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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) 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 Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 Salad Dressings, on May 13th, 2017.

green_goddess_dressing_spoon

A winner of a recipe from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated.

You’ve read here before that I record all the TV shows from America’s Test Kitchen and from Cook’s Country. I’m not sure which one discussed this recipe, but it’s credited to C.C. (the magazine) in April of 2006. Here on my blog I have another version of Green Goddess that is supposedly from the source, a hotel in San Francisco. But, the folks at ATK wanted to make it even better, and now that I’ve made it myself, I agree, this version is just wonderful. And much better than the other one.

What’s different? Well, first off, you soak dried tarragon (not fresh) in some water and lemon juice for 15 minutes. That obviously brings out the tarragon flavor. I think I like dried tarragon better than fresh anyway. I have a very hard time growing tarragon here – perhaps our summers are too hot. Don’t know . . . so what I have is French tarragon. Then you mix the tarragon concoction with mayo, a little bit of sour cream, fresh parsley, garlic, and one full sized, good-quality anchovy fillet that’s rinsed and blotted with a paper towel. This is whizzed up in the blender. Now, I also added the chives to the blender – in the recipe it said to add them after whizzing in the blender. Then I tasted it for salt and pepper (didn’t think it needed either) and let it chill. Right out of the blender it didn’t wow me at all, but several hours later, after melding the flavors, I thought it was delish.

green_goddess_in_saladAccording to the recipe, the dressing only keeps for 24 hours. I wasn’t sure why that would be – after 2 days (so I was a whole day past it’s use by date) I made one last salad for myself to use it up, and what I noticed was that the garlic had overpowered the dressing – that kind of sharp, not-so-good hot taste. As a family of one, I would not make this size (to serve 8) as I’d never be able to use it up. So keep that in mind when you make it – only make enough to use in 24 hours!

What’s GOOD: the tarragon flavor, which is part of what makes Green Goddess a Green Goddess, is perfect – just the right amount. The anchovy fillet is not noticeable at all – kind of like in Caesar dressing – it’s a good umami flavor. It’s a lovely green color. Rich. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: only that you’re supposed to use it up within 24 hours.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Green Goddess Dressing

Recipe By: Cook’s Country
Serving Size: 8

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley — roughly chopped
1 medium clove garlic — chopped
1 anchovy fillet — rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine the tarragon, lemon juice, and water. Allow those ingredients to sit for 15 minutes.
2. Using a blender, process the tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic and anchovies until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the blender jar as necessary.
3. Transfer to bowl, stir in the chives, season with salt and pepper. Chill about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
4. Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 day. (After 24 hours the garlic overpowers the flavors.)
Per Serving: 168 Calories; 19g Fat (96.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 141mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on May 31st, 2017:

    I like the idea of this but I don’t understand why the recipe calls for dried Tarragon since I have always found the fresh, French variety to have a great deal of flavour. It is the Russian sort that is less flavourful.

    Perhaps you could add a little ‘Lazy Garlic’ in each serving of the dressing to save getting the overpowering taste of it?

    I think when I read the article about this version, the chefs at ATK felt that the dried tarragon added more flavor. Where I live, I have a hard time growing tarragon. I can buy it at the store, but it’s very expensive for a few, tiny sprigs, and it doesn’t keep long. You could certainly use fresh. And, definitely, if you don’t like fresh garlic, use powdered or some other kind. . . carolyn t

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