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Just finished another great book, The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

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.


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 Beef, on December 31st, 2015.


Usually, I don’t think of a steak in any other way but grilled – with a sauce maybe, or an herb rub. And I don’t think about steak with a kind of Italian tomato sauce, served on a bed of pasta. It would make a lovely dinner – even a weeknight. Since the meat is sliced thin, it will feed more people than usual. At least a normal sized steak would feed at least 2 people.

Years ago, my DH always wanted to have top sirloin as his steak of choice. He’d order one when we went out to eat too. I was never as crazy about it as he was (I think it’s too chewy) – he liked the more beefy flavor of it. Me? I prefer ribeye. Or a tenderloin. Or a porterhouse. I finally swayed him in favor of a ribeye, and that’s what’s still in my freezer – I have several pounds of them. I need to invite some friends over to help eat them since they’re over 2 years in the freezer. Not so good! I’d definitely use one of the ribeyes for this dish – it would feed 2 people without any problem since you have a bed of pasta underneath, and some mushroomy sausage sauce to serve on top. I hardly ever fix a steak for just ME!

This dish cooks in no time. I was prepared to be ho-hum about it, as Phillis Carey prepared it at a class a couple of months ago. I mean, a kind of an Italian tomato sauce cooked in about 20 minutes. Really? I’m more old-school, believing that a classic sauce like that needs much longer to develop its flavors, etc. Well, I was proven wrong. Although this sauce comes together fairly quickly, it has good flavor. Phillis did use a top sirloin steak, and my take on it was that it was very much like a top sirloin – chewy. Which is why I’d make it with a ribeye instead. Or even a flank steak, perhaps.

What I’m really saying is that this is a very delicious sauce for only simmering for a very short time, and the cooking of the steak is almost foolproof. It’s pan seared, then finished off in the oven. What’s kind of unusual about this recipe is that you must start with a steak that is exactly 1 1/4 inches thick. If you do, then the cooking method will yield a perfectly cooked steak that’s medium rare in the middle. Then you slice it across the grain into thinner slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick and put it on top of some cooked pasta, then top with the sausage and mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of Parm is you’d like to. Done.

What’s GOOD: how easy this is to make. Good enough for a company meal, yet it’s comfort food too. It’s quick, for sure. Tasty.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything at all – I’d just recommend that you use a ribeye, not a top sirloin as the original recipe recommended, so that makes it a more expensive meal, for sure.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Steak Pizzaiola with Sausage Mushroom Sauce

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 9/2015
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 pounds steak — ribeye, New York (see NOTES) 1 1/4″ thick exactly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
3 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
4 ounces Italian sausage — crumbled
1/2 pound mushrooms — sliced
1/2 cup onion — sliced
1/2 cup green bell pepper — slivered (optional), or may use red or yellow peppers
1/2 cup dry red wine — or dry white wine
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (garnish)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)
Pasta of your choice, to serve with steak

NOTES: RECIPE BASED ON A STEAK EXACTLY 1 1/4″ THICK. Phillis used a sirloin steak. Some sirloin is not tender, so I’m suggesting a tender ribeye or New York steak. You could also use ground chuck and make this with thick burgers. The burgers will probably cook in less time – use an instant read thermometer to cook it to about 130-140°F, and do make them thick.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a big stock pot of water for cooking the pasta.
2. Heat 2 T olive oil in a medium-sized skillet (don’t use a nonstick skillet as it won’t develop the flavor you need from searing the steak) on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Season the steak with salt and pepper and sear it well in the hot pan for 4 minutes per side. It will still be raw in the middle – it will finish in the oven. Transfer steak to a rimmed baking sheet or a large casserole dish.
3. Add remaining olive oil to same pan, along with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss for 30 seconds. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, crumbling into small pieces until just about cooked through (can still be pink in the middle). Add mushrooms, onions and peppers, and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add crushed tomatoes and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes to develop the flavors. Taste for seasoning.
4. Spoon the sauce over the top of the steak. Place steak, uncovered, in oven for 8-10 minutes, or until steak is cooked to desired temperature. For rare, remove when it reaches 122°, for medium rare, about 125°, and 130° for medium. Remove steak to a carving board, cover with a piece of aluminum foil for about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cook pasta of your choice until it is al-dente, with just a little tiny bit of bite.
6. Place pasta on individual heated plates (or all of it on one platter, but individual plates are better), slice steak in thin slices, arrange on the pasta and top with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley. Sauce is thick, not loose as with a traditional “spaghetti sauce.”
Per Serving: 678 Calories; 50g Fat (67.0% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 561mg Sodium.

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