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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 January 22nd, 2009.

pork-apricot-glaze

Pork these days, as you probably know, is so lean you have to use some more extreme measures to make sure it’s tender and juicy. We had a group of friends for dinner recently and I decided to do a pork roast. Dave did the shopping for me and bought a Costco boneless roast. Having had these before I knew it might be dry and tough if I didn’t make it otherwise. He bought a really large roast (much larger than the recipe calls for) so it took longer to roast, and I have lots of leftovers of the very tender, juicy meat.

What did I do? (1) I brined the pork roast for 24 hours; (2) I made a spicy apricot glaze and sauce to give it some zip; and (3) I used a meat thermometerto make sure we didn’t overbake it. All successful, I’m glad to report.

The recipe came from Hugh Carpenter’s book, Hot Barbecue. This guy, Hugh, is one helluva-good recipe creator. I’ve made apricot sides and sauces for pork before, but never with the flavor and zip this one had. This likely will be my new go-to recipe for pork. Everybody raved about it and I did too. I actually forgot to add the sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro to the sauce. It was great without, but if I made it again, I’ll definitely do so. The sauce is zippy hot (from the ginger and the Asian chile sauce added). I think the sauce would go well with chicken too.

The recipe indicated to remove the roast at 160°, but I took it out at about 152° and let it sit for about 15 minutes tented lightly with foil. The center of the loin was still medium-pink, but it was ever-so-juicy. It was 157° when I removed the meat thermometer and we began slicing.
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Pork Loin (Roast) with Spicy Apricot Glaze & Sauce

Recipe: Hugh Carpenter, Hot Barbecue
Servings: 4
NOTES: If you purchase a much larger pork roast to make this, don’t make more sauce, as this portion makes ample for probably 8-10 people. If you’re sensitive to spicy heat, reduce the chile sauce by half. This roast can also be done on a grill (also at 350°), or smoked (at 220°). Remove when meat has reached 155° to 157°.

1 1/2 pounds pork loin
Cooking oil to brush on grill rack, if grilling
SPICY APRICOT GLAZE AND SAUCE:
16 whole dried apricots — Turkish preferred (Trader Joe’s)
1 1/2 cups apricot nectar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Asian chile sauce — or less, not more
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup minced ginger
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 whole green onions — minced
1/4 cup cilantro — chopped

1. If desired, brine the meat first, for 24 hours (I do). Several hours before cooking remove pork from brine and dry off with paper towels. Let sit out at room temp.
2. Trim off and discard any excess fat from the pork.
3. APRICOT SAUCE: In a non-reactive saucepan combine the apricots, nectar, sugar, vinegar, water, chile sauce, salt, ginger and garlic. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Let cool to room temp, then puree in a blender until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Place the sesame seeds in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until golden. Add the sesame seeds, green onions and cilantro to the glaze. Can be made ahead and refrigerated, but don’t add the sesame seeds, onions and cilantro until just before serving.
4. Make sure the pork has reached 60 degrees F before baking. Use about 1/3 of the apricot glaze to slather over the roast during the last hour before cooking.
5. Preheat oven to 350°. Insert a meat thermometer into a thick part of the meat, not touching any fat or bone. Brush the pork with a bit more of the apricot glaze a couple of times during the roasting process. Roast pork until the internal temperature reaches 155° degrees F, remove and allow to sit for about 10 minutes tented lightly with foil.
6. Place each slice of pork on a bed of the apricot sauce and pass the remainder in a bowl at the table. Be SURE to either heat all the plates; otherwise the pork will be cold by the time people begin to eat it.
Per Serving (assumes you consume all the glaze/sauce, which you won’t – note that each serving only has 11 grams of fat, so the high calories is in the carbs – the sugar and fruit – and you only use about 2 tablespoons or so per serving): 1626 Calories; 11g Fat (5.4% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 378 grams Carbohydrate; 48g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 640mg Sodium.

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  1. Marie

    said on January 23rd, 2009:

    Everything on your page looks most delicious Carolyn!! It is very hard to get a tasty picture of meat. I know from experience and yours is the tastiest looking pork roast I have ever seen! Well done you!!

    Thanks, Marie. You’re right, meat is a bit harder to photo. I just kept turning the plate around until I got one that looked better. Sometimes I can’t tell when I’m taking the photo that it’s going to be a good one or not. I appreciate the kind words. My EGO light does help, though. . . . Carolyn T

  2. kevin

    said on January 25th, 2009:

    Carolyn,
    I’ve done pork with an apricot coulis, but this sounds even better.

    Without sounding like I’m bragging, I do think this was the very best pork I’ve ever made – the combination of the brining and the sauce. Thanks, Kevin. . . . Carolyn T

  3. yvette

    said on March 17th, 2010:

    Hi Carolyn,
    I loved this recipe! I served this at a dinner party for my Dad
    and family friend, Sharon. We all thought the apricot sauce was out of this world.
    This will be a repeat in my kitchen.

    Yvette

    Am so glad you liked it, Yvette. That apricot sauce is something else, isn’t it? So sweet and tart at the same time. . . . . carolyn t

  4. Beck

    said on November 27th, 2012:

    This is the best glaze around. We have used it for banquets and people just rave about it.

    I so agree with you, Beck. I had a friend of mine tell me just yesterday that she’d made the pork and glaze and everyone at her table was amazed at the intense flavors. . . carolyn t

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