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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 Soups, on June 30th, 2017.

zucchini_mint_soup

Really subtle, a little bit chunky, but altogether refreshing summer soup. Can also be served hot.

When Tarla Fallgatter made this soup, I wasn’t expecting to like it so much. Afterwards, I thought maybe I was just overly hungry at the class when she made this, but I liked it so much, I made it a week later to SEE if it really did tick all my boxes as much as I thought it did. Yes. I wrote a note on the recipe – “almost tastes like there’s cheese in it, but no.” It must be the leeks, we decided, that gave the soup such a lovely consistency and flavor. I do love leeks, and they provide an abundance of flavor to things. My favorite leeks come from Trader Joe’s, because they’re already trimmed and mostly clean too, 2 to a pack. When I made this, I made a double batch (so about 12 leeks) and 6 pounds of zucchini. I wanted to have leftovers to freeze.

The leeks do have to be softened in butter for awhile, and the zucchini is cooked not fully soft, then you add the broth and simmer for about 20 minutes. The soup is pureed in a blender, but don’t overdo it – don’t make it smooth – I liked the little bit of texture to it, but that’s your choice. After pureeing, add the little bit of cream and mint. Serve hot/warm or chill and garnish with a mint leaf on top.

If you’re lucky enough to be growing zucchini, do save this recipe to make when you have an abundance of them.

What’s GOOD: really liked this soup – it’s fairly healthy (just a bit of cream) and it can be served hot, warm or cold. How versatile is THAT? Loved the little bit of texture from not pureeing it completely. Lots of depth of flavor, most likely from the leeks. Freezes well. It’s not an “over the top” type, but it’s delicious and relatively filling.

What’s NOT: not a single thing.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chilled Zucchini-Mint Soup

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, 2017
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups leeks — use both white and green part (about 6 leeks)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth — or vegetable broth
3 pounds zucchini — chopped (about 8 cups)
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh mint — (packed) minced
whole mint leaves for garnish

1. Melt butter in a large saute pan, then add leeks and saute until soft, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and saute until beginning to soften, about 5 more minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, but still a bit of texture remaining. Return puree to same pot, add cream and the chopped mint. Allow to cool, cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours, and up to 24 hours.
3. Taste soup and add more broth if it’s too thick. Season with salt and/or pepper to taste. Garnish with mint leaves.
Per Serving: 152 Calories; 10g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 51mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 1st, 2017:

    Well, it took a while, but I finally got a chance to make this soup. We had it hot the first evening, and the next day I heated up a bowlful for my husband and had mine chilled. Delicious both ways, so simple but satisfying, and very little work. Since a super-smooth texture is not the goal, I was able to use my stick blender to puree it. For the purposes of my diet, I don’t have to count carbs from non-starchy vegetables–my dietician said I could have as much of those as I want–so a bowl of this is “free” for me! Of course, the fat has to be taken into account, but 10g isn’t bad, and I think it’s essential; without it, the soup would seem to be missing something, and that would cause me to add too much salt in an attempt to make up for it. My adult son said it reminded him of broccoli soup that first evening.

    I’m so glad you liked it. I just made another batch a couple of days ago and it was scrumptious. Still have 3-4 servings left. Houseguests are coming, so I’ll serve some tonight, a small bowl. . . carolyn t

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