Tuesday, October 29, 2013

the new cookbook is here: grilled skirt steak with house steak sauce

No, no, no I have not written a cookbook.  It's in my goals on the walls at lululemon, but since I actually work at lululemon I feel very accomplished when I get one post written a week.  Remember when I would write three?  Me too.  Life has a very different rhythm that it did two and a half years ago.  I can't exactly say that I've settled into it really.  Just haven't completely found my groove.  Some days it's because I'm just tired.  Like Tuesdays, like today.  Mondays are one of my days off, but I always fill it to the brim:  spinning or yoga in the early morning, errands after class, walk with Greg before lunch, tennis after lunch and then home for a shower and before I know it:  time to make dinner. Why would I be tired on Tuesdays?  Some days it's because I just can't focus.  I want to, but I get distracted.  You know, I go up to put laundry away and end up cleaning a closet or I go outside to get the mail and end up working in my gardens for hours.  I think it's because no one really holds me accountable for all the domestic stuff.  It's always fine around here, or you can close a door and ignore it.  Greg is indifferent (a good thing) and would rather have company watching football than have me up in the kitchen organizing my cupboards (and they make so little sense after 12 years, it will happen eventually).  So that's how a cookbook does not get written.  That's why I write my blog.  Manageable bites of work.

But other people get their cookbooks written and I do occasionally buy them.  And with Amazon Prime, I can see one in the Oprah magazine and one-click it into my cart and have it at my door in 48 hours.  That's way too easy, by the way.  I had an entirely different plan for dinner until my new "The Lemonade Cookbook" showed up at the door.  Have we discussed Lemonade in LA?  On a whim Kelly and I ducked into one in Beverly Hills just a couple of hours before my flight home on a winter visit after she moved out to California.  It was just so cute with pretty hedges and tables outside on a (shocking) lovely day.  What a lucky find.  I am the girl that researches trips, but visiting Kelly frees me of that responsibility entirely.  She apparently learned from me very well and has taken entertaining out of town guests to a whole 'nother level.  She has excel spreadsheets with alternate plans for every block of time which comes in super handy in LA because traffic just might change your day entirely.  So Lemonade was not on the spreadsheet, but it has been every other trip.  And if I don't get to the Lemonade in Venice or wherever, I can get to LAX early and visit the one in the Delta terminal.  A little obsession.

Lemonade is fast-casual, Southern California comfort food served in a modern cafeteria setting to paraphrase the opening of the book.  It's vegetable-centric with my favorite plate being 6 half portions of the salads and sides.  If you know me, you know I take some fabulous dessert to go and smuggle it onto the plane for the ride home.  Oh yeah, the lemonades are amazing too but the real deal so they are sweet (but blueberry/mint or peach/ginger or green apple/jalapeno?  C'mon).  They always know a true Midwestern girl in LA.  I hope they appreciate that someone actually eats every delicious bite of the crazy good food they serve and orders a treat.

So this post is from dinner that was supposed to be butternut squash risotto, but then I started flipping pages and made the house steak sauce to go with skirt steak that Greg expertly grilled.  I also made a white wine vinaigrette to toss my par-boiled Brussels sprouts in before roasting them and serving them with some shaved Parmesan (recipe will also be posted).  Chopped a nice romaine salad and yum all around.

I would never use bottled steak sauce.  I would make this house steak sauce and serve it warm any day.       And the next time I make it I will know it's worthy of breaking out the camera for real step by step photos.  For now you'll have to do with this blurry iPhone photo of my dinner plate.

yep, need to use my real camera

buy it, or trust me that I'll share some highlights

Grilled Skirt Steak with House Steak Sauce

House Steak Sauce
1 T neutral oil (canola at my house)
1 small white, yellow or sweet onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 C fresh flat-leaf/Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 C low sugar good ketchup  (I know that's Barefoot Contessa like, but buy something without high-fructose corn syrup)
1/2 C vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
2 T low sodium Worcestershire sauce (because you are about to add kosher salt)
1 T espresso powder or instant coffee (does anyone keep instant coffee?)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 to 2 pounds skirt steak (or flank steak would be good too)
olive oil
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Prepare sauce in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat:  add the canola oil and when it's hot cook the onion, garlic and parsley until softened (maybe 3-4 minutes).  Add the Worcestershire, broth, ketchup, espresso powder, kosher salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.  Puree with an immersion (stick) blender or carefully transfer to a standard blender.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  Will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Prepare steak:  rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper then rub it all in on both sides.  If you have time, let it warm up to room temperature and marinate a little (20 minutes or so).  Prepare the grill or a grill pan and when hot, cook the steak to sear on both sides for about 8 minutes total.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes and then slice thinly against the grain and serve with the sauce.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

NFL "tailgate": South American Burgers

Our Purdue football Big Ten tailgating is well documented here, but we do hunker down on Sundays (and Monday nights) to watch the Colts, the NFL Red Zone and just like college football:  all the games we can.  We've never attended a tailgate for an NFL game.  We've been to exactly two Colts games together and the last one we needed a sherpa to get to our seats for the Colts-Jaquars playoff game in 2010 (right, Sara?).  If you toss tickets our way, we'll happily go and I'd love to see what NFL tailgating in Indy looks like.  But in the meantime, we are happy to make chili or grill burgers and eat at our bar surrounded by our nice televisions and free drinks.  When the weather is good (and sometimes even when it's not) we've been known to take it all outside and watch on Bob and Tammy's outdoor television with their fire pit, patio heater, falling acorns and Luckie dog begging us to toss her slobbery tennis ball.  Our kind of tailgating.

