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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 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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