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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 Soups, on June 18th, 2017.

carrot_soup_tarragon_orange

A simple soup. Mostly carrots, but the flavors are rich and complex with the addition of tarragon and orange.

Every few months I have to do a bunch of administrative offloading of all the photos I take for the recipes I post. They’re on my kitchen computer, and need to put them into storage.  They’re all divided up by recipe title, but I have a hard time finding things if the file directory gets over about 50-60, so I transfer them to a CD. I was about to do this, this morning, but I looked at this carrot soup and thought, hmmm, I don’t remember posting this. Sure enough, I hadn’t. It’s from a cooking class I took last fall. Maybe it was in December – –  can’t recall. But this soup is easy and delicious. It’s starting to be NOT soup weather, so I’d best get this posted and offload it!

Anyway, the soup is super easy to make and just requires a blender at the end, then you add in a bit of orange juice (enough that you can taste the orangey flavor), a jot of brandy and the fresh tarragon. Do use orange carrots, not the multicolored ones, as I think the color of the soup might be off-putting to some. The sweeter and carrots the better.

What’s GOOD: the soup is very easy to make – just requires some orange juice and fresh tarragon that you might not have in your kitchen. I don’t drink OJ anymore, but I always have a can of frozen juice in the freezer, so I can scoop out a bit of that slush to make a cup of orange juice for recipes. Soup is really tasty. Different because of the orange. And I liked the tarragon at the end. Would freeze really well.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. If you don’t like tarragon, use fresh thyme instead.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Carrot Soup with Tarragon and Orange

Recipe By: Caroline Cazaumayou, chef, 2016
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds carrots — peeled, sliced
1 1/2 cups onion — chopped
6 cups chicken broth — or vegetable broth
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brandy — optional
4 teaspoons fresh tarragon — finely minced
Fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish

1. Melt butter in large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add carrots and onion and saute until onion is soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add broth; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, uncover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, filling half way only. Pour into another container and continue to puree until all the soup is smooth. Pour soup back into the soup pot; add orange juice, brandy and the chopped tarragon. May be made a day ahead to this point and refrigerated. Can be frozen at this point.
3. Simmer soup for 5 minutes for flavors to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into bowls and serve with tarragon sprigs on top.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 4g Fat (30.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 609mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on June 24th, 2017:

    I like the sound of this one, even though we have temperatures of 25 – 31C at present. I think this could be served chilled, like Gazpacho or Vichyssoise – don’t you?

    Yes, for sure you could serve it cold. We’re having very warm weather too, about the same as you, I think, if I’ve done the conversion from C. to F. I froze most of the soup and had it a week or so ago before our summer heat started. It was lovely. Enjoyed every bite. . . carolyn t

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