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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Unsaid: A Novel by Neil Abramson. I think I read about it on amazon because I don’t remember anyone telling me about it. Perhaps amazon recommended it to me because I’ve read several books about African animals lately. The narrator of the book is the soul and voice of a woman who has just died of cancer. So she’s a ghost, of sorts, or an angel. But she’s hanging around her old life (her husband, her friends, her co-workers – she was a veterinarian) because she’s so very worried about her menagerie of animals she owned and worked with. The crux of the story is about a chimpanzee that is part of a U.S. government study – measuring the intelligence and sign language ability of this one chimp. The funded study is suddenly ended, and the intelligent and sentient animal (that word, sentient – I had to look it up – is used several times in the book – it means with “feelings”) is going to be returned to the general population of chimps used for maybe not-so-nice drug studies and likely would die from an inflicted disease. The widower is an attorney, and he’s thrown into battle with the U.S. government about saving the chimp. There’s a huge message here about the use of animals in drug studies and it’s hard to come away from this book without feeling “feelings” for the sweet chimp, whose intelligence was measured as the age of a 4-year old human. You’ll be drawn into the many other animals, the husband’s grief, and the team of people trying to save the chimp. Quite a story.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – many reader friends recommended it, and oh, is it good! If you’re at the end of your tether with reading WW II resistance stories, you’ll want to skip this one, but you’ll be rewarded if you do read it. It’s the story of 2 sisters who live in a remote area of France and both get caught up in the war. There are some very terror-filled moments in this book – I won’t kid you – the deprivation, torture, hunger, betrayal; all the things that make a book real, wartime real. The relationship between the sisters isn’t always good. One becomes a resistance fighter; the other is a mom whose husband fights for France, but is imprisoned for years. She eventually participates by shepherding Jewish children to safety. It’s a riveting book, and the 2 women are portrayed with great realism.

Also read The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a novelized biography of King David, the man who was a sinner from his youth. If you’ve studied the Holy Bible, then you’ll know that he reformed, eventually, and he is credited with writing most of the Psalms. If you’ve spent much time reading Psalms, then you’ll know there is so much angst contained within the poetic verses. David was a consummate writer and poet – no question about that – and he was a musician as well. But he had his appetites, which betrayed him over and over and over. He laments his bad character in the form of the Psalms. I can remember singing in our church choir one of the Psalms about Absalom, his beloved son, that he had killed. King David’s time was primitive, life for life, where trust wasn’t taken lightly. It’s a really fascinating portrayal of the man, his vices, and his eventual redemption.

If you’re already a fan of Molly Wizenberg, then you’ll know about her book Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. Molly started off writing a blog some years ago, called Orangette. She wrote a book (part memoir and cookbook) a few years ago, and her prose is a delight to read. She’s a commander of words. This book is the story of meeting and marrying her husband Brandon, and their journey to realizing HIS dream of opening a pizza restaurant (Delancey) in Seattle. It’s a very interesting read since they built the restaurant in a questionable neighborhood; they had insufficient money. Let’s just say that along the road to getting the restaurant open, there are many hurdles, including her own belief in the project. I loved the book. And yes, there are a few recipes included too.

After I read The Elephant Whisperer (which was a fabulous book), I read online that Lawrence Anthony considered his best book The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures. So I had to read that, of course. It’s the very sad story about his effort to extract 6 rare white rhino from deep in the jungle of Africa, in an area controlled by guerrillas. He’s unsuccessful, and now the only known white rhinos left are in zoos. They’ll likely be extinct in the next generation. I wasn’t as enamored with the book as I was with the elephant book – maybe because the mechanics of trying to find and negotiate to get the rhinos wasn’t as riveting as the elephant stories. Jungle politics, nighttime helicopter flights, slogging in the mud all play important parts. If you want to know more about rhinos, the rare northern whites, then you’ll want to read this book. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have one in your local zoo. Great literature this is not, but it tells an important story about poaching and why we must fight to eliminate it with education.

Also read, for one of my book clubs, Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain. It’s the biography of Beryl Markham, but only of her early life. Beryl’s own book, West with the Night has long been a favorite of mine, but she only wrote about her later life once she learned to pilot a plane and flew all over Africa. The McLain book is about her youth on her father’s horse farm, her coming of age and about falling in love (she was a philanderer from way back), her young adulthood, her marriages, her successes in life and her failures. It’s a VERY good book that I enjoyed reading from beginning to end. Markham is known more compellingly for her piloting career, but she led a fascinating life before she ever began to fly. Worth reading.

Read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Oh my goodness. When one of my book groups met to discuss this book, we all talked about the crying we did at the end. Oh yes, me too. This is a novel with a point to make (somewhat like Jodi Piccoult’s books). In this case it’s the right to die issue and it’s cloaked in a fast-paced page turner. A young woman who is a bit at loose ends, accepts a new job as a caregiver, something she’s never done before, to a young man who had recently become a quadriplegic. There are numerous sub-stories (about her family, her relationship with her sister, her boyfriend and her relationship with him, the patient himself, who is grumpy, and his relationships with his mother and father and ex-girlfriend). And, it’s about his wish to end his life. During the last 100 pages I could hardly put it down. I don’t want to jinx the story. It’s a romance of sorts. It’s gritty in a way, but charming. Loved the book. Now I’m going to order the sequel, the book the author never really intended to write, but so many people wrote her asking for one. I’m right there too. This book is being made into a movie.

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 Cookies, on March 14th, 2009.

hazelnut-cc-cookies

A dear friend of mine is going through a tough patch right now with her health, and because of medication she’s taking, her appetite is about zilch, and the only thing that sounds good to eat, and that she nearly CAN eat, is chocolate chip cookies. With nuts. Soft chocolate chip cookies with nuts to be exact.

I’m faced with a dilemma – I prefer crispy cookies, so anytime my friend wants cookies, she has had to dunk them in coffee to make them palatable. I figured that needs to change. I CAN make cookies that are softer. And since I’m giving her ALL of the cookies (except for the one or two my DH and I ate just after baking them) I needn’t worry that my crispy-cookie-craving will be troubled! We still have cookies in the freezer from the last batch of my favorite One Bowl Thin & Buttery CC cookies from a couple of weeks ago.

These cookies came from a Rick Malgieri cookbook called Chocolate. But I read about them at Jennifer’s blog, Bake or Break. Hazelnuts are definitely on my radar, and with the addition of Frangelico (I used rum just because I didn’t have any Frangelico), a delish combo was made. Jennifer said that the cookies had a crispy edge, but were softer and mounded in the middle. Perfect.

Definitely easy to make, these came together in no time flat. I heated the cube and a half of butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get it to perfect soft mixing consistency. I forgot to toast the hazelnuts, but hey, they tasted just great anyway. I used dark rum (more flavor), and enjoyed the little zing it gave the batter. The rum is very, very subtle, so you needn’t worry that it will taste like alcohol.
printer-friendly PDF

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: Nick Malgieri’s cookbook, Chocolate, via Bake or Break blog
Servings: 40

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum — or Frangelico
1 whole egg
1 whole egg yolk
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hazelnuts — toasted, coarsely chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Beat the softened butter and brown sugar, then add and beat in the rum or Frangelico, egg and egg yolk.
3. Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt and stir into the butter and sugar mixture. Blend in hazelnuts and chocolate chips.
4. Drop batter (about a tablespoon each) onto a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes (or up to 15, depending on your oven). Cool completely on baking pan (about 5 minutes), then remove and continue baking.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 8g Fat (56.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 63mg Sodium.

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