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My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste 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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