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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 April 17th, 2010.

Oh my, was this ever sensational. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll understand when I say this recipe is going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list. I’ve posted about 550+ recipes here on this blog – to date – and I have a list of about – oh, 40-50 of them that rank as 5-star, or blue ribbon worthy, or whatever superlative you’d like to use. This one, and it’s a simple one at that, is going onto the list.

This was the entree I served to friends who came to dinner a couple of nights before we left on this last 2-week trip. It starts with a pork tenderloin. Our Costco carries tenderloins and I usually bring them home, open up the package and seal them individually and freeze them. There were 5 of us for dinner that night, and two tenderloins were just enough.

Here’s another photo – I sliced the meat, a little bit on the diagonal, then pounded the pieces a little. Pork tenderloin is a very lean and soft piece of meat to begin with, so it took only a couple of flat pounds for each piece. Don’t make it super-thin, just thinner. Each tenderloin was cut into 6 slices (above) and pounded.

The sauce was SO simple. Since the pork did have to be cooked just before guests were served, I got everything all ready ahead of time – for the sauce – so once I cooked the meat I could make the sauce in a jiffy. Then it’s garnished with the sliced green onion. Everybody raved about this dish, me included. It had been in my to-try file since 2007 (Bon Appetit). I’m so glad I did. The only caution is about the red chili sauce – if you’re at all sensitive about spice-heat, reduce the amount. When I made it, I adjusted down the amount (to the tablespoon listed below) so it’s really spicy if you were to use the full amount. Taste as you go – that would be best!
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Pork Medallions with Chili-Maple Sauce

Recipe By: Bon Appétit | April 2007
Serving Size: 3

NOTES: Be sure to reduce down the chicken broth until it’s started to thicken. Otherwise it’s too watery. And be careful about the amount of chili-sauce you use – it’s hot. Add it sparingly until it suits your taste.

12 ounces pork tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup — (the real stuff)
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce
1 whole green onion — chopped

1. Cut tenderloin crosswise into 6 slices. Using meat mallet, pound medallions between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/2-inch thickness (this doesn’t take all that many swings with the flat mallet). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add pork; cook until brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Add next 3 ingredients to skillet. Boil until reduced to scant 1/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Pour sauce over pork; sprinkle with green onion.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 9g Fat (37.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 193mg Sodium.

A year ago: Blueberry Lemon Drop
Two years ago: Sopa de Calabacitas (a Southwestern style vegetable soup)

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  1. Karen

    said on September 23rd, 2012:

    Just found your blog and want to tell you that I have spent many hours going through your archives savoring each and every recipe and story that goes with them!! I have chosen many recipes to try, and value the extra advice with each (as above recipe with the heat of the chili garlic sauce!) I also am drawn to the picture above…yum! and absolutely love the plate your served it on…any idea where you purchased it?

    Hi Karen – welcome to my website! As for the plate – I THINK I got it at TJ Maxx, but I’m not positive about that. Might have been at Williams-Sonoma, but it was several years ago. Oddly enough, the center of the plate has begun to craze, which means it wasn’t fired properly. So that probably means it was a TJ Maxx purchase. Although I also have another platter I purchased at WS, and it’s begun to craze too. I paid full tilt for that platter, and it was expensive. The platter might have been from Home Goods too. Am just not sure!
    . . . carolyn t

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