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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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