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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

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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