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My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on June 12th, 2009.

garbanzo salad feta

Okay. Attention here. (Teacher rapping her ruler on her desk) This is your homework for tonight. You must go home and make this recipe, suit it to your tastes, and report back tomorrow on the results. Got the assignment? Good.

When I read about this recipe over at Farmgirl Fare, Susan raptured on about how delicious it was. Yea, yea, I thought. What’s another garbanzo bean salad? And yet there was something about what she had to say that piqued my interest. Maybe the feta? The cooked onions? The garlic? All those things in a cold salad? All of the above were reasons. And probably the photo doesn’t do it justice. My first bite, as I was making it, was sublime. How could those ingredients – all simple things, all items I had in my refrigerator or pantry, taste so darned good? Don’t know the answer, but it just is. Good. Susan mentioned that whenever it’s in her refrigerator somehow her fork finds its way into the bowl. Yep. I understand perfectly. Our leftovers probably won’t last through tomorrow (although I did make only half a recipe – using one can of garbanzos). Note to self: buy more cilantro and red onion (so I can make more in a few days).

garbanzo-feta-salad

Susan’s recipe called for kalamata olives (or oil-cured). I chose to eliminate those, but that’s just my personal choice. You can add them in. I also added some tarragon just because I had a small package of it about to go south. I may not have had enough green onion tops, but I think this salad is flexible. If there are ingredients in this you don’t like, switch them out, that’s all. Oh, I also used lime juice because I had fresh limes. There wasn’t time to chill it, but it made “no nevermind,” as they say. I’ll have to let you know if the leftovers are even more off the charts. The recipe came from a cookbook called Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros.

So, friends. Are you going to make this right now or later? I recommend right now.
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Garbanzo Bean Salad with Red Onion, Parsley, Cilantro, and Feta

Recipe By: Adapted from Foodie Farmgirl Fare blog 6/09, who got it from a cookbook called Falling Cloudberries
Servings: 5

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil — plus more if desired
3 cups red onion — chopped
1/4 cup fresh garlic — finely chopped
2 cans garbanzo beans — (15 ounce) drained & rinsed (or 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans)
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro — (packed)
3/4 cup Italian parsley — (packed) chopped fresh flat leaf
1 1/2 cups chopped green onions — green parts only
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice — (or lime juice)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — minced (my addition - optional)

1. Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large frying pan and add the red onion, stirring to coat it with the oil. Cook the onion gently over medium or medium-low heat, stirring often, until the it is soft and starting to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute; don’t let the garlic brown. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the garbanzo beans, cilantro, parsley, green onions, and lemon juice. Add the cooled onion garlic mixture. You can also mix the onions and garlic into the beans while they’re still warm, and the other ingredients will help cool them down. Mix in the crumbled feta cheese and olives (if using). Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (remember that the feta and olives will already be salty) and up to ½ cup more olive oil if desired. Add tarragon, if using.
3. This salad tastes best if made ahead and allowed to sit for a few hours before serving. Serve at room temperature, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Note: Susan adds kalamata or oil-cured olives to hers. You can too.
Per Serving: 585 Calories; 26g Fat (38.6% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 70g Carbohydrate; 19g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 381mg Sodium.

A year ago: Watermelon Blueberry Soup (cold)
Two years ago: Baby Back Ribs with Peanut Butter Slather (oh yea, those ribs were amazing)

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  1. Marie

    said on June 15th, 2009:

    I have all of Tessa Kiros’ cookbooks, including Falling Cloudberries. Her recipes are excellent and the books are quite beautiful. I think my favourite one is Apples For Jam. IF this is one of her recipes I know it is spectacular!

    Well, Marie, you’ve just clinched it. I must order both cookbooks, I guess. . . carolyn t

  2. yvette

    said on July 5th, 2010:

    I served this salad at my Fourth of July BBQ. It was a hit !! This does belong on your “Carolyn’s Fav’s” list.
    Yvette

    Thanks, Yvette. So glad you enjoyed it! . . . carolyn t

  3. Joanne

    said on June 25th, 2011:

    Hi Carolyn…hope you’re having a wonderful time in Colorado. I just made this salad and it’s delicious! Just wanted to know for next time what kind of olives and how much do you suggest. Olives are mentioned in the directions but are not in the ingredient list. Joanne

    Hi Joanne – sorry about that mixup. The original recipe called for olives. I will look it up when I get home. I didn’t use any when I made it so I should have removed all olive reference but obviously didnt get it quite right. I will fix soon and send you a msg about it. Thanks fir telling me. Got to watch those typos! . . . Carolyn

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