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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.

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:

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, a young father also, who 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 guy friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). As a parting request, his wife 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. It became a monument, of sorts, a lovely garden too, and people became friends, heard their stories of the tsunami and watched as they approached the phone booth, entered, and began to talk solemnly to their loved ones. This book is just amazing. I found myself tearing up several times. Maybe not for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not appreciating the poignancy of this special phone booth. And what it did to heal people through grief. I sure could identify.

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. It begins when Grace visits Monaco for the Cannes Film Festival, and a few days later she meets Prince Rainier. Young Sophie becomes Grace’s friend, and actually, so does the relentless photographer. I can remember when Grace Kelly married the Prince – the fairy tale come true. It was quite the big news (I was in my late teens then). Definitely this story is a romance, but not the sappy type you may be used to. Loved the book.

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. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. 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. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

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. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

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. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

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. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

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. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

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. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. 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. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

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. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

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 woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. 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, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. 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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

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.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 Veggies/sides, on October 7th, 2020.

roasted_savoy_cabbage_cilantro_sesame

It’s been awhile since I wrote up a recipe where I blasted out at you saying – you have to make this! Maybe the Curried Shepherd’s Pie recently. I think I watched a Cook’s Country program where they made this cabbage – or maybe it was just that I’ve been going through my old issues pulling out recipes that sound amazing. This one did.

The recipe indicated it’s imperative you use Savoy and not a regular cabbage. Savoy is more delicate and roasts differently (quicker and better, I would imagine). Fortunately I was able to buy one and couldn’t wait to try this. You need to start about 45 minutes ahead of time – giving ample time for the oven to heat to 475°F, and to let a chunk of butter warm to room temp (important) and in that time you prep the cabbage. Pull off any discolored or damaged outer leaves. Cut the cabbage into wedges with EACH wedge containing part of the core (which holds it together during roasting). Foil line a roasting sheetpan. Using your hand, grab about a tablespoon of the softened butter (I warmed mine in the microwave – took about 14 seconds) and gently rub it on the two cut sides, the outer edge, then gently lift some of the layers and spread a bit in there too. There is not enough butter to do all the various layers.

savoy_before_roastingBoth sides of each wedge get a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then place them on the foil-lined baking pan. Cover the pan with another sheet of foil. Into the oven they go for 15 minutes. Then the top foil is removed, turn the pan around and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes. In that time the edges will have turned golden and a few of the outer leaves may have blackened (it’s okay – they even taste good).

Meanwhile, you make the sauce: simple ingredients – unseasoned rice wine vinegar (if all you have is seasoned [sweetened] eliminate the honey), soy sauce, EVOO, honey, paprika, cayenne. I didn’t heat it as I was able to get the honey to dissolve with some vigorous stirring. Have at the ready a small amount of toasted sesame seeds, and a bit of chopped up cilantro leaves for garnish.

Once the cabbage comes out of the oven, it’s serving time. If you remember, trim off the cabbage core before plating. If you’re serving guests, have a heated platter (or pop one in that hot-hot oven for about 2-3 minutes before plating the cabbage on it). I used a spatula to pick up one wedge and onto my own dinner plate, then gently poured some of the sauce over the cut side. Those juices – some from the cabbage but also the sauce will pool a bit on the plate. Sprinkle the cut side with some toasted sesame seeds and cilantro. Done. For me, I used a half of the Savoy head, cut into 3 wedges. A whole head would serve 6 unless you have hungry football players at your table.

What’s GOOD: sublime. Absolutely unctuous, sweet (but not overly so), tasty cabbage. I had to restrain myself to not eat a second portion. I’d served it with a pork chop (another recipe coming up next) and was full – but I wanted more. I’m happy to have leftovers. Can’t wait!

What’s NOT: only that you want to start this about an hour ahead; maybe 45 minutes at a minimum. You could do all the prep ahead and the 30 minutes of roasting would be done at the last minute. This wasn’t quite as good warmed up as leftovers, so keep that in mind – only make as much as you need for one meal.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Cilantro and Sesame

Recipe By: Cooks Country, Aug/Sept 2019
Serving Size: 6

2 pound savoy cabbage — tough outer leaves removed, cut into 4 or 6 even wedges
4 tablespoons salted butter — (1/2 stick) cut into 4 pieces and softened
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar — (do not use seasoned style)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons sesame seeds — toasted
1 cup fresh cilantro — lightly packed, roughly chopped

NOTE: Do not use regular cabbage and do use softened butter. If you don’t have regular rice wine vinegar, you can use seasoned, but then eliminate the honey from the sauce. Depending on the size of the cabbage, you may get more servings from one cabbage.
1. Heat oven to 475°F with rack in middle position. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Using hands and 1 T butter per cabbage wedge, rub butter on all sides and into layers. Sprinkle each with 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper. Place wedges cut side down on baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil and roast until a skewer inserted at the thickest part of the cabbage meets a little resistance, about 15 min.
2. Uncover sheet pan and roast until deeply browned on all sides, another 15 min, flipping wedges halway through.
3. In small bowl whisk vinegar, soy, oil, honey, paprika, cayenne, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Set aside.
4. Transfer cabbage to cutting board, trim off and discard core from each wedge. Place cabbage on heated platter and drizzle each wedge with 1 T of sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.
Per Serving: 161 Calories; 12g Fat (60.7% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 397mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 91mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 427mg Potassium; 99mg Phosphorus.

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  1. hddonna

    said on October 8th, 2020:

    This sounds so delicious! As you may remember, I can’t seem to get savoy cabbage around here, but if I can locate it, I’ll be sure to take your advice and make this. I tried planting some for this fall, but the plants are still so tiny, I don’t think I’ll end up with anything to speak of.

    Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you can’t get Savoy. (I’d forgotten it.) I don’t think it would work with Napa cabbage, and regular cabbage would be hard to cook. I hope you’re able to find some so you can try it. . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on October 10th, 2020:

    I went out to check my garden after neglecting it during my Zooom Sandbridge dulcimer classes, and I had had my first deer raid! The little savoy plants were gone! Nothing but holes where they had been, and one or two wilted sprigs. I know it was deer, because I caught one approaching my zinnias the other day and she stood her ground and just looked at me while I yelled at her. I had to walk towards her, shouting and clapping my hands, to get her to move. She ate the last three tomatoes on my plant, crunched a jalapeno and then settled for the leaves, and topped off the Italian parsley. Looks like the end of my gardening efforts, as there are more and more deer around. Will have to get to Whole Foods–I think that’s where I found Savoy a couple years ago; it’s just very inconveniently located for me.
    Oh gosh, Donna. Deer? Lots of folks have to work around deer. One year I visited my friend in Idaho and she took me on a drive that included viewing a remote home with a garden nearby with a 9 foot fence around it. I guess that kept the deer out.. . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on October 19th, 2020:

    I’m starting to get to know the new produce manager at my supermarket–the previous one, who used to try to get savoy for me, retired a year or so ago.
    This guy has agreed to give it a try for me, so perhaps I’ll get to try this soon.
    Yes, a nine-foot fence would do the trick with the deer! It doesn’t seem like anything else is likely to work. For such a small garden, perhaps a covered enclosure would make more sense–like a dog kennel. Or maybe this means giving up on the garden, and realizing a different dream–to have a pergola or gazebo in the back yard.

    You’ll laugh – I went grocery shopping a few days ago and hoped to buy another Savoy cabbage. Alas, the store I was in didn’t have even ONE. I think I’m going to be buying Savoy instead of regular green cabbage from now on, if it’s available. But I used regular green for the salad I made, and it was fine. New recipe coming up in a couple of weeks. . . carolyn t

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