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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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 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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