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My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

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Posted in Soups, on August 7th, 2008.

chilled zucchini soup with a dollop of sour cream

Last week was my week to entertain two of my friends for Scrabble, and we had agreed from the beginning that we’d each eat lunch at home first. No pressure on the hostess except for some cookies and tea. After all, we’re getting together to play Scrabble, not to eat. But I was still sipping on a small glass of my new favorite cucumber soup (my third batch in a month) when the ladies arrived. I had plenty, so I gave both Gloria and Irene a small glass too. Gloria mentioned that it was similar to her favorite chilled zucchini soup. I promptly asked for the recipe, and the next day I had it in my hands. It is similar to the cucumber soup I make, but yet it’s different too. It’s a combo of zucchini and green onions, but this one is thickened with cornstarch, and has some curry powder to give it a little zip. And, you add a shot or two of some sweet white wine (Sauterne, if you have it) to it. So, it is different from the other one. I couldn’t wait to make it.

The recipe is very straight forward – you sauté the onions in butter, add garlic, the sliced zucchini, some chicken broth, seasonings, then whiz it up in the blender. Then you add cold milk mixed with the cornstarch, bring it up to a boil, cool, add the Sauterne, and chill. I had some good Wolfgang Puck’s chicken broth, so added that instead of using canned granules, but then I also added a little spoon of chicken bouillon concentrate. I buy it from Penzey’s, and think it’s better than any others I’ve ever used. Really good chicken flavor.

I added a goodly jolt of curry powder to it – I’d purchased a new one, and it was much hotter than I’d anticipated. So I stirred in some sour cream to the finished soup, to bring down the heat a little bit. Otherwise, I made no alterations to the soup. My DH adored it – he had two bowls of it, and he really enjoyed the heat (curry) in it. Just be gentle unless you know how hot your curry powder really is. Next time I might serve it with a little sprinkling of fresh chopped mint on top. Zucchini and mint go together well. Thyme and zucchini go together well, too, if that sounds more interesting.
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Chilled Zucchini Soup

Recipe: From my friend, Gloria D.
Servings: 8

1/3 cup butter
1 cup green onions — diced, using all the tops too
1 clove garlic — minced
3 cups zucchini — sliced, about three
1 cup chicken broth — or water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder — or more to taste
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sauterne wine — or other white wine

1. In a large saucepan melt butter. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic during the last minute. Add zucchini slices and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until zucchini is fairly soft. Add broth, bouillon cubes and all seasonings. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Place batches of the soup in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
2. Return soup to saucepan. Stir cornstarch into the milk and dissolve thoroughly, then add to soup. Cook until it comes to a boil, remove from heat, add wine, cool to room temperature, then chill.
Per Serving: 173 Calories; 12g Fat (63.2% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 463mg Sodium.

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  1. margaret miland

    said on August 11th, 2013:

    Tried this recipe with my summer squash and zucchini(one of each plant in my garden). I love yellow curry and used 2 teaspoons. It is smooth, spicy, delicious and a great way to use the crop.

    I’m so glad you liked it! That reminds me I haven’t made it yet this summer. . . .carolyn t

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