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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. 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 required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 Salad Dressings, Salads, on January 3rd, 2013.

lime_cilantro_salad_dressing

Anytime I find a new or slightly different salad dressing, I’m intrigued. As I read the recipe for this, in a new cookbook that was given to me, The New Southwest Cookbook by Carolyn Niethammer, I liked the idea of the cilantro suspended in the dressing. And that technique worked beautifully, as you can see in the photo at left.

The salad that was in the accompanying recipecontained a few different ingredients that I chose not to use (field greens, jicama, carrots) but I did have arugula, celery, tomatoes and radishes. So really, you can make the salad portion with your own choice of ingredients.

Serving this as part of a complete dinner with a southwest emphasis, it was a perfect side. My friend Joan liked this salad (and the dressing first and foremost) better than anything else in the dinner I prepared. I did too. It was the lime juice that made it so, in my opinion.

cocina_salad

I made it up ahead – about 2-3 hours before dinner – both the salad and the dressing. So when our guests arrived, I just had to toss the salad and it was done.

One of the caveats about this dressing, though, is that it needs to be used within 24 hours. As I write this it’s been 48, but I’ll use up the rest of it with tonight’s dinner. The reason it doesn’t keep is the cilantro. Once fresh cilantro encounters anything wet, it goes to mush. Perhaps in this dressing that won’t happen quite so quickly – it’s still nicely suspended in the dressing – but I’m sure the taste is likely waning. For a salad for 5 people, I used about 3/4 of the dressing, so you might want to reduce the quantity if you’re making just one salad for 4 people.

What’s good: the sweet and tart from the sugar and lime juice. Loved the flavor of this dressing, and the salad was also wonderful (red bell pepper, radishes, arugula, Romaine and Feta). A definite make-again recipe.
What’s not: only that the dressing doesn’t keep well – preferably only 24 hours. Otherwise, the salad is a winner.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cocina Salad with Lime-Cilantro Dressing

Recipe By: Adapted from The New Southwest Cookbook, by Carolyn Niethammer
Serving Size: 5
NOTES: You won’t use all of the dressing, so do plan to use it up the following day.

LIME-CILANTRO DRESSING:
1/4 teaspoon jalapeno chile pepper — minced
3 tablespoons white onion — minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro — chopped
SALAD:
6 cups lettuce — spring type, field greens (or arugula and Romaine)
1/2 cup radishes — chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes — matchsticks
1/2 cup red bell pepper — julienned
6 tablespoons Feta cheese — crumbled

1. DRESSING: Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a blender and process until creamy. Taste and correct the salt/sugar/lime relationship to your taste. Add cilantro leaves and pulse just until the cilantro is in small flakes and evenly distributed. Do not over-blend or you will lose the contrast. Serve within 24 hours.
2. SALAD: Toss the greens with radishes and tomatoes. Add dressing to taste. Divde into bowls and top with red pepper strips and the sprinkle of Feta cheese.
Per Serving (this assumes you will eat all the dressing, which you won’t): 273 Calories; 25g Fat (78.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 353mg Sodium.

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