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Am just starting News of the World: A Novel by William Morris. 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 requires me to read it. It’s about an old man, during the early, old wild west times, who goes from town to town and people pay him money to read the newspaper to them. (Imagine, there WAS such a job.) By chance he’s asked to take a very young girl to Texas to reunite with her family. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby, raised by them, and she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!).

Just finished 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.

Recently finished reading 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.

Also just read 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.

Also read 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 Veggies/sides, on June 18th, 2011.

broth-braised-fingerlings

As usual, brown food lacks a bit of vitality in a photograph. Suffice to say these are delicious. Different, a bit. But brown. These happen to be fingerling potatoes (Trader Joe’s has this cute little bag of potatoes that are just enough for a dinner for 4). The potatoes are cut in half lengthwise, then simmered or steamed in a mixture of chicken broth, fresh garlic, a little squirt of olive oil, some thyme or rosemary and most importantly, some lemon zest. Once cooked through you can remove the potatoes and reduce-down the broth (actually my pan cooked dry and I had to add some water, so perhaps I simmered them on too-high heat). I sprinkled in some salt, but then decided it needed just a tiny bit of richness, so I added in a little pat of butter. Perfect.

The recipe came from Dorie Greenspan, in her most recent cookbook Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. There is nothing complicated about these potatoes – Dorie suggests the recipe works best with baby potatoes – they’re just simmered in a flavorful broth. I sprinkled on some freshly ground black pepper. You could add some minced parsley to give it some prettiness. Serve immediately if you can.

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Broth-Braised Fingerling Potatoes

Recipe By : Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Serving Size: 4

1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves — split and germ removed
1 strip lemon zest
1 bay leaf — [or a pinch of powdered bay leaf]
2 sprigs fresh rosemary — or 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 fresh sage leaves)
salt freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds fingerling potatoes — or 12 new potatoes, cut in half (or large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-inch cubes)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — [my addition, optional]

1. Add all the ingredients except the potatoes and butter in a saucepan with a cover, seasoning the broth well with salt and pepper.
2. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the potatoes, cover, and simmer until they can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes.
4. The time will vary with the type and size of the potatoes, so check a little before the 15 minute mark and then check frequently after it.
5. If you’d like to serve some of the cooking liquid with the potatoes, lift the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon; put them in a warm bowl and cover them; turn the heat up under the broth; cook the broth for a few minutes until it reduces slightly and the flavors are more concentrated. Add butter (if using it).
6. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 207 Calories; 10g Fat (41.2% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 202mg Sodium.

A year ago: Mimi’s Buttermilk Spice Muffins
Two years ago: Madeira Onions
Three years ago: Pork Tenderloin with Mango Sambal
Four years ago: Pesto Pea Salad (Spinach)

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