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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 Salads, on April 5th, 2012.

cabbage_salad_buttermilk_dressing

It was about time I got around to making this salad – it’s been in my to-try file for years. Don’t tell anybody, but this is very low calorie. It’s also delicious, crunchy and a perfect accompaniment to grilled meat. In this case I served it alongside pulled pork sliders.

It was about 4 years ago and I was reading Smitten Kitchen’s blog. She raved. I mean she raved about this salad. I put it into my MasterCook to-try file and promptly forgot it. I have hundreds and hundreds of recipes in my to-try file. I should stop, right now, reading any more food blogs, magazines or cookbooks because I have enough recipes to last me until I’m at least 389 years old. But I can’t seem to help myself. I really do try NOT to buy more cookbooks. But gosh, darned, so many people just write the most beautiful books, blogs and magazine articles! I just can’t help myself!

So anyway, needing a salad to go with the pulled pork sliders I made the other night, I thought a cabbage salad seemed appropriate and this salad fit just great. It was incredibly easy to make. Now the original recipe (which came from Gourmet magazine) called for Napa cabbage. Visiting two markets, I found only Savoy, so that’s what was used in this. Savoy and Napa are similar, although they definitely look different. But both cabbages have more tender leaves, or maybe they’re just thinner-leafed. Anyway, you probably could make this with regular cabbage, but I truly liked the Savoy.

The buttermilk dressing is so very light. It’s flavored with some finely minced shallot, and a little bit of sugar (I used Splenda). Fresh chives, radishes and celery round out the cabbage. That’s it. I liked the look of the radishes on top, so I actually left them in a separate little baggie and tossed some dressing with them and sprinkled them decoratively on the top of the salad. If you make the full 4-cup cabbage recipe, you’ll use all of the dressing. Next time I might make more dressing – not only is it good, the salad might need a bit more. It could also be used on a regular green salad too. Don’t let it sit long, though, on a regular green salad. Because the dressing is mostly buttermilk, it will wilt tender green leaves.

What I liked: well, the calorie count, for one. And truly, you’d never know it’s so low calorie. It’s overall delicious. Yes, I’ll be making it again. When I used the left over dressing I added just a tad more mayo to it (I didn’t quite have enough to dress another cabbage salad) and I liked it a lot. That would “up” the calorie and fat content of the salad, though. It’s really awfully good as it is!

What I didn’t like: nada, nothing.

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Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Recipe By: Gourmet, November 2007, written up on Smitten Kitchen blog
Serving Size: 6

1/2 cup buttermilk — well-shaken
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon sugar — or Spenda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives — finely chopped
1 pound Napa cabbage — cored and thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups), or Savoy cabbage
6 whole radishes — diced
2 whole celery ribs — thinly sliced diagonally

1. Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl until sugar has dissolved, then whisk in chives.
2. Toss cabbage, radishes, and celery with dressing. It’s perhaps more attractive if the radishes are dressed separately and sprinkled on top.
Per Serving: 69 Calories; 4g Fat (50.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium.

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  1. Robert Richards Recipes

    said on April 5th, 2012:

    This looks really good and I’m excited to give it a try!

    The slaw was really, really good. And so healthy! It disappeared in less than 24 hours, so I want to make it again too. . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on April 6th, 2012:

    It even looks pretty Carolyn. I think I shall try that when I get back from Scotland next week. We don’t have Napa cabbages here but we do have Savoy. I think this is the time of year for Sweetheart cabbages too, they are very tender and tasty.

    Oh, how fun to go to Scotland! What will the weather be like? Do have a good visit. . . carolyn t

  3. Kalyn

    said on April 7th, 2012:

    Love your new photo! And I love everything about this salad.

    It’s probably on the South Beach, I’d suspect. You might want to try it. Worth making . . . carolyn t

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