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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 Chicken, Pork, on July 2nd, 2011.


italian_sausage_risottoDuring a recent cooking class with Phillis Carey, she began the introduction to this dish by saying that this is one of her very favorite dishes. And that she makes it very frequently for herself and has never tired of the combination of flavors. I scribbled notes on my recipe in a hurry there – I always listen closely when Phillis tells us it’s a favorite of hers because I’ve never not liked any of her favorites. And she mentioned that yes, making risotto is a bit of a nuisance, what with all that constant stirring for 30-35 minutes. But she assured us that we’d be glad when we tasted it. And indeed we were. We heard “mmmmm” all around the classroom. My mmmm included! I nearly licked the plate. For risotto. It was so gosh-darned delicious.

It’s a traditional risotto in how it’s made – nothing different about the preparation or the stirring, or keeping the chicken stock hot. It was the combination of the sausage, the leeks, the corn. And the prettiness of the added spinach. And the red of the tomatoes. Well, just all of it.

Picnik collageI made the dish a few nights later, as I said, with the identical ingredients (except I used pork Italian sausage) and my DH and I nearly licked the plate. Don’t skimp on the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Or the butter – that’s an important addition at the end. Do use fresh, baby spinach too. If you have some fresh basil, sprinkle a bit of that on top as you serve it.

So, how’d we like it? Well, I’d had it at the cooking class, so I knew I’d enjoy it. My DH was so busy eating it he couldn’t even look up to say anything. Meaning that he loved it. We both did. It did take about 45 minutes to make, but I didn’t have to stir it every second. I was close by to stir it around every 30 seconds or so and add more broth as I chopped up the tomatoes, cut the fresh corn off the cob. I made it last week for our friends in Colorado too, and they both thought it was delicious.

What I liked: I loved it all. The texture of the arborio rice – it came out perfectly. The sausage added some great taste, but wasn’t overwhelming. The color with the spinach and tomatoes. The cheese. Oh goodness yes, it was all good. And this is now going onto my “favorites” list if that’s any indication of how delicious it is!
What I didn’t like: well, I suppose the stirring gets a little tedious, but that’s it.

printer-friendly CutePDF
MasterCook 5+ file and MasterCook 14 file

Risotto with Turkey Sausage, Corn, Leeks, Spinach and Tomatoes

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Phillis Carey, 6/2011
Serving Size: 4 (I think it will serve 5)

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1/2 pound turkey Italian sausage — (or use pork Italian sausage, if preferred)
2 cloves garlic — minced
3/4 cup dry white wine — like Sauvignon Blanc (not vermouth), divided use
1 1/2 cups leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup fresh corn — trimmed from the cob
6 ounces baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
3/4 cup plum tomatoes — seeded, diced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil — sliced

1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat. Lower heat and keep the broth hot.
2. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and garlic. Cook, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup wine to the sausage and simmer until the wine evaporates.
3. Heat remaining 2 T. oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven (Phillis suggests Le Creuset cast iron pots are the best for making risotto). Add the cleaned and dried leeks and cook for 6-8 minutes until they are softened. Add rice and cook, stirring often, until it turns white, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated.
4. Add a cup of broth to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, lowering heat to just a simmer, until rice absorbs all the broth. Stir in another cup of broth and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring until rice is just tender, about 20 more minutes.
5. Stir in the corn and sausage and then add the spinach by handfuls, cooking until wilted; season to taste with salt and pepper. Do not let the rice cook until it’s dry – add small amounts of broth (or water if you run out) even up until the end. Stir in the butter and Parmesan and stir until melted. Stir in tomatoes, parsley and basil and serve immediately with additional Parmesan to sprinkle on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 767 Calories; 35g Fat (39.7% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 75g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 180mg Sodium.

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  1. Kathleen Heckathorn

    said on July 2nd, 2011:

    Carolyn, I made the spiced nuts recipe you posted earlier this week and took it to a barbeque today. It was easy to make, easy to transport and a real crowd pleaser. So I give it an A!

    Thanks, Kathleen. I did notice that I’d left out one ingredient – the cocoa. The recipe is fixed now, so you might want to correct the recipe – or print out a new PDF . . . carolyn t

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