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Just finished reading 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 because 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 a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but 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, too!

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

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 February 20th, 2016.

buttermilk_brined_pork_tender_cilantro_pesto_sauce

Well, this one isn’t healthy, what with the cream in the sauce, but if you only have 1-2 tablespoons of it, it can’t be too bad. A tender (and lean) pork tenderloin that’s brined in spiced-up buttermilk is browned in a pan then oven baked. THEN, you make the insanely wonderful sauce with cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, goat cheese, butter, and more than a tetch of heavy cream.

Oh my goodness, is this recipe wonderful. I almost forgot to post it. It came from that great Diva class I attended in December, with Diane Phillips and and Phillis Carey (this is Phillis’ recipe). The pork is merely a vehicle for the sauce – I’m telling you – you’ll want to lick the plate it’s so good.

The brine in this is composed of sugar, ancho chili powder, regular chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, cinnamon and buttermilk. Easy, providing you have all the ingredients. The thick-sliced bacon is wrapped around the pork once it’s brined for 24 hours and tied onto it. The fat from the bacon bastes the pork while it’s roasting in the oven. The pork is browned and then it’s roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes.

It helps if you’ve made the cilantro pesto ahead of time – it’s not hard to make at all. It’s a typical pesto (oil, pine nuts, garlic), but instead of basil, it uses cilantro. The sauce is a combination of cream and butter, with some crumbled goat cheese (you can see it in the photo at top). The pesto is stirred into the sauce just before you’re ready to serve it – so it doesn’t actually cook – it’s just heated up. It’s SO full of flavor.

The pork needs to rest for about 6-8 minutes after it comes out of the oven (to help pull back the good juices, so you don’t lose them as you slice), then you slice the tenderloins about 1/2 inch thick. The bacon, which has crisped up during the roasting, is chopped up and sprinkled on top once you’ve drizzled the sauce on top. Oh my. Fabulous.

What’s GOOD: there is not anything about this recipe that ISN’T good. I’m telling you, you need to make this. Would make a fantastic company meal, for sure. Not hard to make – don’t be misled by all the ingredients below. It’s not all that hard to do. You’ll be emailing me afterwards, telling me how much you loved this.

What’s NOT: only that it’s not all that healthy,  unfortunately. I’d serve it with rice so you can sop up every tiny bit of the sauce. It’s that good.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chile Buttermilk Brined Pork Tenderloin in Bacon with Creamy Cilantro Pesto Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 12/2015
Serving Size: 10

PORK TENDERLOIN & BRINE:
1 quart buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons ground ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 whole pork tenderloins
8 slices bacon — smoky type, thin sliced
CREAMY CILANTRO PESTO SAUCE:
2 cloves garlic — peeled
2 teaspoons jalapeno chile pepper — (no seeds)
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped (can use some stems)
2 tablespoons pine nuts — or cashews
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup goat cheese — crumbled (not Silver Goat)

1. BRINE: Whisk together buttermilk, sugar, salt, chile powders, oregano, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. Pour into a 2-gallon (or two 1-gallon) zip type plastic bags. Remove fat and silverskin from the pork tenderloins and add to the marinade. Refrigerate for 4-24 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400°. Remove pork from marinade and pat dry. Wrap bacon slices around the pork (lay out the twine before you do this – easier this way) and tie pork with kitchen twine every 1 1/2 inches (4-5 per tenderloin). Fold the tapered end under to make an even thickness.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat and brown pork tenderloins and bacon 2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to a parchment-lined baking sheet (2 per sheet) and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove pork from oven, tent with foil and allow to sit for 8 minutes or so.
4. SAUCE: Prepare cilantro pesto by combining the garlic, chiles, cilantro, nuts, lime juice and oil in the food processor. Process to make a thick paste that is as smooth as possible – it will still be a bit chunky.
5. To finish sauce, heat cream and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sauce comes to a boil; simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the goat cheese and just before serving, whisk in the cilantro pesto. Allow to heat just briefly, but do not boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Untie the pork tenderloins and remove the bacon (yes, really). Chop the bacon into small bits and slice the pork across each tenderloin diagonally (across the grain) in 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve several slices drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with the chopped bacon.
Per Serving: 413 Calories; 28g Fat (60.7% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 131mg Cholesterol; 926mg Sodium.

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