Fancy Schmancy Post-Valentine’s Day Celebration Dinner

Sometimes, when you live with a bear, that bear has to work late.  One such occurrence happened on Valentine’s Day, so our Valentine’s Day feast was postponed a week.  But then we went all out.  Oh yes we did.

For the first course, I made the Caesar Salad for Two.

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Now, if you are like me, you have probably never made Caesar dressing at home.  Maybe the anchovies scared you off.  Maybe it was the raw egg.  Either way, it’s a daunting proposition.  I decided to give it a try anyhow (because someone had to) and let me just say, you should ignore all of your fears and hesitations regarding this and just make it for heaven’s sake!  It’s so good!!  The bear was so thrilled with it that he literally made me make it three more times in the following week.  It tastes neither fishy, nor eggy.  It tastes like what comes out of a bottle only 100 times more flavorful and delicious.  Do it!  The good thing about this recipe is that it is a small batch too, just enough to make a decent size bowl of salad for two maybe three people.  I’m not sure how well homemade caesar would store in the fridge so this recipe is ideal.

We followed our salad with Steak and Shrimp with Parsley Potatoes.

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Well really, the steak was for the Bear, and the shrimp were for me.  I did try the steak (the first steak I ever cooked) and I thought it was quite tasty.  It wasn’t too beefy just tasted nice and seared and salty.  (I tried to replicate it with a different cut of meat and again it was too beefy).  The shrimp were cooked perfectly.  They were sweet and buttery.  I think scallops would also be good in this recipe.  The potatoes were also quite tasty.  They were buttery and the perfect little side for the decadent shrimp and steak.

And finally… oh yes, the Fresh Orange and Yogurt Tart.

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Navel oranges are for chumps so I used blood oranges.  This was an awesome desert folks.  Just spectacular.  After such a decadent meal this wasn’t so over the top sweet that we would instantly fall into a food coma.  Nope it was light and satisfying.  It was an amazing texture and I will absolutely make some variation of this again.  I think it might be pretty awesome to make the yogurt part and then top it with a curd, maybe like that incredible orange curd I made for the pavlova.

So there you have it, a feast to end all feasts.  A feast to end the Jan/Feb 2010 issue.  Next up, March 2009!!

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Yogurt-cheese spread (with special appearance by the rest of the sandwich)

Steak sandwich wrap

ignore my scaly gator-hands...

ignore my scaly gator-hands…

This was the recipe that used the leftovers from the notorious steak of the bazillion peppercorns.  So the key to these sandwiches was definitely to pick off the peppercorns.  Once that’s done, everything else is pretty straightforward.  I made these on some of those little “sandwich thin” things, because I sent D to the store with a grocery list that said “flatbread.”  These are, indeed, flat pieces of bread.  D acknowledges that it was a mistake.  But the sandwich thins are good!  And sometimes wraps are a mess.

This is mostly just a straight-ahead steak sandwich with the exception of that yogurt spread.  It’s low-fat Greek yogurt and Parmesan cheese in equal parts.  This spread should be on all sandwiches.  It’s so good.  It’s got the creaminess and tang of mayo (close enough) with the saltiness of cheese.  I’d eat this spread on crackers.  I’d dip carrots in it.  Suffice it to say, I’d recommend it.

 

Not your average meat and potatoes

Steak au poivre with twice-baked sweet potatoes

with a spinach salad on the side...not too shabby

with a spinach salad on the side…not too shabby

Steak au poivre

Twice-baked sweet potatoes

UPDATE: This is the first post of a brand new month of Everyday Food.  B and G got together a few months ago and painstakingly chose an issue for December.  I’m not being sarcastic.  Pains were taken.  It was very hard to choose.  We settled on December 2011.  Without even realizing it, that was the month when B and her bear visited me and D!  There’s clearly something special about that month.  It’s hard to believe we’ve already made it through three whole issues.

