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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 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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