Here's a quick recipe idea from MNF last week when our meal was way better than Colts football.  That lovely Sunday we lingered in Harbor Country, Michigan with Lance and Dawn we made a victory lap to the Round Barn winery/brewery/distillery and found them grilling lunch outside on a perfect fall day.  They were serving up the usual suspects from the grill plus South American burgers:  beef and pork chorizo patties with queso fresco and pico de gallo.  How good does that sound?  Really good.  We didn't eat at the Round Barn, we headed into Sawyer and had the crazy good beef brisket sandwiches and etc. at the Green Bush Brewery.  Told you it was a good day.

This is super easy, so get to the meat counter and gather up what you need to get your grill on before the big game Sunday.  Tip:  Chorizo can be cured or fresh, you need the fresh soft kind so you can mix it with the beef.   Whole Foods sells both kinds.  Cured is prepacked.  Fresh is either in bulk or casings that you can easily squeeze to us in this recipe.  I often buy fresh sausages in casings if they are the variety I need and no bulk is available.  Whole foods and local butchers will also make you bulk if you ask nicely.  Butchers are nice people to get to know.  Greg swears this is easier if you are wearing a tennis skirt or yoga leggings and he may be right.

South American Burgers

one pound grass fed ground beef
one pound bulk or in casings pork chorizo
kosher salt


queso fresco or any other cheese you like:  chipotle cheddar, white cheddar, monterey jack, provolone
pico de gallo (small diced onion, jalapeno, tomato plus minced cilantro and fresh squeezed lime juice with salt)
avocado slices or fresh guacamole
toasted whole grain sandwich buns
romaine leaves
sliced onion and tomato

In a medium bowl get your best mixing tools ready (clean hands) and smoosh together the ground beef, chorizo and maybe 1/2 tsp kosher salt until well-combined.  Form into patties (you should get 8 nice sized patties out of two pounds of meat).  Grill until cooked through (about 5 minutes per side or so, you'll know when the burgers are fairly firm when lightly pressed-do not squeeze out all the juices).  Top with cheese and grill another minute to melt.  Serve on a toasted bun with pico, avocado/guacamole, lettuce, onion and tomato as desired.

Monday, October 7, 2013

tailgate treats: glazed donut muffins

I was just going to spend the evening watching Monday Night Football with Greg and the cats, but instead I decided to write while WTTS is broadcasting the Lumineers concert live from The Lawn at White River State Park (i.e., downtown Indy).  I have ten recipes in draft form waiting for me to pay them any kind of attention and flesh them out so they can be posted and shared.  Join the list of things waiting for me to pay them any kind of attention.  Some things are hard to ignore like our hilarious little kitten, Winston who makes all kinds of squeaky noises and walks in circles around my feet (which has been a little disastrous for both of us at times) and our sweet grown-up cat, Rio who will just get up on the kitchen island and walk on my keyboard.  Other things like the ironing have plenty of room to be ignored in our big empty house.  So much so that when I finally toted the ironing board to the basement during college football on Saturday, I grabbed a pair of Greg's shorts that he forgot he actually owned since they were in the ironing pile since our trip to the beach in May.  You don't have to iron luon, luxtreme and silverescent the signature lulu fabrics that make up my wardrobe for a good 90 percent of my waking hours.  Greg's a trooper and has learned to throw things in his suitcase and iron them when he gets wherever he's going.  Sorry state of affairs.  Lucky for him I never ignore the laundry.  The one thing I start and finish with a real sense of urgency.  Said luon, luxtreme and silverescent pieces get just about soaking wet at spinning, yoga or tennis and demand to be washed.  Just ask the dishes, I won't leave them overnight, but I sure am happy to finish them about 2 hours after dinner when I've done something more fun (like write my blog as I'm doing now with the dinner dishes just hanging out waiting).  Yep, the big cat has now just rolled over on the cloth covered kitchen table, looked at me and sighed.

Here's a really good muffin recipe adapted from my lovely friend Amanda's LA cousin's blog, "Almost Perfect".  They were devoured at the Homecoming tailgate.  And not just because all the alumni sorority girls were drunk, they are quite tasty.  Yes, they do taste like a version of glazed donuts (haven't had one of those in truly years, but I can remember just fine) but they also remind me of spice cake.  If I get really ambitious, I might try to put an apple filling in them for the next tailgate.  I'll let you know how that goes.

I promise you I cook and don't just bake.  But I do bake often.  Life is short (and sweet)!  By the way, the concert is great.  Thanks, WTTS!

Glazed Donut Muffins

2 C all purpose flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 C milk (mine is always skim and just fine here)
1/3 C lowfat buttermilk
10 T unsalted butter, softened
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C powdered sugar

Whisk together the flours, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  In a 2-cup measuring cup whisk together the milk and buttermilk.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with papers or spray with cooking spray.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and follow with the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternately until just combined, scraping down sides of the bowl as you go.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the muffin tins.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by stirring together the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Add more powdered sugar if glaze is too thin or more milk if it's too thick.  Dip muffins in glaze and turn upright to cool completely on a wire rack (put a sheet of waxed paper or parchment under your cooling rack or you'll be cursing me for your sticky counter).

Makes 18 muffins

batter in the works
filled muffin tins (no papers, just sprayed with cooking spray)
muffins in the takeaway pan for the tailgate