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Currently Reading

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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 Veggies/sides, on May 15th, 2007.

Credit must go to my daughter, Sara, for this recipe. She read it in one of my issues of Gourmet Magazine, when we were trying to figure out what to make for dinner one evening. Our families were together, and she recalled reading this recipe. We tried it, and it’s been a fixture on my summertime menu ever since. It really could be made any time of year, but seems like it goes so well with grilled meats, even though it’s done completely in the oven.

baked onionsAlthough the preparation is simple, you do have to be hanging around in the kitchen off and on for the better part of 2 hours. It’s amazing that onion halves in a 400° oven take nearly 2 hours to settle into soft silkiness, but they do. Don’t skimp on the olive oil as it definitely enhances the flavor, and don’t allow the pan to dry out because the wine and oil will definitely burn. Generally I add a bit more red wine and always have to add additional water towards the end of the baking time. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you may use dried. Be generous with the herbs.
Printer friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Baked Onions with Thyme

Recipe By: Gourmet, January, 2001
Servings: 12
NOTES: If you use REALLY big onions, they will take longer to cook, but a small onion is too small. So medium-large is ideal. These onions are just mouth-watering, they’re so good. It’s a simple dish to make, and just requires you to be nearby. Be careful that the wine doesn’t boil away completely, as then they will burn. Add water periodically if it does evaporate, and reduce the oven temperature a little bit. If you want to reduce the cooking time, cut the onions into wedges instead of halves, and they’ll cook in about 90 minutes.

6 large red onions — about 3.5 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pinch sea salt
2/3 cup Chianti — or other dry red wine
1/4 cup water — and you may need more

1. Preheat oven to 400°. (Do not use convection for this.) Remove both ends from the onions. Discard outer layers from the onions and cut each onion in half, crosswise.
2. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with olive oil spray and place onion halves, trimmed ends down into the pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Pour the wine over the onions, moistening each onion top some with the wine. Remove the leaves from the fresh thyme and sprinkle all over the onions. Season with the sea salt to taste and fresh cracked pepper.
3. Bake, uncovered, in the middle of the oven, basting with pan juices twice during the baking, for 40 minutes. Add water to the pan and bake until the onions are browned and tender, about another 50 minutes, watching that the pan doesn’t dry out. Serve hot, or cool to room temperature to serve.
Serving Idea: You may want to double the batch so you’ll have leftovers, as they are wonderful to throw into pasta, a salad, or just by themselves.
Per Serving: 101 Calories; 4g Fat (47.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 14mg Sodium.

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  1. Kalyn

    said on May 16th, 2007:

    Great recipe. I’m saving it to my cookbook.

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