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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Desserts, on May 4th, 2007.

Chapter 1 of the gelato story: After having made several trips to Italy in the last 10 years, I’ve come to be a real aficionado of gelato. And although I’ve had it here at home, it never seems to taste as good as it does there. Is it the air? Is it the fact that I’m on vacation? Is it just the romance of Italy? Or, more likely, I believe, milk in Italy is just different than ours, with a higher butterfat content, and the milk tastes different because of what the cows eat. I just picture all those Italian cows munching away on REAL grass and stuff, rather than the manufactured crap and exaggerated hormones American dairies feed their milkers in order to produce the highest possible amount of milk output. I’d love to be able to bring a half gallon of Italian milk home with me from some trip to Italy and see if there was a difference. Not likely with the TSA vigilant at the screening stations and us with 5-ounce limits of anything.

Chapter 2 of the gelato story: A few years ago when our friends Yvette & Joe were coming up to visit from San Diego, Yvette said she’d bring dessert. And, oh my goodness, was it wonderful. She frequents a little gelato store on India Street (Little Italy) near downtown San Diego. Called Caffe Vera, it’s run by a ubiquitous Italian man from the old country. His shop is small, his business brisk, and his gelato par excellence. Yvette brought her favorite, banana gelato, which we enjoyed after our wonderful dinner. We’ve been back several times to bring home a batch, although the banana flavor must be ordered in advance because he ripens the bananas for several days. I also made roasted banana ice cream a few days ago, but right now we’re talking about Lemon Velvet since it was my first, successful ice cream conquest.

One of the reasons gelato is different is that it’s made mostly with milk (whole milk), not cream as our traditional ice cream contains. So, theoretically, it’s a little healthier for us than ice cream. But any nutritionist would probably question my logic there. But anyway, I love making ice cream that doesn’t require making a custard (it’s traditional here in the U.S. – a sauce made with egg yolks and cream simmered until thickened, then cooled and chilled before freezing). So when this Lemon Velvet recipe appeared in the Los Angeles Times some years ago, I clipped it out in a flash because it contains more milk than anything else. The Velvet Turtle restaurant chain was widely known in Southern California for many years, and this recipe was a regular on their dessert menu. The original recipe is printed below. Normally I substitute the evaporated milk and the regular milk with Trader Joe’s fat-free half and half. And I usually add some heavy cream instead of the half and half called for.

So, now, we finally get the segue for what the photo is all about. Are you getting really bored wondering when I’m ever going to get to the recipe? Just a little more explanation. About 3 years ago when Dave asked me what I’d like for Christmas I said “a Cuisinart ICE-50BC Supreme Ice Cream Maker.” Now these dream machines aren’t cheap (photo from Amazon.com). At the time they were only available at Williams-Sonoma. So, with great anticipation I began making some different kinds of ice cream and gelato every few weeks. This is one of our favorites. Okay, now you get the recipe:
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Lemon Velvet Ice Cream

Recipe: Adapted from the Velvet Turtle, and
printed in the Los Angeles Times
Servings: 10
NOTES: This is a really smooth ice cream, and with our home-grown Meyer lemons, the perfect complement to their sweetness. This may be the best ice cream I’ve ever made in my machine. Because I like to enjoy this all year around, I freeze the lemon juice (with zest included) in 1-cup containers. Then in December when I want a little lemon pucker, it’s no trouble to prepare this. If you use other varieties of lemons the mixture may need additional sugar, so taste it and adjust as needed.

1 3/4 cups sugar
lemon zest from 2-3 lemons
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups half & half
1-12 1/2-ounce can evaporated milk (I use fat-free half and half)
1 1/2 cups full-fat milk (I use fat-free half and half)
1 dash salt

1. Remove the zest from some of the lemons with a microplane grater, if possible. Combine with the fresh squeezed juice in a blender. Blend well. If you don’t have a microplane for the zest, blend this for awhile so none of the zest appears in big chunks. Pour into a large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Taste for sweetness or tartness and adjust. If time permits, refrigerate.
2. Follow ice cream freezer directions and freeze in one or two batches, as needed. Scoop into a freezer container and freeze for at least one hour before serving.
Per Serving: 338 Calories; 18g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 65mg Cholesterol; 93mg Sodium.

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  1. Erika

    said on May 6th, 2007:

    What a wonderful post Carolyn! It makes me want to hop a plane and go track down some real gelato. I really need to make more homemade ice cream, although now I’m thinking I need your ice cream maker.

    Found your blog through my technorati links, btw. I’m excited to see where your blogging takes you! I’ll link to yours next time I’m updating. 🙂

  2. Erika

    said on May 6th, 2007:

    I forgot to mention…you should enter this as a yellow food for Livestrong day. You can check out the details here:

    http://winosandfoodies.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/04/a_taste_of_yell.html

  3. Ashlee and Bill

    said on January 6th, 2008:

    I’m so glad you found my lemon sour cream pie, because now I get to try your lemon Gelato! I too LOVE lemons and have already saved many of your recipes! Thanks!

  4. Elizabeth

    said on February 15th, 2011:

    Delicious!

    So glad you enjoyed it! . . . carolyn t

  5. Elizabeth

    said on February 15th, 2011:

    Forgot to add, I also used meyer lemons and reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and thought it was sweet enough. Thanks!

    Oh good, glad to know! I do love that stuff! . . . carolyn t

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