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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Soups, on April 20th, 2020.

caulif_soup_golden_raisins_capers_pinenuts

Oh my goodness, is this soup fabulous. You’d almost not know its base is cauliflower.

There’s a story to go along with this post. Last month before the virus had ramped up, I took a one-week trip to our California central coast. I had a fabulous time – by myself – visiting wineries, window shopping, used book stores, stopping at coffee shops here and there. I thoroughly enjoy driving and I meandered – I was in no hurry to get anywhere so I could enjoy the views. Visiting with old friends in San Luis Obispo, we went to a local hotel (the San Luis Obispo Hotel) for lunch. Cauliflower soup was featured that day – I quizzed the waitress if it was good. She waxed glorious about it – whenever the chef made it, she said she had some – and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

So here’s what the restaurant’s soup looked like, at right. cauliflower_soup_san_luis_obispo_hotelI think the menu said it was garnished with a sage leaf, but that wasn’t a sage leaf – looked like basil to me. But on top was plenty of the balsamic glaze, toasted almonds, capers, some plumped up raisins (can’t really see those) and a few little pieces of caramelized roasted cauliflower.

Upon my first sip, I swooned. It was SO good. I insisted my friends needed to try it – they agreed it was sensational. My thoughts as I ate it – the golden raisins added so much – they were plumped for sure. The nuts added great texture, and so did the few little pieces of cauliflower. There was no discernible cauliflower flavor to the soup itself. So I decided it probably wasn’t made with caramelized cauliflower. Plus, the soup was super smooth. When the waitress returned I quizzed her some more about the soup – she knew it contained cream (check), and yes, it was balsamic glaze (check), and toasted almonds (I used pine nuts, check) and she knew the raisins had been cooked in something (check). And yes, they used a Vitamix to puree it until very smooth (check).

Soon after returning home I went online to google such a soup. No soup came up, but a bunch of results showed a vegetable dish (from the New York Times, I think it was, plus epicurious) of roasted cauliflower with toasted pine nuts, capers, golden raisins and balsamic glaze drizzled on top. My first thought was that the chef had perhaps made a monstrous batch of that for the dinner service, didn’t serve it all so he created the soup with the leftovers. I don’t know, of course. And it doesn’t matter – I created the soup with what little I could discern.

As I’m writing this post, I’m going to have it for the 2nd day, for my lunch. I have all the garnishes except the roasted cauliflower pieces. And I used pine nuts, as I mentioned. No basil or sage leaf, either. I added more parsley. I tried to make the soup with white onion, but my neighbor who is doing my shopping couldn’t find white onions. So yellow it was. I added celery for flavor, chicken broth, cream, and thickened it a little bit with flour. All of it was whizzed up at length in my Vitamix. I let it whiz for a long, long time  – and truly it resulted in a silky-smooth texture. I added a drizzle of sour cream (not on the restaurant soup), but you could easily use a little drizzle of EVOO for appearance or a tiny drizzle of heavy cream.

caulif_soup_with_cozyLunch at my house is often soup of some kind. There’s a photo of my bowl sitting in the microwave soup cozy (several artisans make them on Etsy). The soup bowl is sitting off center only because I wanted to show you the cute fabric on the back side of it. I have flat bags and bags of various soups in my freezer. I think this one will get eaten in total with none for the freezer. It’s that good. Do try to make this a day ahead of serving – as with all soups, they taste better once they’ve chilled overnight.

What’s GOOD: all the flavors produce an outstanding soup. The garnishes absolutely “make” this soup. Don’t skimp on them – in my opinion they’re all needed.

What’s NOT: a bit more prep with all the garnishes, but really it’s not a difficult soup to make.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Capers and Balsamic Drizzle

Recipe By: Loosely based on a soup I enjoyed at a hotel restaurant in San Luis Obispo, CA, March 2020
Serving Size: 6

SOUP:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large white onion — chopped
2 stalks celery — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 head cauliflower — chopped (no leaves)
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
Salt and WHITE pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all purpose flour — or cornstarch
2/3 cup heavy cream — or half and half
GARNISHES:
4 tablespoons golden raisins
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted, or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons capers — drained
2 tablespoons sour cream — drizzled on top, or EVOO Drizzle of balsamic glaze
4 tablespoons parsley — minced

1. SOUP: In a large soup pot warm the butter and EVOO over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until onion is soft. Do not burn or brown. Add celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then chicken broth, then the cauliflower. Simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are cooked through. Allow mixture to cool for 20-30 minutes, then pour (in batches if necessary) into blender and puree for a long time – until the soup is super-smooth. Add the all-purpose flour during one of the whizzing sessions. Pour all the pureed mixture back into the soup pot, add cream and bring to a simmer again and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, as it thickens, watching that it doesn’t burn. Cool and refrigerate overnight if possible.
2. RAISINS: Bring golden raisins, water and vinegar to a simmer and cook over very low heat for about 5 minutes, then set aside to cool, while the raisins plump up. Drain.
3. SERVING: Pour reheated soup into individual bowls and garnish with any and all variety of the garnishes. The raisins are a must, as are some kind of toasted nuts. If you don’t have pine nuts, use slivered toasted almonds. If you don’t have balsamic glaze, you can make it by cooking down about 1/2 cup of regular vinegar until it’s thick and syrupy. Or, in a pinch drizzle soup with a TINY amount of regular balsamic. If you don’t have sour cream, drizzle with EVOO. If you feel particularly creative, sizzle the capers in a little olive oil until they burst and crisp up.
Per Serving: 291 Calories; 21g Fat (63.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 491mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on April 29th, 2020:

    This looks like a must-try. Those garnishes sound so interesting! It looks like the kind of soup I would like to have around for a few days so I can have it when I serve carb-heavier meals to the guys. When I can finally have my daughter visit again, I know she would love this!

    This soup is just amazing. I may have to make another batch of it sometime soon. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on May 1st, 2020:

    My mouth is watering! I’ve got what I need–I can make it next week!

    This soup is SO good. I can’t wait to make it again. I have a cauliflower in my frig right now, but seems like it was just a week or so ago I was eating this batch, so I don’t think I’m quite ready for a full batch of the soup. I’ll be anxious to hear what you think of it . . .carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on May 6th, 2020:

    Made this on Monday, and I couldn’t wait a day to try it. It was delicious then, and even better yesterday, as expected. I just love the interplay of textures and flavors–sweet, tart, salty, crunchy, crisp. As you say, it’s the garnishes that make this soup. It’s hard for me not to nibble away on the extras. The first day, I did everything but the capers. I used slivered almonds, and they were good, but the second day I used dry-roasted macadamia nuts, and they were much better. (I keep all kinds of nuts in the freezer, but no pine nuts since I had a bout with pine nut syndrome a few years ago. Yesterday, I checked to see if there was some more recent research on that and was able to print out a chart of the different varieties and how to tell the differences among them. It was only one variety out of several that caused the problem, and I am wondering if that kind has been eliminated from the market here by now, as I haven’t heard anything about the phenomenon in years. Am going to check them out next time I get to Trader Joe’s; they are so tasty!) As I had a lemon half handy, I added a squirt of lemon juice to the soup along with the garnishes, and, on the second day, a dash of Aleppo pepper flakes for a little gentle heat. I added the fried capers the second day. Lovely little crispy, salty bits, but they did soften after sitting in the soup a very short time. Might just add a couple to each spoonful in order to get the full effect.

    I’m so happy you enjoyed that soup as much as I did, Donna. And yes, obviously the various garnishes are what make this soup stand out from others .. . carolyn t

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