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Just finished 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.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading 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.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

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 Pork, on January 14th, 2015.

 

pork_tenderloin_pears_brandy

Not a very good photo, but it was really delicious. Pears are a natural pairing with pork – kind of like apples are also. This is quite easy to make, even though it may look more complicated.

This recipe, made with 3 pork tenderloins, will serve 6-9 people, but if you have one big tenderloin, it will likely serve 3 people. You never know when you buy those packs of pork tenderloins what size they’ll really be once you open it up.

The pears are caramelized in butter and sugar. Easy. The pork is browned over high heat, then the brandy is added and ignited (remember to turn off the fan over your stovetop before doing this). Then it’s roasted in the oven for 20-25 minutes and allowed to rest for awhile.

Lastly, you finish the sauce by melting butter and adding shallots. Then some pear nectar is added along with some fresh thyme. THEN, you add the cream (a lot – this isn’t a healthy dinner) and simmer it a bit to reduce it down. The pears are added back in to reheat them, then you plate it all, or serve on a platter with a bit of sauce drizzled on it, but a pitcher of the sauce served around the table. The recipe came from a cooking class with Phillis Carey.

What’s GOOD: the caramelized pears make this dish, although the ignited brandy also adds a lot of flavor as well. Altogether delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing really, although there are a few steps to making this. Not low calorie, for sure!

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ or MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

 

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Pears and Pear Brandy Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 8

PEARS:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 whole Anjou pears — or Comice, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 6-8 wedges per pear
2 teaspoons sugar
PORK:
3 pounds pork tenderloin — about 3
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish
1/3 cup brandy
SAUCE:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup shallots — minced
1/2 cup pear nectar
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — minced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream — (may use half cream/half chicken broth)

1. PEARS: Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears in a single layer, sprinkle with sugar and saute until pears are tender and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes, turning over carefully to caramelize both sides. (Since the pork is pale, the sauce is white, it’s important to get some golden brown on the pears!)
2. PORK: Trim pork tenderloin of all fat and silverskin. Preheat oven to 400F. Melt butter in large, heavy skillet (with a long handle) over high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Brown pork on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add brandy, turn off heat and ignite with a long match or lighter. Shake pan continuously until the flames extinguish. Do NOT have your kitchen exhaust fan on when you do this.
3. Set this skillet aside and transfer the pork to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 8 minutes before slicing on a diagonal (across the grain) into 1/2 inch thick slices. (If you happen to be baking something else at a lower oven temp, the pork can roast anywhere between 350°-425°F, just watch the time and still bake only until it reaches 150°F in the center. Use a meat thermometer.)
4. SAUCE: Melt butter in the skillet used to brown the pork. Add shallots, saute 2 minutes. Add pear nectar and thyme. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cream and boil down until thickened to a sauce consistency, about 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.
Per Serving: 478 Calories; 31g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 195mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium.

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  1. janet

    said on January 14th, 2015:

    Wow. That sounds wonderful. Love pears so much.

    What did you serve with it? Can you recommend any book or website that helps you design a menu for a dinner party?

    thanks Carolyn. Hope your foot and eyes are better. Once again, love your blog.

    Janet
    pegasus505@yahoo.com

    Butternut squash goes well with this, even mashed potatoes, and green beans or broccoli would be good. Nothing too heavy or strong as you want the subtle flavors of the pears and the creamy sauce to shine.

    My eyes are good. Foot? Won’t know until mid-February when I see the doctor again. I’ve only been in the boot for 2 weeks – not enough time as I still have discomfort walking much of any distance. Thanks for asking . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on January 16th, 2015:

    This looks incredibly delicious. As for decadent–well, at least it starts out with the leanest cut of pork! Have to eat low-fat for the time being for medical reasons but I hope to give it a try in a few weeks. (Haven’t commented lately because my computer was in the shop and then I was catching up with e-mails, but I’ve still been reading your posts and enjoying them.)

    Thank you, Donna. Amazing how attached we are to our computers, huh? When I come downstairs every morning I make myself a latte and then sit down at my computer to see what’s happened – my email first, then I look at my blog comments, then I have 3 games I play and I’m ready for my day. . . carolyn t

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