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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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?

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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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