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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 Veggies/sides, on May 10th, 2008.

Without much of any equivocation, I can say that asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. I like it  just about any way it comes – even raw – but the best prep for me is oven roasted. So when I was reading a posting over at A Year from Oak Cottage, a blog I read regularly, and Marie talked about preparing her crumbled asparagus, I perked up, printed out the recipe, and tried it.

The greatest of superlatives are needed here. Fabulous. Delicious. Moist. Pretty. Perfect. All those things. I made these for a dinner party last night, and I’d say the winning recipes of the evening were the dessert (yes, I’ll post it in a few days) and this asparagus. I made two pounds of asparagus, and there are maybe 4 spears left. Of course, I was serving 12 people, but everybody loved these, with me included.

Yes, I’ll be making these again. And again. They’re that good. I did change the recipe just a little bit – only the proportions – because I ended up with too much mayo left over, but this isn’t one of those exact kinds of recipes anyway. If you want to use less mayo altogether, as long as you rub each spear with enough mayo so the crumb mixture will stick, do so. Nobody will know it’s rubbed with mayo – it isn’t visible. Maybe you could coat the spears with olive oil and it would work too. You dip the spears in the mayo (rubbing it on with your fingers worked best), then my DH helped by rolling the spears in the panko crumb-cheese mixture. It does help to have two sets of hands since you muck up your fingers in the mayo and further muck them up if you go back and forth to the crumbs.

So, I suggest you get yourself to your local farm stand or market and make these right away quick. Asparagus season is almost over, and I’ll be making these again soon. Buy plenty because you’ll eat more of these than you anticipate!
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Crumbled Asparagus

Recipe By: Marie’s blog, A Year at Oak Cottage
Serving Size: 6

1 pound asparagus
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup panko — or dry seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese — finely grated

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400*F. Lightly spray a shallow baking tray with some cooking spray or line sheet with silicone pad (Silpat) and set aside.
2. Wash asparagus and dry it really well. To prepare spears for cooking, grasp at either end and pull the tip end over and down. The stalk will break naturally at the point where it starts to get tough and stringy. Use the fibrous ends for stock or for your compost pile. If the asparagus is thick-skinned or fibrous (take a small bite to test), peel the spears from just under the head to the stem end. If serving guests, you might want to cut off the ends – a straight cut – which will look a little prettier.
3. Combine the dry bread crumbs and the cheese in a shallow dish and set aside.
4. Rub each spear of asparagus with the mayonnaise, making sure each one is well coated (use your fingers for this), then carefully roll it in the bread crumb mixture to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining spears.
5. Bake in the heated oven for 12 to 19 minutes (depends on the size of the asparagus), until the crumbs are nicely crisped and the asparagus is crispy tender. Serve.
Cook’s Notes: I did peel off the outer skin of the asparagus for about the lowest inch or two on each spear. Give the asparagus room on the baking sheet so the spears don’t touch (otherwise they steam rather than crisp). Watch the time as you don’t want to overcook them. Test one for just crisp tenderness. They get cold quickly, so serve immediately
Per Serving: 134 Calories; 11g Fat (68.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 100mg Sodium.

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  1. Maggie Pohlman

    said on May 11th, 2008:

    My husband & I were the lucky recipients of this FANTASTIC receipe. This platter of asparagus went around the table “several times” & there were many ooohs & aaaahs. I am no gourmet….but I’d try this in a second!! Crunchy & delightful!

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on May 13th, 2008:

    Aparagus is just in season here and I am lucky enough to live near a small-holding where I can pick it for myself. I always roast it but have never tried coating it before, I can imagine the textures and flavours so have no doubt that I should enjoy this.

    How nice of your dinner guest to comment.

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