D made the steaks, so a lot of this is second hand.  There’s one thing we both figured out:  There is too much pepper called for in this recipe!  D loves pepper and even he was picking peppercorns off of his steak. You could use 1/4 of a cup of crushed black pepper and have more than enough.  Also, this is a job for a spice grinder (or a spare coffee grinder that you keep for this purpose) not your kitchen pepper mill.  I started trying to grind all of the pepper with a pepper mill and D stopped me.  I would probably still be grinding that pepper right now.  Can you even imagine how long it would take to grind 3/4 c of pepper?  Anyway, use the spice grinder and only grind 1/4 c.  It will be plenty.

The sauce is heavenly.  I kept finding excuses to eat more of that sauce.  The fact that there was too much pepper on it just encouraged me to eat more sauce!  Wine, cream, mustard, steak drippings… the gang’s all here.  Ah, but there’s a twist.  We didn’t have any white wine on hand.  I told D that we could substitute dry vermouth like B did.  D wanted to experiment and try Lillet instead.  B asked me (and I definitely had to look this up) what Lillet is.  She thought it was maybe a fortified wine.  Welp, the series of tubes tells me it’s a “tonic wine” containing a blend of wines and mostly citrus liqueurs.  Now we know.

I made the sweet potatoes, and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since.  The recipe is amazing just as written.  The goat cheese adds the perfect amount of tang to cut the sweetness of the potato and the richness of the butter.  Add in those sharp chives, and you’ve got a nicely balanced side.  I really like the panko crumb and pecan topping.  All in all, I’ll be making this one again.  I think you could make it all ahead of time right up until the top the refilled potato and bake step.  Just make the topping right before you need it to keep the panko crumbs from getting soggy.

Oh, another note about making the sweet potatoes.  The recipe has you using a food processor to mix together the baked sweet potato (mine were microwaved, by the by), goat cheese, and butter.  That seemed wholly unnecessary to me.  Just leave the goat cheese and butter sitting out while you microwave the sweet potatoes and do other prep.  Between that little amount of softening and the heat of the potatoes, your arm can do the trick.  On the other hand, I have these insane mom-guns ever since I had a baby…  I still think the food processor is overkill, though.

J seemed to like the sweet potato the first time he ate it, but turned his nose up at it the second time.  “Oh no!” said his mother, “I guess I’ll just have to eat it!”  And, thus, G sat and ate a twice-baked sweet potato with a baby spoon.  Don’t judge me until you try these potatoes.

(not pictured: grody steak)

Flat iron steak with cauliflower and arugula*

  • 4 small flat iron steaks (don’t do what I did, read below)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 bunches arugula, thick stems removed.  or 10 oz of baby arugula and ignore the stems!
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, shaved with a veggie peeler
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-heat.  Season the steaks with Montreal Steak Seasoning (yeah, Martha calls for salt and pepper….sucker).  Place in skillet, and cook until medium rare, 5-6 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil.  Hang on to that skillet.
  2. Add cauliflower, garlic, and 1/2 c water to skillet; season with salt and pepper this time.  Cooking, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is browned and crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes.  (I didn’t have any problem with the bottom of the pan getting too dry, but the recipe says you can add 1/4 more water).
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil; season with lame salt and pepper.  Add arugula, hot cauliflower, and Parmesan cheese to dressing in bowl; toss to wilt that arugula.  Steak steaks and veggies together.  You can garnish it with lemon wedges, if you’ve got them handy.

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue #47 page 18 November 2007.

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Can’t you see it?  Yeah, I forgot to take a picture.  Probably because it wasn’t all that good, but I won’t blame the recipe.  The recipe calls for flat iron steak.  Well, I go to a small grocery store and the meat selection is mostly for making Mexican food.  No flat iron steak.  I’ll be honest, I don’t really know my cuts of beef anyway.  So I bought four boneless hunks of something or other.  Round steak?  It was pretty terrible.  I think it was stew meat.  oops.

