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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip, in a Paris restaurant.
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On a recent road trip, I listened to 2 books on CD that I checked out of the library. With long stretches of highway with nothing to occupy my time, I love doing books on CD. The better of the 2 was definitely Frances Mayes’ new memoir, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir. She narrates the story herself, and I just loved hearing her southern accent all the way through, her lilting, slow manner of speaking. She tells the story of her youth, from as young as she can remember to about age 25 or so, with most of it her coming-of-age in her teens. Her parents were alcoholics. Her older sisters were away at college. She wasn’t from a wealthy family exactly, but there was some money, a maid that she loved dearly who protected her from her parents sometimes. A grandmother figures large for some of the years. Her thought processes are normal, although she says from the get-go that she always felt she was different than most people, not a traditionalist for sure. Having read her other books, I never picked up on all the angst she experienced as a young woman, a girl, really. I absolutely LOVED the book. Mayes has a gift of prose – of a kind you don’t often read – she uses amazing language and phrases, adverbs and adjectives. Describes scenes so well and with such detail you just know you’re right there beside her.  Didn’t want it to end. As I reached across to the passenger seat to pull out the last CD I was sad, knowing the story was coming to an end. Because she ended it at about age 25, I suspect there may be another book in her future. For several days after I listened to this book I could hear Mayes’ southern accent in my head (like I hear memorable music when I attend a concert or sing a hymn or praise song at church). Her voice resonated in my head. If you enjoy memoirs, and reading about a kind of a crazy family, AND you like Frances Mayes, well, then, you’ll like this book for sure.

The other book, that I am sorry to say I cannot recommend is Sue Miller’s book, The Senator’s Wife (Vintage Contemporaries). Reading the back of the CD box I wasn’t sure, but I took it anyway. And at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue listening to it (when the young woman digs into her neighbor’s personal letters when she’s supposedly taking in the mail and watering plants), then got engrossed in the story. It’s about a young couple who move to a new house, part of a duplex in New England. Their next door neighbor is the aging and somewhat estranged wife of a Washington Senator. The young woman is far too curious about her neighbor and her neighbor’s marriage, what there is of it, although she cares about her neighbor a lot. The chapters switch back and forth between the young wife and the aging woman next door with their personal daily trivia, interspersed with some drama on both sides. The Senator is a philanderer, hence the partial estrangement. The young woman has a baby and consequently spends lots of time at home, overwhelmed with motherhood, hoping for something to change her life. When the Senator has a stroke and returns “home” for his “wife” to care for him (her choice) the plot thickens. The young wife is asked to babysit, so to speak, for an hour or so once a week for the old man, and that’s when, something happens that sickened me. I disliked this young woman and felt her behavior was just so disappointing. I couldn’t continue. If you like that sort of thing, then maybe you’d like the book. I was on the last CD when the story took this turn, and I was sorry I’d wasted so many hours on it to get there. Friendship isn’t about betrayal – it isn’t a friendship then. If any of you have read this already and want to comment, send me an email. Go to my contact page above.

Read Maude by Donna Mabry. It’s a true story (but written as a novel) about the author’s grandmother, Maude. It takes place from the early 1900s to her death in the 1960s. She lived a hard, hard life (mostly in Detroit), and there’s information that even takes me back to things I vaguely remember about my own grandmother’s life. I was fascinated. I won’t say that I couldn’t put it down, but I looked forward each night to read what was going to happen next. It’s hard to tell you much about the book without revealing too much of the story – I won’t call it a happy book, because there is much sadness within its pages, but you admire Maude for what she did, the role she played, her inherent grit. But I wanted to smack her 2nd husband! A good read, though.

While I was on my 3-week trip to Europe, I read 5 books. Of them all, Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse by Robin Hutton, was by far the best story, a true story about an American Marine. Many books have been written about Sgt Reckless, this rather nondescript, small Mongolian mare that was purchased by American forces in Korea in the height of the war. She was reared as a race horse, but she spent her career as an heroic soldier for our military, saving countless lives as she willingly delivered munitions from one place to another. Everyone who came in contact with her loved her. She became a regular soldier, mostly so they could requisition food for her. Sometimes she survived on next to nothing to eat. She aimed to please, and please she did, as in one 24-hour period she ferried ammunition up steep slopes (too steep for soldiers to climb) and she did it all by herself. When the Marines unloaded her cargo, she immediately worked her way down for more. She knew what she was supposed to do. She was highly intelligent, amazing many people over the course of her life. If you love animal stories, you’ll love this one. Have a Kleenex box nearby.

Another really riveting story, one I could hardly put down, is The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam. My friend Joan recommended this one to me. Most likely  you’ve never read anything about Chinese immigrants living in South Vietnam during the war there, right? Neither had I. And you have to keep track of who is who, and the politics of the time. The Vietnamese don’t like Chinese people, so there’s that going on. The Chinese man runs an English school somewhere near Saigon. He has a right hand man who may or may not be what he appears to be. The Chinese man has a son who gets himself into trouble. Oh, webs woven every which way. As I said, I could hardly put it down. Will make a very good book club read.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: The guest half-bath in my house 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).

 

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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