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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. 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 Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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 Appetizers, on May 21st, 2008.

About eight years or so ago I tasted homemade hummus for the first time. Served to me by a friend who is Armenian (she’s a Parisian – not Persian, but Paris-ian, but she’s Armenian, and she lets you know you’d better not forget it!). My taste buds hit nirvana. I’d had nothing but ready made previously, and didn’t realize how incredibly easy it was to make. Or how delicious it could possibly be. Not long after that I attended a cooking class and the instructor demonstrated this method. Oh my gosh. It was so gosh-darned delicious!

The appetizer is not all that difficult, but it does have a moderate amount of work involved. I wish I could tell you there wasn’t. But, you can do most of it ahead – even the day before if you’re pushed for time. Because it has so much work involved, I tend not to make this when I’m doing a company meal with several courses. But, I’ll tell you, nobody has ever come away from the platter without oohs and aahs. Guaranteed.

Here’s what’s involved. One, you make the hummus in the food processor with canned garbanzos, garlic and tahini (sesame seed paste). Two, you slice up the eggplant and sauté it in batches in olive oil. Three, you concoct a simple balsamic vinaigrette which gets tossed with the eggplant once it’s chopped up. Mound the hummus on a lovely platter, then mound the eggplant on top of that and garnish with a bunch of chopped cilantro (or Italian parsley) and toasted pine nuts. That’s it. I serve it with toasted pita chips. The eggplant takes on a very rich mahogany color and when you serve this on a big platter with the eggplant on top, it’s very colorful. You don’t use all of the dressing, so the nutritional information is misleading.

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites and will be so marked on my recipe page (click Recipes in my right sidebar). We had a friend over for dinner last night and she helped with the preparation of this dish (thanks again for your help, Kathleen!).
printer-friendly PDF

Layered Hummus and Eggplant Appetizer

Recipe By: Judy Bart Kancigor, http://cookingjewish.com
Serving Size: 10

HUMMUS LAYER:
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
15 ounces garbanzo beans, canned, save liquid
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water — or juice from garbanzos
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice — or to taste
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
EGGPLANT:
1 1/4 pounds eggplant, whole — purple type, no bruises
1/4 cup olive oil
DRESSING:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper — or to taste
GARNISH:
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro — chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts — toasted

1. HUMMUS: Turn on processor and drop in garlic cloves, and process until minced. Add salt and allow to sit while you collect the ingredients down through ground cumin. Add those items to the processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of water if mixture is too thick. This makes about 2 cups of hummus.
2. EGGPLANT: Slice the eggplant in 1/3 inch thick slices, or slightly thicker. Heat just enough oil in the bottom of a large skillet and fry over medium-high heat, in batches, on both sides until the eggplant is cooked, brown and slightly crisp, approximately 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop. Place in bowl.
3. DRESSING: Meanwhile, combine in a lidded jar the balsamic vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper and shake until combined. An hour before serving, pour about 2 T. of the dressing over the eggplant and stir. Set aside.
4. Toast the pine nuts in a hot skillet until barely brown. Set aside. Chop cilantro a few minutes before serving.
5. To serve: spread the hummus on a large, flat serving platter. Spoon the eggplant over the top, leaving hummus layer visible around the edges. Sprinkle with cilantro (or Italian parsley, if preferred) and toasted pine nuts. Serve with torn or cut pita for scooping.
Per Serving (not accurate because you don’t use all the dressing): 351 Calories; 30g Fat (75.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 463mg Sodium.

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  1. Connie

    said on September 27th, 2013:

    I doubled this for a social gathering and it turned out great. I did not have any tahini, but I added a couple cups of fresh basil, an extra can of garbanzo beans (drained) and a cup of walnuts, minced. I found that the humus was too runny to support the eggplant so I had to beef it up. Perhaps using less garbanzo juice would have been better.
    In addition to the eggplant, I also added a half cup of onions (remember, I doubled it) and some fresh tomatoes, all sautéed.
    This was a great way to use all the japanese eggplant, basil and tomato form my garden.

    I improvise like that all the time – am glad it was successful for you. . . carolyn t

  2. Carol Distabile

    said on December 2nd, 2015:

    While on safari hummus was served as an appetizer. I tried to locate this recipe under vegetable dips but was unsuccessful. Perhaps I should try the hummus and eggplant instead.

    I haven’t updated my recipe index for several weeks. I did post it – go to this link:
    http://tastingspoons.com/archives/12766

    Carolyn

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