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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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