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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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