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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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 Desserts, on June 6th, 2007.

This isn’t my recipe. It’s from a new book on the horizon called The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz. So, how’d I find out about it? From reading food blogs, of course (The Traveler’s Lunchbox, to be exact)! Early in my blog reading, I heard about David Lebovitz and soon subscribed to his very entertaining blog.

David is an American in Paris (can you hear Gershwin’s music trilling?), although he worked for 13 years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. I talked a bit about the dinner we had last week at that restaurant, and I recall one of the waiters mentioning the favorite dessert there is whatever cobbler is on the menu. Interestingly, David Lebovitz just wrote up a blog posting about a new rendition of cobbler using polenta, click here, and he talks about his stint at Chez Panisse. And totally off the subject of food – I sent out (to a bunch of my friends) a link to his blog after reading his “take” on Europeans, the French, the Italians, and the Americans on the subject of B.O. It’s also about the very American expression we hear everywhere, “Oh my God.” His write up is LOL (that’s cyberspeak for laugh out loud) funny. If you’re interested, click here. If you read it, read the comments at the bottom – they’re almost as funny as his blog posting.

How do you segue from body odor to ice cream. With difficulty, I think. But trudge on, I say. I tried this recipe from reading the blog, and once the book came out I ordered it for myself on Amazon for $16.47 (hardback). The book is chock full of very unusual combinations. Here’s a sampling of ice creams, sorbets or granitas in the book: Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans, Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream, Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream, Malted Milk Ice Cream (one of his favorites, he says), Chocolate-Coconut Sorbet or Black Currant Tea Ice Cream. He also includes some cookie or bar recipes that he calls “vessels” for serving ice cream. And he adds in a few toppings like glazed or candied nuts or fruits.

After falling in love with Banana Gelato at Gelato Vero in San Diego (see previous post about this) I was certain I’d like this rendition. You roast the ripe bananas in the oven with brown sugar and butter, then scrape out every last bit from the pan, and mix with the milk base, chill, and freeze. The brown sugar comes through, and it has a very full, rounded flavor of the bananas and caramel. It disappeared in no time, although I did serve it to guests, so there wasn’t much left after that. The best part is it’s low in calories and fat – yes, really, just 4 g of fat per serving – see nutrition info just below the recipe.
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Roasted Banana Ice Cream

Recipe By: David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Servings: 6
NOTES: This doesn’t have a custard base, which means putting it together is a snap. The other benefit is that it doesn’t actually contain any cream. Just that little bit of butter and some milk – that’s all. But you’d never know it since it tastes as rich and creamy as any super-premium ice cream out there. But don’t take my word for it – go make some yourself!

3 medium bananas — ripe, peeled
1/3 cup brown sugar — 70 grams
1 tablespoon butter — cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups whole milk — (375ml)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice — freshly-squeezed
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Slice the bananas into 1/2-inch pieces and toss them with the brown sugar and butter in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring just once during baking, until the bananas are browned and cooked through. Scrape the bananas and the thick syrup in the dish into a blender or food processor (or a large bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender). Add the milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or freeze in a covered container, blending every couple of hours with an immersion blender until it becomes solid).
2. If the chilled mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisking will thin it out.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; 4g Fat (23.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 142mg Sodium.

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  1. Elizabeth

    said on August 25th, 2010:

    Very good. Thank you!

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