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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 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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