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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 December 8th, 2010.

saffron basmati rice

After we had our big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving I piled all the bones, a bit of the skin, and some of the meat that I chose not to pick off, into my big crockpot and left it to simmer with a couple of quarts of water. It simmered overnight. By morning I had this lovely big pan full of thick turkey stock. Along with a bunch of little, tender pieces of turkey too (you can see a long strand of it in the left foreground above). After saving the meat pieces, I strained the broth to remove all the bones, skin and some of the little pieces of junky tissue, and it had almost no fat in it.

leftover turkey with basmati

Going to my to-try file I found a recipe that I’d read on someone else’s blog. I wasn’t so enamored with it as the blogger was (see link in last sentence below). My DH said “you can throw out the rest of that.” Sigh. I haven’t, because I figure I’ll eat it, even if he won’t. It’s rare that I make something my hubby simply won’t eat, but this dish was one. (Not the rice, just the turkey part.)

This reminds me of a story  . . . but let me just say about this above recipe, that I altered the ingredients a little. That sets the stage for my story  . . . years ago I was good friends with a gal who went to college with me. She married the same week I did (this was in 1962), and we ended up moving close to one another (by happenstance). In a matter of 5 years she had a whole passel of children, was a stay-at-home mom of the first order. Cooked everything from scratch, including all her own bread. One day she made a dessert – let’s just say it was a kind of Boston cream pie dessert – and raved about it, and she shared the recipe with me. A few weeks later I made it, but was short on time and I used a box mix for the yellow cake and a package of quick-cooking pudding for part of the filling. I wasn’t so thrilled with the results and mentioned it to my friend [one of my early lessons – if it’s your friend’s recipe, you don’t always tell your friends everything]. She quizzed me about what I’d done. After telling her how I’d changed the recipe to save time, she was hugely annoyed and informed me that if I wasn’t going to make things exactly the way she gave me the recipe, then she wasn’t going to give me any more recipes! It’s now 45 years later, and I still remember her lecturing me! She and her family moved to Oregon in the 1970’s and we’ve lost touch.

So perhaps, because I changed the recipe I made here today, it wasn’t like the recipe I printed out. The blogger would probably scold me for not adhering to her recipe exactly. She had used fresh, raw chicken, marinated it in yogurt and stuff, then flash-fried it. No sauce at all (there’s no sauce in the picture above, just some nuts on top). Me? Well, I had leftover turkey. So I coated the nice tender bite-sized breast meat pieces with the yogurt mixture and flash fried it too (quickly, as it didn’t need any cooking, just warming). The mixture was a tad on the dry side – but maybe it’s supposed to be that way – it’s a rice dish, not a curry or a stew. But it was too dry for me. So with the leftovers of that I added a jar of Trader Joe’s Thai green chile curry sauce. That almost made it worse!

BUT, the rice was fantastic, so I’m giving you that part. It will be made again. And again. Because of the texture of the rice (it’s actually more like a pilaf) and the flavor (saffron). I made a nice big batch of it and will freeze quart-sized freezer bags of it for future meals. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe.

printer-friendly PDF

Saffron Basmati Rice Pilaf

Recipe By: Originally a Nigella Lawson recipe
Serving Size: 8

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
4 cups turkey stock — or chicken broth
1 whole lemon — zest and juice
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 whole cardamom pods — gently crushed with meat mallet
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts — or other nut for garnish

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with olive oil. Once it’s shimmery hot, add the rice, stirring it to coat the rice. Allow to cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Add the saffron, cardamom seeds, turkey or chicken stock, and the lemon zest and juice.
2. Bring to a boil and cover tightly. Turn heat to very low and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 10-15 minutes. Do not over cook the rice.
Per Serving: 226 Calories; 5g Fat (21.8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 1123mg Sodium.

A year ago: Butternut Squash Soup with Amaretti Cookie Crumbles
Two years ago: Chocolate Mousse in the Blender
Three years ago: Harlequin Pinwheels

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