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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

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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