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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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.
Printer friendly PDF

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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