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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

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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