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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 Desserts, Miscellaneous, on April 1st, 2012.

lemon_curd_ATK

Have you made lemon curd before? I’ve made it oodles of times, but not since last March. I wrote it up here on my blog then. I read a description of lemon curd in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook – they called some versions teeth-achingly sweet. Gosh, yes. That’s what mine was in 2011. The folks at ATK decided to fix it, and yes, they did. This is my new go-to lemon curd recipe. I didn’t enhance the photo at all – it’s all the egg yolks that give it that deep golden color.

I’d offered to take lemon curd to a friend’s home for a St. Patrick’s Day book group meeting. Each year the hostess and her wonderful husband make an Irish repast for our group. And mid-way through our book meeting they also serve multiple desserts. They make raisin scones too, and it’s for the scones that I usually offer to make lemon curd.

Remembering that last year’s version was too sweet, I pulled out cookbook after cookbook and compared the recipes. Some had nearly double the amount of sugar per lemon juice quantity of others. Whoa! No wonder I was overwhelmed with the sweetness! I should have just gone to my well-used The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Every recipe turns out superbly from that cookbook. With copious lemons on our Meyer trees, it came together in a hurry. I really liked the addition of a few tablespoons of heavy cream at the end. It just smooths it out, somehow. I chose not to strain it (to remove the bits of lemon zest and any eggy things). I chilled it in a bowl over ice and gave it to the hostess. But not without a couple of teaspoons to taste, of course! It’ll be my forever favorite, I suspect.

What I liked: it’s easy. Delicious. Just the right amount of sugar to lemon ratio. It will keep for several weeks too, if it were to last that long. I gave all of it to my friend, so there isn’t any left over here at my house! Guess I’ll just have to make it again. I scaled down the recipe to use 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, FYI.

What I didn’t like: nothing at all. Perfection.

printer-friendly PDF
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Lemon Curd (America’s Test Kitchen)

Recipe: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serving Size: 12 (maybe a lot more)
NOTES: This really takes no time to make and it’s SO much better than the store-bought type. I also like this recipe because it’s not teeth-achingly sweet. It’s “just right.”

7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar — + 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut in 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Whisk the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar together until just combined. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest and salt.
2. Transfer the mixture to a medium nonreactive saucepan, add butter, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency, about 5 minutes.
3. Strain the curd immediately through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean nonreactive bowl and stir in the cream. Cool and chill completely.
Per Serving (probably high as I think this will serve more than 12 scones!): 163 Calories; 9g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 175mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.

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  1. Janet

    said on April 4th, 2012:

    I’ve been making a similar lemon curd for the last few years. I’ve never put cream in it though. My recipe calls for 4 whole eggs and 4 extra egg yolks. Otherwise it is the same. Yummy stuff.

    Well, I’d never put cream in it either, but it did kind of mellow it just a little bit and loosened the thickness of the curd. I liked it . . . carolyn t

  2. rima

    said on April 5th, 2015:

    Excellent recipe, great website. Wonderful job. I made it twice, once I folded in to the cool curd two stiffly beaten whites and 1/12 cups lightly sweetened whipped cream. Yum

    Yes, indeed, it’s great stuff! . . . carolyn t

  3. cindy reams

    said on January 14th, 2016:

    dreamy!!

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