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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) 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 Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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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