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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 Salads, Veggies/sides, on May 14th, 2007.

This could be another garlic post. But it’s not. Although there certainly is garlic in this dish. I think it’s the combination of garlic and lemon juice that gives it the tart and tangy flavor. The carrots, when cooked, become mellow, so it’s a perfect foil for the dressing.

I prefer this served cold or better yet, at room temperature. It will keep for at least a week, so I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe. You’ll be very glad to have some leftovers to serve at another meal.

On one California road trip I bought this cookbook: The Good Cook’s Book of Oil and Vinegar by Michele Anna Jordan (it’s no longer in print, but if you’re intrigued you can find a used copy). She focuses in on specifics about all kinds of oils and various vinegars, and she knows her stuff. I’ve used a number of recipes from the book over the years, but this is probably my favorite. And it’s easy. The toughest job is slicing the carrots. In the picture above I cut them much thicker than usual (note to self: re-read the recipe before I begin!). I prefer them when they are very thinly sliced, so use your mandoline or food processor slicing blade if you have one. The benefit of the thin slice is that more of the dressing permeates the carrots. And do give the carrots time to marinate in the dressing – it’s much better. And for goodness’ sake, don’t overcook the carrots. You don’t want to be eating carrot mush, and the thinner the carrot slices, the greater the risk of overcooking. Oh yes, I almost forgot, whatever you do, do not use those abominable “baby” carrots in the little bags. You know, don’t you, that those really are not baby carrots – they’re big carrots trimmed down to look like baby carrots. I prefer using young carrots, but even medium sized ones will work fine in this recipe.
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Algerian Carrots

Recipe: Good Cook’s Book of Oil & Vinegar, by Jordan
Servings: 6
NOTES: This recipe originally came from a Sonoma bistro called Chez Nous. I’ve altered the recipe by reducing the amount of dressing called for. So, if it seems too light for you, just double the amount of dressing. It’s very garlicky, so if you don’t really like the taste of garlic, reduce the amount.

1 pound carrots — peeled
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — minced

1. Cut the carrots (at an angle if you can) to make slices about 1/8 inch thick. Steam the carrots until they are just tender, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook!
2. Combine the dressing in a small bowl (or blender, if you want) and mix together. Remove the carrots from the heat and allow them to cool a little. If serving immediately, drain and just add dressing. Or place all the carrots in a large ziplock plastic bag and add dressing. Seal and mix around so the dressing covers well. Refrigerate, if desired and serve cold, or re-heat.
3. A variation noted in the recipe suggests steaming an equal amount of zucchini and adding the same quantity of dressing to it – more garlic added and more lemon juice. Omit brown sugar and parsley. Then, serve both vegetables side-by-side.Serving Ideas : Since it’s good cold, would be great for a picnic.
Per Serving: 73 Calories; 5g Fat (54.5% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 25mg Sodium.

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