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Just finished 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 want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 easy, Miscellaneous, on June 10th, 2012.

chimichurri_sauce

Like parsley? Like garlic? Well then, you’ll like chimichurri sauce, an Argentinian jewel to accompany grilled meats. VERY simple to make!

It was about 20 years ago that I first heard of chimichurri sauce. We went to a Brazilian restaurant in our area and were entertained with the very elaborate and dramatic meal containing several courses and the long sword of grilled meat they delicately sliced off at the table, right onto your plate. Each person had his/her own little bowl of chimichurri to use on the meat, or you could dip bites into it. I liked it enough that I asked for seconds, and asked the waiter for more information about what was in it. We’ve been served it several times in the interim at other restaurants that have some kind of grilled meat.

Actually chimichurri is an Argentinian invention, and as I did some research about it I’ve discovered that variations abound, like any other culture/country related dish. As an example Italian Bolognese sauce (or Sunday Sauce, as it’s often called), even Mexican salsa, or the British favorite, lemon curd. So it is with chimichurri. One I found from an Argentinian, said that they never add oil to their sauce. Hmmm. I’ve only had it with oil. Many others add tomatoes – to some it’s an essential part of the dish. I didn’t add them, preferring to make it more green only. So, you see, you can make it your own if you wish. This recipe may not be authentic at all, but I’ll just say one thing – it’s fabulous!

My hubby and I are still taste-testing grass fed beef, and am happy to report that we found a local purveyor we really like. Before I tell you about it/them, I want to try the steak another time. You know that adage, first time’s a charm? We’ll make certain the second steak is equally good before I share. So we grilled the said ribeye steak in our time-honored method (see Grilled Ribeyes with Amazing Glaze) but didn’t do the Amazing Glaze this time because I was making the chimichurri sauce.

ribeye_chimichurri_sauceNot having a favorite recipe for it, I looked up several before deciding what to do. Eventually I made it simple on myself and used the food processor. I took ingredients from several recipes and made my own combination. I whizzed it up just a tad too long – you really want to have some parsley texture – the parsley got a little lost when I pureed it. Read the instructions before making this – read it all the way through. I also used lemon juice in mine because I didn’t have any limes on hand. But lime is the preferred citrus for chimichurri.

With just half a recipe I still have nearly a cup left after the one dinner. So you might not want to make the whole thing unless you’re feeding a crowd. I think garlic loses its pungency too, after it sits in the refrigerator for even a day, let alone a week! Probably wouldn’t keep that long anyway.

What I liked: the potent garlic and parsley flavors. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. It has powerful flavors – you need to love garlic and parsley for sure! It’s also VERY easy to make.

What I didn’t like: nothing really – just don’t over-process it- leave some texture.

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Chimichurri Sauce

Recipe By: Loosely based on a Tyler Florence recipe
Serving Size: 12
NOTES: Tomato is an optional ingredient – some Argentinians use quite a bit. They probably wouldn’t make it in a food processor, though. And many native recipes don’t even add oil to it!

6 large garlic cloves
1 whole jalapeno — seeded, chunks
2 tablespoons yellow onion — coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley — chopped in big pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — (use 3x as much fresh if you have it)
2 whole limes — juiced [use lemons in a pinch]
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and with motor running, drop the garlic cloves, then add jalapeno and onion. Process until it’s finely minced.
2. Open the bowl and add the vinegar, parsley, oregano, and lime juice. Process JUST enough to coarsely chop all the parsley, then add the olive oil, salt and pepper and continue to process, but do NOT puree completely. You want to have some parsley texture. Set aside for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry.
3. Spoon some chimichurri over grilled meat and serve with the remaining sauce at the table.
Per Serving: 170 Calories; 18g Fat (92.3% calories from fat); trace Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 160mg Sodium.

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