify that that meant maybe not to use as much. When I made it, my cousin was visiting and he eats GF. There is gluten in soy sauce, so he asked me to use less, so I used a bit more than ONE tablespoon, and thought it was plenty. I haven’t revised the recipe, since it was the chef’s “original” recipe. Next time you make it, you might use half that (2 T) and see what you think! . . . carolyn t

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