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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 April 2nd, 2017.

cauliflower_tapenade

Cauliflower isn’t exactly at the top of my vegetable “like” list. Not that I dislike it. That’s not it. It just doesn’t have all that much flavor – to me anyway. I know it’s good for me, though. I’d probably never have made this dish except it was served to me. It’s wonderful. Really delicious.

At the moment, cauliflower is the new “IN” vegetable. There’s cauliflower everywhere, including the new riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s and Costco. When I’m served that ubiquitous mixed vegetable at a restaurant – with broccoli, maybe a red pepper strip or two, and some zucchini, perhaps, if there is cauliflower I may scoot it around my plate, thinking I’m going to eat it, but often I don’t. Steamed cauliflower just holds zero interest to my palate. I like cauliflower mashed to resemble mashed potatoes – with all kinds of good stuff in it like butter and sour cream. And I don’t dislike roasted cauliflower on occasion – the roasting (caramelization) makes it much more interesting and edible to me. And one of my very favorite green salads (Garlic VIP Dressing) has some tiny cauliflower florets (and toasted, sliced almonds too) in it. Coated with salad dressing, I love cauliflower. I think I prefer raw cauliflower, as long as it’s cut into fairly small bites.

If you like to make an appetizer, and you’d like it to be a bit more healthy, try this one. Normally a tapenade is olives – mostly olives. This has some, but it’s mostly cauliflower. You might be able to taste the cauliflower, or not. Surely people will ask you what it is. It does not look like hummus. It’s kind of light dirty brown (from the Mediterranean olives in it).

The cauliflower is tossed with some olive oil and a spice rub of some kind (Tarla used a blackened seasoning rub on it), then roasted until the tops were crispy brown. They they were combined with some pitted black and green olives, green onions, lemon juice, S & P. And more olive oil to make it smooth. Tarla used some olive bread (large baguette shape) and toasted the slices, then she scooped some of the cauliflower tapenade on top and served it with a salad. It could be served that way, or also as an appetizer. It’s also sprinkled with some smoked paprika on top – it wouldn’t be necessary to do that, but the smoked paprika adds a lovely little smoky taste to it.

What’s GOOD: it’s sort of healthy (though it has a goodly amount of olive oil in it) and you’ll get in a small portion of veggies when you serve it. It’s really delish.

What’s NOT: only that you do have to roast the cauliflower (about 15 minutes or so) first. Otherwise, it’s very easy to do. Do buy pitted olives if possible!

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cauliflower Tapenade

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, chef, 2017
Serving Size: 12

3 cups cauliflower — cut into 1″ florets
2 teaspoon blackened seasoning — or other spice rub
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup Mediterranean olives, mixed — pitted
2 green onions — sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup EVOO — or more if needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Smoked paprika for sprinkling on top
Olive bread or Baguette slices — for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower with 2 T of EVOO and the spice rub. Bake until golden brown on some of the edges, about 15 minutes. Turn the florets once during the baking time. Remove and let cool.
2. In a food processor, combine oil, olives, green onions, and lemon juice; blend until mostly smooth. Add cauliflower and about 1/2 teaspoon salt plus pepper to taste; blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides at least once. Taste for seasonings. Refrigerate until cool. Makes 2 cups.
3. Toast the olive bread or baguette slices, spread each piece with the tapenade and sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika.
Per Serving (tapenade only): 126 Calories; 14g Fat (89.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 45mg Sodium.

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