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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 Brunch, on May 15th, 2009.


Oh, are these a winner. Exceptional breakfast or brunch food. Easy. And amazingly delicious with the pesto and mozzarella, and the little cooked tomato, and the ham. Well, just everything about it is good. I read about this over at Proud Italian Cook, a blog I read regularly. Marie found it in a new cookbook called Gale Gand’s Brunch. Gale Gand used to have a series on the Food Network, years ago, called Sweet Dreams. She’s primarily a pastry chef, and owns (I think) the restaurant called Tru in Chicago.

But, seeing a picture of these on Marie’s blog, I was smitten. I haven’t spotted this new cookbook yet, but may have to go check it out at the local bookstore. If this recipe is any representation of what’s in the cookbook, I’ll have to buy it!


Right out of the oven, without the pesto topping (yet)

Here’s what you do: buy some thinly-sliced deli ham. At my Italian market, the big round ham was Black Forest. Perfect. You need fairly big (not thick, but big in diameter) slices of ham. The recipe indicated making these in ramekins, but Marie had altered it for muffin cups, which worked fine for my needs anyway. So, you butter the ramekins or muffin tins, then gently fan the ham slice in the muffin cup, pressing it out so there’s a nice big hollow in the middle (it’s a little hard to do this, but you don’t have to be precise about it). You smear a bit of pesto in the bottom, then add in a couple of nice-sized cubes of mozzarella cheese, a small cherry tomato, then crack in an egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, bake. The recipe indicated 20 minutes or more, but in a 350 oven (lower than the recipe indicated), when I did them it took 27 minutes. Just keep checking and jiggling the muffin pan a bit. Pull them out when they still jiggle just a small amount. If you wait until they no longer jiggle, they’re overdone.

Once baked, you merely add another dollop of pesto on top. Serve immediately while they’re still perfectly cooked. The ham I bought was quite big, so you notice that the upper edges burned a bit. Next time I’ll trim them down. But I’ll definitely be making these again – great for a brunch with guests. It takes very little time to put it all together, and if you had another pair of hands, it would come together in a jiffy.

ham-egg-cups-lgNote added later: I made these again – for dinner one night. I still had two slices of ham leftover from the Mother’s Day brunch, and was able to put this together in no time flat. The ham worked much better in ramekins rather than the muffin tin. I also used 2 eggs each. I cut up the cheese in slightly smaller pieces and put them around the outside edges as best I could. I also used two tomatoes, both cut in half and stood them up with the cut sides against the ham (looked nicer), on opposing sides. Then I dropped in the pesto and the raw eggs. The eggs baked in slightly less time, but I removed them BEFORE they got too done. This was a winner the second time around.
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Ham & Egg Cups

Recipe: From Proud Italian Cook blog – from Gale Gand’s Brunch
Servings: 4

1 tablespoon butter — softened
4 ounces ham — cut very thin (a guess on quantity)
1 1/2 tablespoons pesto sauce
4 ounces mozzarella cheese — cubed (that’s a guess)
4 whole cherry tomatoes — (if they’re small, use two per cup)
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons pesto sauce — for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Butter a muffin tin generously.
3. Fold the ham slice in half, then half again and place it in the muffin tin, then gently unfold it – fan it out – to create a cup/shell shape.
4. Place some pesto in the bottom and two cubes of mozzarella cheese and the cherry tomato. Try to put those around the edges, if possible.
5. Crack an egg into each ham cup, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Bake for 20 minutes and check for doneness (jiggle the pan). Bake until the egg is done to your liking – may take up to 30 minutes depending on your oven.
7. Place another dollop of pesto on the top of each egg and serve.
Per Serving: 299 Calories; 23g Fat (69.3% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 264mg Cholesterol; 665mg Sodium.

A year ago: Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce
Two years ago: Baked Onions with Thyme (another family favorite)

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  1. Marie

    said on May 16th, 2009:

    Beautiful job with your egg cups! Yes we both have those crispy edges. Aren’t they the cutest? I definitely need to get that book! Your photo’s look great, makes me think I want these for breakfast again! Thanks so much for the shout out, and a big thank you to GG.
    xox, Marie

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