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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 Desserts, on June 24th, 2008.

roasted balsamic strawberry ice cream

I’m a regular reader of the Brilynn from Jumbo Empanadas. And I’ve tried several of her recipes over the year I’ve been monitoring her blog. So when this recipe popped up the other day my taste buds went into zing mode.

Probably about 20 years ago my DH and I and our good friends Bud & Cherrie used to go to San Diego on an occasional Saturday and have a wonderful wine tasting lunch at the Wine Sellar and Brasserie.  You can go for just the wine tasting, but for a nominal fee, you can have their pre-set light lunch (very gourmet, I might add) to accompany it.

Anyway, at one of those tastings, the dessert was home made vanilla ice cream with strawberries, balsamic vinegar and cracked black pepper. Yes, you read that right. Since then I’ve seen it served at other places, but at the time my taste buds just went into overdrive. It was about the cracked pepper, but the combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar is simply a match made in heaven.

You can see why, then, the Jumbo Empanadas’ recipe title put me into strawberry-balsamic nirvana. Just had to try it. And since strawberries are definitely on the wane here, I needed to do it right NOW if I was going to do it this season! My kitchen freezer is nearly chock-a-block full, but I just had to find room somehow. Even if I had to defrost something else to make room. I’m embarrassed to tell you how big this freezer is and it’s absolutely full to the brim.

The idea of roasting the strawberries with the balsamic seems like such a novel idea, and makes this luscious juicy mash of fruit and juice. And you can get yourself a little spoon to slick up the very last little droplets around the pan. It’s that good.

And don’t forget to reserve a bit of the fruit to drizzle on the top of the ice cream when it’s served. That’s a really nice touch. The taste: oh my goodness. Rich. Sweet. Delicious. Over the top. Fabulous. Wanna have it again SOON!
printer-friendly PDF

Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

Recipe By: Jumbo Empanadas & from Zoe Cakes 6/10/08
Servings: 8
COOK’S NOTES: Chop up the strawberries that go into the ice cream at the very end, as they may freeze as whole pieces, and you want them to break up just a bit.

STRAWBERRIES:
2 pounds strawberries — about 2 baskets
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
CUSTARD:
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk [or fat-free half and half]
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with foil including up on all sides so that the wonderful juice that’s going to be created can’t escape. Wash and hull the strawberries and pat dry. Toss with the sugar and let stand for 30 minutes. Add the balsamic, toss again and then spread out onto your baking tray. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until strawberries are jammy and there’s lots of juice. Pour the berries into a bowl, cool and chill.
2. In a heavy bottomed saucepan bring the milk and cream to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale. Continue to whisk while slowing pouring in the hot milk mixture until it is completely incorporated. Pour it all back into the pan and stir until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into a bowl, stir in the vanilla extract and then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled,
3. Once both the strawberries and the custard are completely cool, remove a couple scoops of strawberries with juice out of the bowl and set aside (to use as a topping on the ice cream when it’s finished). Strain the rest of the strawberries and combine the juice with the custard and pour into your ice cream machine and process according to your manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is almost finished, add in the strained berries until they’re just incorporated, (if you add them in at the beginning, the machine has a hard time processing them). If you like your ice cream soft, you can eat it right away, topped with the reserved strawberries and juice, otherwise stick it in the freezer to firm up a little more.
Per Serving: 275 Calories; 14g Fat (45.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 125mg Cholesterol; 30mg Sodium.

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  1. brilynn

    said on July 20th, 2008:

    I’m interested in adding black pepper to the mix now too!
    I just made a strawberry balsamic sorbet tonight, using egg whites and no cream… I’m still waiting for it to come out of the ice cream machine to see how it turns out!

  2. Carolyn

    said on July 21st, 2008:

    I’m interested to hear what you thought of it. You are so inventive, Brilynn. The first time I made this ice cream I made it using a blackberry balsamic vinegar with pear (made by Tulocay’s). It was out of this world. Second time I used a good quality but plain balsamic. There was a difference – it was less sweet, less depth of flavor. But the strawberries were not as good as the first time, either. I’m going to have to find a bottle of that vinegar again and try it next strawberry season!

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