The veggie part was good.  It was nice to saute the cauliflower and add it to the arugula to wilt it.  Add some shaved Parmesan cheese, and I’m sold.

Too bad I wasn’t sold on buying the right steak.

 

Un-split shift and the best “fried” shrimp ever

“Split Shift”: recipes that were supposed to be made part in the morning and part in the evening…

  • Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli
  • Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw
  • Black-bean tostadas with corn relish

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak with peanut sauce and broccoli

Steak? Money’s too tight for steak. Steak?

Ok, this one I actually did part the day before and part the evening of.  The trouble with these “split shift” recipes is that they assume you have more time in the morning than in the evening.  I’m not sure for whom this is true.  People who work the late shift or odd hours, I guess. People without children.  People with excellent time-management skills.  None of these things describe me.  I do think they could be split over a couple days.  This recipe, for example, is a good one to split over a couple days.  I marinated the steak and prepped the broccoli on day one, then broiled the steak and steamed the broccoli on day two.  The recipe only takes 30 minutes…total.  So that’s an easy maybe 15-20 minutes one evening then finish it up the next.  Not bad.

How does it taste?  Do you like peanut sauce?  Me too!!!  The one thing I will say is that flank steak can be a little tough.  This was no exception.  A nicer cut of steak would have made this less of a chore to cut and eat.

Ah, but I came up with an awesome thing to do with the leftovers.

cut up steak with broccoli and peanut sauce in small tortillas

This must be blurred because I was too excited to eat it.

I also had small tortillas on hand for the tostadas, so I heated up the steak and broccoli, piled it into tortillas, drizzled it with a little leftover sauce, and had asian steak tacos.  These were so good.  Plus, once you’re eating it with your hands and teeth, the difficulty cutting it with a knife isn’t an issue any more.

Crispy shrimp with tartar sauce and red-cabbage slaw

shrimp, lemon wedges, red cabbage slaw, tartar sauce and a beer

Is your mouth watering? Mine is.

Get ready to hear me gush.  D and I keep an index card of all of our favorite Everyday Food recipes.  It acts as a sort of index, but not every recipe makes it on there.  Only the best.  Let me put it this way: There are 98 issues, and we have maybe 20 recipes on that index card.  This recipe is index card worthy.

What makes it so special is the breading on those shrimp.  I’m the first one to be suspicious of the idea that baked things can taste just like something that’s fried.  I’m not going to go quite that far.  However, this is as close as you can get to crispy fried shrimp without busting out the oil.  I’ll stand by that.  The slaw is also lovely.  It’s just Dijon mustard, oil, and lemon juice with the red onion and cabbage.  That would be good on its own.  You could bring that to a picnic and feel like a hero.  The tartar sauce is nice.  It reminds me of the ersatz tartar sauce we used to make when I was a kid to go with fish sticks, mayonnaise and pickle relish.  This is obviously classier: chopped pickles, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice…  The shrimp is the real star.  It’s even worth buying panko crumbs for even though you KNOW you’re never going to use that stuff again until it gets stale.

I didn’t make this 1/2 in the morning, 1/2 in the evening or over two days or anything.  It doesn’t take too long to do in one evening.

Black bean tostadas with corn relish

Topped with the corn and avocado

Topped with the corn and avocado

I can sum this one up quite quickly: lots of work for little reward.  I did this one all in one night also.  Taking care of the corn relish, veggie prep, and cheese ahead of time would have saved some effort.  I’ll grant them that.

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

tortilla, beans, cheese (waiting on vegetables)

This just isn’t a very special recipe.  It reminds me of the Jim Gaffigan routine about working at a Mexican restaurant in Iowa.  “What’s a tostada?”  “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables?”  “What are tacos?” “Tortilla, meat, cheese, vegetables”  Change that to tortilla, beans, cheese, vegetables, and that’s what we have here.  It’s just nothing to write home about.