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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

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 middle-aged 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, and wealthy) 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.

 

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 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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