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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 Salads, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on July 16th, 2007.


The summer of 1989, I was reading the Los Angeles Times food section, and this recipe jumped out and said “fix me, fix me.” It’s a Paul Prudhomme recipe – he had written the short article about it, and said this was a family favorite, especially for outdoor, barbecue dinners. That’s exactly what I use it for, and have done so multiple times over those ensuing years. I’ve made a few changes to it. The original called for bok choy. I use Napa Cabbage instead. And I use my own combination of beans – usually whatever I happen to have on the pantry shelf. Additionally, bacon was added on top, when served. I eliminated that because it was just fine without it. If stored for a day, the bacon gets limp and wet – not very appetizing.

It’s really quite easy to make, although it does take some assembly time, and some prepping of the vegies. But the bulk of it is canned beans – a variety of them, and you whisk up the dressing and pour over. The dressing is mostly vinegar – cider vinegar – and you’d think that with vinegar as the main ingredient, you’d have a hard time eating it. Not so. Once it sits for a while, something chemical happens when you pour acid and oil over carbs. It mellows the beans and completely eliminates the acidity of the vinegar. It just leaves a little tang and permeates the entire salad. It must be left to marinate for at least several hours, though, so don’t be tempted to eat it right away. Otherwise that chemical action doesn’t have time to occur. Although this probably is used mostly as a side kind of salad, it also can make the meal itself. It’s satisfying enough. It has some protein with all the beans, and it’s filling. It’s the dressing that makes it special. It keeps for a few days, but then the Napa cabbage begins to wilt significantly, so eat it up within 2-3 days after preparation.

And I want you to pay attention to the fat content this time – it’s almost nil. Note that there are only 2 T. of oil in the entire salad to serve 12. I highly recommend this.
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The BEST Bean Salad

Recipe: Adapted from a Paul Prudhomme recipe
Servings: 12
NOTES: This recipe is SO low in fat it hardly even registers fat grams. At first you might think there’s a misprint with the amount of vinegar, but it is correct. The beans absorb the vinegar, which lightens the bean’s heaviness. According to Paul Prudhomme, combining oils and acids make the heaviest starches disappear on your palate. If you prefer, you can add raw chopped zucchini, green bell pepper instead of the red, or a combination, and if desired, cooked, crumbled bacon bits could be added as well if you don’t mind the extra fat. Any combination of beans will work. The original recipe called for bok choy, but the first time I made the recipe the market didn’t have it so I bought Napa cabbage instead and have decided I like it better.
Serving Ideas: Could be a meal on its own. Wonderful with grilled meat.

SALAD:
16 ounces black beans — canned, drained
16 ounces white beans — canned, drained
16 ounces blackeyed peas — canned, drained
2 cups tomato — chopped
1 cup cucumber — seedless, chopped
3/4 cup Napa cabbage — sliced
3/4 cup red bell pepper — chopped
3/4 cup red onion — diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
DRESSING:
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
15 whole basil leaves — minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar — or brown sugar substitute
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano — crushed

1. In a large non-metal bowl, toss together the drained beans (I use low-salt beans when possible), tomatoes, cucumbers, Napa cabbage, bell peppers, onions and garlic powder.
2. In a blender combine the vinegar, oil, basil, brown sugar, black pepper and oregano and blend until combined. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture, stir, cover and chill for several hours. Will keep for several days. Makes about 2 quarts.
Per Serving: 426 Calories; 4g Fat (7.6% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 75g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 18mg Sodium.

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  1. Carolyn

    said on April 29th, 2008:

    Someone emailed me awhile back to tell me that the nutrition info on this recipe was incorrect. I thought the calories were low before, but now they’re even lower, at about half. Here is the corrected version:
    Per Serving: 210 Calories; 3g Fat (11.9% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

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