Subscribe

Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:

Archives

Currently Reading


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished reading 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 Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Brunch, Vegetarian, on September 16th, 2011.

tomato_corn_cheese_pie

Will you just trust me on this one? Make it, please. Providing you like tomatoes. And cheese. And fresh corn. And pie crust. Oh, it’s so utterly delicious.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember that I posted a similar pie two years ago. It was called a Savory Tomato & Gruyere Pie. And, in fact, this one is also savory, also full of tomatoes, and gruyere cheese. But after I made that pie in 2009 I also made another one – a Tomato & Corn Pie in a Biscuit Crust. I particularly liked the corn in the 2nd rendition. But I thought the first one had better taste. So this time I had both recipes handy and decided to make some changes. All for the better, I assure you! I think this recipe has all the best of both recipes in it. If you’d prefer to use the biscuit crust, by all means do so.

I made a short crust tart shell (you can either roll it out and place in the pie plate, or press it in if you’re piecrust-challenged) and put it into my 9-inch pie dish. I sautéed some onion, added the fresh corn cut off the cob, and a little bit of Sriracha sauce. After the pie shell baked for awhile, I spread the bottom of the crust with about 3 ounces of garlic-and-herb Boursin cheese. It’s a protective layer to keep the moist veggies from soaking into the tender, flaky piecrust. And I used Boursin because I didn’t have any cream cheese in the refrigerator. This worked just fine. The pie shell was still fairly warm, so the cheese really softened a lot. Then I poured in the onion-corn mixture and spread it around. Meanwhile, I’d cut up about 2 1/2 cups of fresh heirloom tomatoes. I cored the tomatoes, cut them in wedges, then squeezed the dickens out of them and put them on some paper towels. Then I squeezed them again to get almost all the juice out of them but still keep the pieces intact. Then I cut the tomatoes into pieces and placed them in the pie and sprinkled the top with a small handful of sliced basil. Then I mixed up the Gruyere cheese, mozzarella cheese and mayonnaise (sinful, I know) and dabbed little pieces all over the top of the tart. There isn’t enough to really spread; besides, the mixture is very sticky, so I used my hands and dropped little bits of it all over the top, then used a spatula to sort-of spread it more evenly. There will be a few holes here and there.

tomato_corn_pie

That’s it – bake for about 30 minutes – until the cheese is bubbling away. I let it sit for a few minutes (letting it rest for about 10 minutes would be best – it will cut better), slice and serve with a few more bits of fresh basil on top. I made a green salad with some soft butter lettuce and my latest Lemon Sherry Vinegar Salad Dressing. Perfection. My DH raved.  And raved. I cut us each one slice for dinner and it was all we could do to keep our forks out of the pie plate to have more. We were good. But I had it for lunch the next day, heated in the microwave for about 45 seconds. More perfection!

printer-friendly PDF – doesn’t include the pie crust
MasterCook 5+ import file (click to run MC or right click to save file)

Tomato Corn Pie

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from Simply Recipes blog
Serving Size: 7-8
NOTES: If using Gruyere, it’s a very salty cheese, so don’t salt

1 whole pie shell — 9 inch unbaked
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 whole yellow or red onion — chopped finely
2 cups fresh corn — cut off the cobs (2-3 ears)
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — (or more to taste)
2 1/2 cups tomatoes — cut in half horizontally
3 ounces Boursin cheese — at room temperature, garlic flavored
1/4 cup basil — sliced in thin strips
2 1/2 cups grated cheese — a combination of Gruyere and Mozzarella
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper
Basil leaves for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line the unbaked pie shell with waxed paper and add pie weights, pushing them up the sides if possible. Bake for 10 minutes or longer until lightly golden. Reduce oven temp to 350° and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Remove pie shell from oven. Allow to cool just a couple of minutes and gently remove waxed paper (and pie weights), using the waxed paper as a sling. Set pie shell on a rack while you complete the rest of the pie. You can make the pie shell earlier in the day and let it sit at room temp until you’re ready to continue.
2. Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, then drain on paper towels. Again squeeze gently in your hands, too, to get the last bit of juice out, without pulverizing the tomato flesh in the process. Chop the tomatoes into small bite-sized pieces.
3. In a medium saute pan heat canola oil and cook over medium heat until the onion is limp. Turn up the heat and add the corn and continue cooking until the corn has browned just a little bit, at the most 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the hot sauce and stir to mix it well. Set aside.
4. Spread the softened Boursin cheese all over the bottom of the baked pie shell, then gently pour in the onion-corn mixture and spread it around, out to the edges too. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the sliced basil over the tomatoes.
5. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheeses, mayonnaise and freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands (it’s gooey) drop small little clumps of the cheese mixture all over the top of the pie, spreading it out to the edges as much as possible. There will still be a few holes here and there.
6. Bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10-15 minutes, sprinkle top with more chopped basil and serve in wedges.
Per Serving (includes the pie shell): 546 Calories; 46g Fat (71.8% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 631mg Sodium.

If you’d like to try my short crust shell, this is the recipe I use most often (and that isn’t often because I rarely bake pies, but when I do, this is my go-to recipe). It’s one I got from a Joanne Weir cooking class eons ago (probably 10-15 years) and once I saw how easy this was (even for me who is sometimes piecrust-challenged) I’ve made it many, many times. Sometimes I roll it out, other times I use the press-in technique in the recipe.

printer-friendly PDF (short crust only)
MasterCook 5+ import file – click to run MC or right click to save file

Short Crust (Press-In) Tart Shell

Recipe By: Joanne Weir, from one of her cookbooks
Serving Size: 8
NOTES: This is oh-so-good, and easy. This is a very rich, tender and crumbly pastry. It doesn’t act like a traditional piecrust. If using this for a savory filling (like quiche), add only about 1 tsp. of sugar, and eliminate the lemon zest. I have also successfully rolled this out with a rolling pin (for a piecrust, not a tart). Just don’t get the dough too thin or it will fall apart once you try to transfer it to a pie plate.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar — (if making a dessert)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest — (if making a dessert)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ice water — or more as needed

1. Warm butter at room temperature for a maximum of 15 minutes before proceeding.
2. In a food processor fit with a metal blade, mix the flour, sugar and salt with a few pulses. Add lemon zest and butter and pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add about 2 tsp. of water, or up to a maximum of 1 T., just until the dough holds together into a ball. Remove from the processor, flatten into a 6-inch disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
3. Remove pastry from refrigerator and allow to sit out (covered) for about 15-20 minutes before proceeding. Have ready a 9-inch tart shell with removable bottom. Or you may use a traditional pie plate. Take a small piece of pastry, about 1 inch by 3 inches and press it into the side evenly. Continue adding more pieces until you have a solid edge. If the dough is too stiff, press it between your palms to warm it slightly, then make into a kind of rope and press into side of tart shell. Take remaining pastry and press in pieces into bottom of pan and pat out so the pastry is mostly even. Do your best to press the corners so that right angle doesn’t become too deep with dough. Set the shell in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. Use this time to preheat the oven to 400°.
4. Line the pastry with parchment or waxed paper and scatter dry beans or pie weights into the parchment. Make sure the beans reach up close to the edges. Bake until the top edges are very lightly golden, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, reduce oven temperature to 375° and continue to bake until the shell is golden brown, another 15-20 minutes.
Per Serving): 204 Calories; 15g Fat (63.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 39mg Cholesterol; 19mg Sodium.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment