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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 April 30th, 2010.

You may think you don’t like Brussels sprouts. Once you taste these, you might just change your mind. As it was, all of us eating these just happen to love Brussels sprouts, so it was never even a whisper in our minds we might not like this preparation. We all loved it. Absolutely loved it. Was it hard? No. Time consuming? No. The payoff was huge. I might even eat these cold, they were so good.

The recipe I read over on Charmian Christie’s blog, Charmian’s Corner. And she said just about the same thing as I wrote above. Her recipe is called “Brussels Meet Brandy,” because the recipe came from a cookbook called Kitchen Scraps. By Pierre Lamielle.

So what’s involved? Simmer at high heat halved Brussels in a little bit of water with a pat of butter added. You boil it until the water is nearly all gone (and the Brussels are nearly cooked through). Then you add brandy. Now I diverged just a little at that juncture. I couldn’t find the brandy bottle, but I found Gran Gala, an orange-based brandy liqueur sitting unopened on my booze shelf. I didn’t flambé the Brussels as the recipe indicated; I just boiled off the liquor. Then you add fresh orange zest, the juice from the orange, a minced shallot, some fresh thyme and dried cranberries. That’s it. Oh yes, just a bit more butter too. You cook it for a few minutes, turning and stirring until the Brussels are done and the orange juice has boiled down to a syrup. Serve while they’re hot. The preparation was really VERY easy. The recipe below is pretty-much Lamielle’s version except for the type of liquor, the fact that I didn’t flambé it, and I added fewer dried cranberries. And trust me, you’ll like them.
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Brussels Sprouts with Orange Brandy and Dried Cranberries

Recipe By: Adapted from Pierre A. Lamielle’s Kitchen Scraps
Serving Size: 4

20 whole Brussels sprouts
2 pinches salt
4 tablespoons butter — divided use
4 tablespoons brandy — or Gran Gala, or Triple Sec
2 whole orange — zest and juice
2 whole shallot — minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme — leaves only
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Place the Brussels sprout halves flat side down in a large frying pan. Cover halfway with cold water, and add a pinch of salt and half of the butter. Place the pan on high heat, and cook at a rip-roaring boil until almost all the water has evaporated.
2. Add the brandy and simmer briefly; then add the orange juice and zest, shallot, thyme leaves, dried cranberries, and the last of the butter all at the same time. Toss and cook for a couple more minutes until the sauce gets syrupy and glossy. Serve.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 12g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 208mg Sodium.

One year ago: French Green Beans with Pears and Parmesan
Two years ago: Armenian Rice Noodle Pilaf (oh, is this ever delicious!)
Three years ago: Beer Margaritas (I don’t like beer, but I like these)

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  1. Marie

    said on May 1st, 2010:

    Carol, with moving and all the turmoil going on in my life these past months I have not had a lot of time for blog hopping. First of all congrats on your blog anniversary! That is a great accomplishment! Everything looks so delicious as always! You post the nicest recipes! xxoo

    Thanks, Marie. Glad you’re settled into your new home. I read your blog regularly too. . . carolyn t

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