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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.


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 Appetizers, on February 19th, 2008.

Another fabulous Phillis Carey cooking class recipe. Shrimp in a marinade (which also is a dipping sauce), made with fresh lime juice, cilantro (fresh coriander, hence the coriander in the title), soy sauce, garlic and marmalade. The shrimp are quick fried in a nonstick skillet and you serve it with the wonderful, tasty, tender lavash crisps on the side. The lavash crisp doubles as a little “plate” to put the shrimp upon. One nice mouthful of deliciousness. After learning about this recipe at a class, my friend Cherrie brought this to a dinner party at our home the other night. She brought 3 pounds of shrimp; there were 8 people in attendance; we ate all but a smidgen. Does that tell you how good it was?
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Coriander Lime Shrimp

Recipe: Phillis Carey, cookbook author & instructor
Servings: 6
Cook’s Notes: if you don’t like cilantro, substitute Italian parsley with a bit of oregano instead. Be sure to reserve some of the marinade before you put the shrimp into it to marinate.

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 large cloves garlic — minced or mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp — raw, 16-20 per pound, with tails
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro sprigs — for garnish
1 package lavash Armenian cracker bread — fresh, not dried crackers
1/2 cup butter — melted
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. In a measuring cup whisk together lime juice, marmalade, garlic paste, cilantro, 3 T. of oil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. RESERVE 1/3 CUP MIXTURE FOR DIPPING.
2. In a large sealable plastic bag or bowl combine shrimp with the remaining marinade. Chill, tossing occasionally, to coat shrimp, for about 45 minutes or up to 3 hours. Drain shrimp and pat dry between paper towels.
3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat HALF of the 1 T. of oil and saute HALF the shrimp until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Saute remaining shrimp in the remaining oil in same manner. Garnish shrimp with coriander sprigs and serve with reserved dipping sauce and crisps.
4. LAVASH CRISPS: Preheat oven to 375. Cut lavash bread in half lengthwise and then across into 2-inch wide strips. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange on baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes, or until crispy. Cool slightly before serving. Will keep for a few hours.
Per Serving: 385 Calories; 28g Fat (64.3% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 828mg Sodium.

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  1. Karen

    said on February 21st, 2008:

    Oh, my gosh, this is right up my shrimp alley.
    I’m printing this out as we speak!

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