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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 Salads, Veggies/sides, on April 19th, 2010.

This is a kind of a salad. Well, or a side dish. What do you call a pasta dish that’s served at room temperature? In any case, this was a very easy one to make and had lovely fragrances (saffron and basil). I think the clipping I have is from an ancient Gourmet article, but I’m not sure. I’ve changed it some anyway. Not a lot, but a little. And the best part is that you can make this ahead. We were entertaining the night before Easter, and I needed to take a carb for Easter dinner too. So I made a big portion and divided it in half. Just remember to add the garnishes (almonds, green onions and basil) just before serving. I had some extra fresh squeeze orange juice, so I drizzled that into the salad just before serving.
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Orzo with Dried Cherries and Almonds

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: If you squeeze extra orange juice, save it until just before serving and drizzle it over the pasta. It gives it a new little jolt of flavor. And if you make this as a part of a large dinner, it will serve more than 4 people.

1 cup orzo
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads — crumbled
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons slivered almonds — toasted
2 whole green onion — sliced thin diagonally
1/2 cup fresh basil — minced

1. In a saucepan, boil the orzo in 6 cups boiling water with the saffron for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Drain it and rinse under cold water.
2. In a bowl stir together the zest, orange juice and salt to taste, adding the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk until it is emulsified.
3. In a bowl toss the orzo (drained well), with the dressing, the cherries and half of the green onions. Just before serving garnish with almonds and the extra scallion. Serve the orzo at room temperature.
Per Serving: 320 Calories; 13g Fat (37.1% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 7mg Sodium.

A year ago: Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Mustard and Port Wine Sauce
Two years ago: Coffee Walnut Cookies

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  1. Savvy in the Rockies

    said on July 24th, 2013:

    Just took this salad for picnic at outdoor concert at Deer Valley….22 hungry palates all agree this salad is a keeper!! Easy to make, can deal with 100++ temps, and made for even better leftovers the next day!! Will make it again- and again!

    That’s great – so glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t made it in awhile so thanks for the reminder! . . . carolyn t

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