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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING:

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s (I think). At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they  escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

 

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 Beef, Miscellaneous, on April 11th, 2021.

argentinian_steak_red_chimichurri_sauce

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Listen up. You just gotta make this. I can’t praise this enough. If you like steak, this is your lucky day. The recipe was demonstrated on Milk Street, and Jim Hirsch, one of the producers, went to Argentina and his job, with the film crew, was to find out what makes Argentinian steak so special. Certainly steak is the signature dish of Argentina. They raise a LOT of beef cattle in the country. My granddaughter, Sabrina, spent 5 months in Argentina (not exactly a happy experience, I’m sorry to say, even though it was through her university college exchange program). But she told me she had steak similar to this when she was there.

Normally, in Argentina, steak is grilled outside, on a grill that has an adjustable grate level – in other words, you can lower it to be close to the coals, or way up high (more like 10-12 inches), away from the wood coals. Most restaurants make this steak with a 2-hour grilling. Can you imagine? Likely they do that to have a very precise control over the temperature.

strip_steak_seasonedOnce the Milk Street crew returned to Boston, they began trying to recreate this steak (using American/different equipment) – and the chimichurri sauce. Speaking of the sauce, you may be familiar with green chimichurri sauce (that’s all I’d ever had prior to making this). This red sauce is a strange combination of things – 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 1/4 cup red pepper flakes (yes, really), and 1/4 cup dried oregano, and lastly 3/4 cup of neutral oil. Added later, garlic and balsamic vinegar. If you’ve ever watched Chris Kimball (he’s the guy who started Cook’s Illustrated, but was ousted some years ago and started Milk Street) you know that he does not like spicy heat. Not that he’s into bland food, but heat bothers his palate. So when they were making this in the test kitchen, when he was asked to add 1/4 CUP of red pepper flakes, he said oh-no, no, I won’t be able to eat this. The chef pleaded with him to follow the recipe and he might be surprised. And indeed he was, and so was I.

At left is the photo of the beautiful New York strip steak, 2” thick, with the rub on it (having rested in the frig for 24 hours), on a rack, before it went into the oven. One of these steaks will serve at least 2 people, maybe even 3 people.

There are a few steps to making this:

1. Make a rub of black pepper, freshly grated nutmeg (lots of it) and sugar. Put it on the 2” thick steak.

2. Place the steak on a rack, open, in the refrigerator, for 24 hours.

3. Put the steak in a 250°F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove it and let it rest for 30 minutes.

4. Make the sauce.

5. Grill the steak in a searing hot pan on the stove (or do this on your outdoor grill) to caramelize the two sides, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Get the rest of the meal ready.

6. Slice the steak across the grain, in 1/4” thick slices, plate it and drizzle the sauce on the ends and offer more sauce at the table.

red_chimichurri_cookingThe sauce takes no time, really, to make, but there are steps to making it also. In a skillet you combine the oil, paprika, red chili flakes and the oregano, and cook it over very low heat (never allowing it to boil) for 5-7 minutes. Then you add the garlic, and let it cool. Once cool, you add the balsamic vinegar and salt. The photo at right is before it even cooked – so you can see the ingredients.

When Chris Kimball tasted the sauce, he first barely touched his bite of steak with the oily part of the sauce, as he was not thinking he could eat it. He was surprised, and my friend Linda and I (when we made it) were also amazed that our mouths weren’t burning up. The guesswork is that the addition of 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar somehow tempers the spicy, fiery heat of 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes.

The only thing I’ll say is that you need a meat thermometer for this recipe – I eat my steak medium-rare, and you remove the steak from the oven when it reaches 110°F (about 10-15 degrees below that magic medium-rare temp). I did that, but during the resting time, the temp went up nearly 10 degrees, and once I seared it, it went up even more. We got it out of the pan at about 128°F, which is a few degrees higher than I wanted. So watch it carefully.

What’s GOOD: I absolutely LOVE-LOVED this steak and the sauce. Definitely well enough to make it again. You do need to plan ahead 24 hours, and make sure you have a whole pod of nutmeg for each steak. You do not taste nutmeg in the rub when eating it. It’s uncanny there could be so much nutmeg on the rub and you wouldn’t taste it in the finished steak (although I was able to taste it when I ate the leftovers, cold). And the sauce – oh my goodness. So good. Very easy – make it the day ahead to save time if you’d like. It’s also uncanny there is so much red pepper in the sauce and I could eat it. I won’t say I ate copious quantities, but I certainly ate some with every bite, and went back for more.

What’s NOT: only that the steak is expensive (do buy a good one, though I did choose choice, not prime beef); however, one steak will feed 2 people, maybe 3. You do have to visit a butcher, as the steak must be 2” thick. I don’t know of any grocery store that has pre-cut 2” steaks. The nearly one pound steak cost me $29. The recipe is for feeding 4, so twice that amount. And you do need to plan ahead, as I mentioned, so the steak can sit in the frig for 24 hours.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled and Oven-Baked Argentinian Strip Steak with Red Chimichurri

Recipe By: Milk Street, Jim Hirsch
Serving Size: 5

STEAK:
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg — from two whole nutmeg pods
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 strip beef strip steaks — (about 20 ounces each) about 2″ thick, patted dry
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or other neutral oil
RED CHIMICHURRI SAUCE:
3/4 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1/4 cup red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dried oregano — do not use fresh
2 medium garlic cloves — finely grated
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
kosher salt

NOTES: Using this much red pepper flakes seems like WAY too much. You can reduce the amount by about a tablespoon, but apparently the balsamic vinegar tempers the heat. This red chimichurri is not as well known in the U.S. as the green herb style.
1. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, the nutmeg and sugar. Measure out and reserve 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mixture, then rub the remainder onto all sides of the steaks, pressing it into the meat. Place the steaks on the prepared rack and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 250°F with a rack in the middle position.
3. Place the baking sheet with the steaks in the oven and cook until the centers reach 110°F, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for up to 30 minutes.
4. In a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks and cook until the second sides are well browned and the centers reach 120°F (for medium-rare), 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Transfer the steaks to a large plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Alternatively, the steaks can be seared for the same time over direct heat on a very hot charcoal or gas grill with a well-oiled grate.
6. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and cut into thin slices. Place on a platter, pour on the accumulated juices and sprinkle with the reserved seasoning mixture.
7. SAUCE: In a small saucepan over low, combine oil, paprika, pepper flakes and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble, 5-7 minutes. Do not allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in garlic. Let cool to room temp.
8. In a medium bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp salt and stir until salt dissolves. Slowly whisk in the cooled oil mixture.
Per Serving: 500 Calories; 42g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 47mg Cholesterol; 59mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 71mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 521mg Potassium; 215mg Phosphorus.

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