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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 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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