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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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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