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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 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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