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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 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 del.icio.us cookbook.

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