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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 Salads, Veggies/sides, on April 22nd, 2011.

rice_veg_salad

Have you learned yet, that when I tell you you need to make something (like this salad) you believe me? I don’t say it all that often – you  HAVE to make this cuz it’s just so gosh-darned good. I’ve been making it for years – probably about 30 years – from the Silver Palate Cookbook when the original book came out. I bought it and this was the very first recipe I made from the book. And I’ve been making it ever since!

our_favorite_vinaigrette_silver_palateHere’s a photo of the dressing after I poured it over the salad – it hasn’t been mixed in yet – but that’s what the dressing looks like. And it’s the dressing that “makes” the salad. And it’s really nothing all that unusual – it’s the Silver Palate’s own “Our Favorite Vinaigrette,” from the same book. It’s olive oil, red wine vinegar, some herbs, Dijon mustard, and a tiny bit of sugar. The rice – because it’s a carb – soaks up oodles of the dressing. And THAT’S what makes this salad great.

With summer coming on, this makes a great salad to take to a picnic or somebody else’s home for a barbecue. It isn’t just for an outdoor occasion, or for summer weather, though. Any time of year is fine – but I’d say it’s better in the summer. You can make everything up ahead of time and toss it together with the dressing just before serving it. Or, you can mix it up about an hour before serving. It’s not all that great after a day – whatever happens, it loses its great flavors – but it’s still good. So, if you don’t think you’re going to eat it all in the first sitting, set the dry rice mixture aside and add the dressing later – even the next day.

So, make this, okay?

printer-friendly PDF

Rice and Vegetable Salad

Recipe: From The Silver Palate Cookbook
Serving Size: 10 (probably more)
NOTES: This recipe may also be made with orzo pasta instead of rice. It will keep for a day or two, but the flavor is definitely not as good. All the ingredients can be prepared ahead, just don’t mix the salad together until an hour or so before. To make 8 cups of rice, cook about 2+ to 2 1/2 cups of rice.

8 cups cooked rice — (hot)
1 whole red bell pepper — julienned
1 whole green bell pepper — julienned
1 medium red onion — diced
6 whole green onions — minced (or more)
1 cup currant — or golden raisins
2 whole shallot — peeled and diced
10 ounces frozen peas — or more if desired
1/2 cup black pitted olive — Mediterranean type
1/4 cup Italian parsley — minced
1/2 cup fresh dill — minced salt and pepper — to taste
SILVER PALATE VINAIGRETTE: (makes about 1 3/4 cups)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Prepare rice (to make the 8 cups) and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the Vinaigrette and toss thoroughly. Cool the rice to room temperature.
2. Prepare all remaining ingredients and add to the cooled rice mixture. Correct seasoning as necessary.
3. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours. Return to room temperature before serving.
Per Serving: 478 Calories; 23g Fat (42.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 351mg Sodium.

A year ago: Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down Cake
Two year ago: Pickled Grapes (an appetizer)

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  1. Melynda@Moms Sunday Cafe

    said on April 22nd, 2011:

    I have never made a rice salad, but you are right, this looks wonderful. I am sure it tastes great too. I just happen to have that cookbook.

    It IS so very good. The leftovers were fine the next day, and we’ve been eating it ever since. The peas don’t stay bright green, but the flavor is still quite good. Very much worth making . . . carolyn t

  2. Marie

    said on March 20th, 2012:

    This is one of my very favorites. I was looking for a copy of the recipe to send to a friend. Thanks for posting. Your photo is gorgeous. I think I’ll trawl your site because if you like this recipe I know you have good tastebuds. 😉 I am really craving this now.

    Oh yes, that IS a great salad. Haven’t made in in awhile, but my mouth waters just thinking about it! Hope it’s as good as YOU remembered! . . . carolyn t

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