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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 Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on November 3rd, 2017.

nutted_wild_rice_salad

That photo just doesn’t do justice to this rice salad. Even though I use Photoshop to crop and work with my photos, sometimes you just can’t make brown food look wonderful. 

Behind the scenes of any blog, or maybe I should say a food blog with recipes, is a whole lot of file administration. You might not think so, but there are many, many steps to getting a story written, photos worked on, sized correctly, inserted in the right places, recipe itself prepared, stripped of formatting, uploaded and then put into a finished format on the blog. It’s not seamless. And all that is to say that this recipe that I made months ago somehow got lost in the mix. At least it didn’t get deleted. I can’t even remember when I made this (photo properties says I took the photo on August 5th), or for what family occasion (it was probably our group family birthday we do about that time of year). I wouldn’t have made it just for myself; that I know. But as soon as I glanced at the photo, I remembered eating it, and my mouth was watering.

The recipe came from cooks.com and has no attribution. But I used some white rice in it too, so am not sure where I found the recipe, or if I adapted it myself. In years past, I’ve made the Silver Palate’s wild rice salad numerous times (but never written up here), and I have another one here on my blog from a museum restaurant in D.C. The Mitsitam. And yet another one that’s a copycat one from a local restaurant here in my neck of the woods that contained fresh corn. But this one is just a simple-enough wild rice and white rice salad enhanced with pecans, golden raisins, green onions, orange juice and zest. And it’s downright delicious.

I won’t tell you that this salad is cinchy quick – it has several steps, and you have to watch the rice carefully that it doesn’t overcook. That would be a crime, since you want the wild rice to still have some tooth. But once the rice is made, the other ingredients are straight forward and easy. A lovely honey vinaigrette is added and it can sit for awhile. You can eat it warm or cold, and leftovers are still good, although the pecans sometimes get a bit soft. But worth making? Yes.

What’s GOOD: a great salad for a crowd. Can be made ahead. Delicious warm or cold, or room temp. Leftovers still taste good, too. Of all my wild rice salads I’ve made, this probably wasn’t my favorite, but I liked the orange zest and juice in it. And the green onions.

What’s NOT: a few steps to make, but not hard at all.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Nutted Wild Rice Salad

Recipe By: adapted from cooks.com
Serving Size: 8

1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup wild rice — raw
5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup pecans — toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 whole orange — ZESTED & juiced
1/4 cup honey
4 whole green onions — thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar — or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Strain wild rice in strainer and run cold water over it. Rinse the rice thoroughly.
2. Place wild rice in heavy saucepan. Add stock (or water) and bring to to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 30+ minutes until rice is just barely cooked through. Do not overcook.
3. In another pot, cook white rice in water until it’s barely done – do not overcook. Drain, transfer both rices to a bowl and stir in butter and oil.
4. Combine the orange juice and honey; stir to combine. Add all remaining ingredients, adjusting for seasonings, or more vinegar, or orange juice. Let mixture stand for about 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Taste rice for seasonings. Serve at room temp.
Per Serving: 404 Calories; 19g Fat (41.0% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 361mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on November 3rd, 2017:

    This sounds like it would have to be good–a nice symphony of flavors and textures. I think it would be just the thing to go with a simple pork roast or roast chicken (or that duck in my freezer!)

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