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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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 Miscellaneous, Miscellaneous sides, on July 24th, 2008.


balsamic onion marmalade
Have you ever heard or read about how hard it is to photograph brown and beige things? Hope you can even figure out this is onions! I had to balance some of the onions on a fork with my left hand and try to hold the camera steady AND click the shutter with my right hand. All to show some added depth to the photo. And although this may not look all that appetizing, it’s actually very good. Would I kid you?

After just stating yesterday that I didn’t have any posts waiting in the wings, I looked, and oh yes, I had this one. I hadn’t posted it because I made the onion pepper relish to go with the beef sliders for the 4th of July, and thought the two were too similar. This one is less sweet than the relish – more suited for a slab of grilled meat probably, than the burgers and accompaniments. I still have some of this in the refrigerator (as well as the relish from the 4th), and assume it will keep for another few weeks since it’s “pickled,” so to speak, with the vinegar. Hope so, as it was delicious and very suitable for some meat things. I used it on a sandwich last week too.

We had some friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and with the pork roast we did on the rotisserie (that I’d brined) I wanted to serve some kind of sauce or salsa, or something. Found a recipe for a pork rib roast with this onion marmalade. It was just a perfect fit. And oh-my-goodness deliciousness. It’s not difficult, although it does take some time (total cooking time about an hour) to sweat down the onions, then to continue to cook them down to a jammy consistency. If you started this first (when about to make a dinner) it would be done by the time you were ready to sit down).

The recipe came from Food & Wine magazine, May 2008. If you want to do the pork roast, just brine it, bake or rotisserie it until it reaches an internal temp of about 133 degrees (still pink in the middle). Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving with this cold, room temp or hot onion topping. The leftovers will keep for several weeks.
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Balsamic Onion Marmalade

Recipe: Food & Wine, May ’08.
Servings: 8

4 whole onions — peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot (large enough to barely hold all the onions) heat the oil until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 20 minutes. Do not let them burn or brown.
2. Season the onions with the ground cloves, salt and pepper. Add the brown sugar and cook over moderately low heat until the skillet is dry, about 10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and orange zest and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade is very thick, 30 minutes. Transfer the marmalade to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, if you prefer it hot, just before serving, or serve cold, or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 65 Calories; 2g Fat (23.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 5mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on July 24th, 2008:

    I’ve always been amazed but the length of time it takes to cook onions in this way, sometimes I add a little water throughout the cooking, it sems to stop the burning.

    Have you thought that a tripod might help your food photography?
    😉 I was amazed that my old one even fits my new little digi-cam!

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on July 24th, 2008:

    Two typos there – ‘amazed BY the’ and ‘it SEEMS’ I really should pay more attention…

  3. Carolyn

    said on July 25th, 2008:

    Yes, onions do take a while to sweat out their juice. And get to that silky brown color. And yes, I have used a tripod on occasion. Probably need to try it more often. It’s a little baby one – will only go up a short amount of space, so I need to use it mostly for side shots. My photo area is a little niche in my kitchen, and I really am not happy about having equipment sitting around, so try to limit what I leave out on the counter. My main equipment piece is my light, which is a very awkward size and too big to hide anywhere. My little photo niche is used a lot, and I’d hate to have to dig it out of a closet every day just to snap a picture. My DH is quite tolerant about my photo-taking, even when we’re trying to sit down to dinner.

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