Herb Marinated Steak with Grilled Endive

Batali is genius. From the Babbo Cookbook, I made herb marinated steak. He's using this technique for tough skirt steaks, but it worked well for strip steaks that were on sale for quite a bit less.

The key was at the end of the dish - adding pickled onions and a sprinkling of pimenton. I served it with grilled endive and a garlic / parmesan pasta.

Butternut Snozzcumbers

When I made the Spaghetti Lasagna it called for roasted butternut squash. Amy (my 8 year old) was in the midst of reading the BFG by Roald Dahl. As we ate the butternut squash together right off the hot pan, we decided to call it Butternut Snozzcumber. 

In case you didn't read this story, BFG = Big Friendly Giant and Snozzcumber is defined here

  1. Toss chunks of butternut squash with olive oil, ground coriander, pepper and kosher salt. 
  2. Roast on a sheet pan for 45 minutes until golden brown on edges.
  3. Eat immediately.

Spaghetti Lasagna

I've got two issues with making lasagna:

  1. I don't want to / won't use no-boil pasta (you can argue with me, but I won't). 
  2. Cooking lasagna is kind of a pain in the butt, to make sure that after it's precooked it doesn't stick, isn't overdone, doesn't get torn, and so on. It's not the hardest thing to control, it's just a pain. 

So last week I created Spaghetti Lasagna. I cooked a package of spaghetti and used it interchangeably in a lasagna recipe by Jamie Oliver, from his book Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook. Frankly I don't recommend this book. His idea of a simple family meal is the same as mine (and for that matter Thomas Keller's) - it's a multi-step, multi-ingredient  process that requires a moderate amount of time. No quick cooking here. A better all around book is Jamie at Home.

Nonetheless, Jamie's got a nice meat sauce recipe for his lasagna (start by sauteeing pancetta and a pinch of cinnamon - nice). He adds roasted butternut squash to the mix, which I preferred eating plain, rather than part of the the lasagna. But overall, it was a delicious dish.

A layer or two into the lasagna process

The roasted butternut squash was better plain than in the lasagna.
It was (roasted with ground coriander, salt, pepper and olive oil. 

The finished product

Family Sandwich Night - Muffaletta and Slaw

If you also read my column Be A Better Cook, you'll know a little about this already. If not, enjoy a few pictures of the muffaletta's we had for sandwich night this week, on homemade bread. The olive spread was directly from the Central Grocery in New Orleans, the proclaimed originator of the muffaletta.

In case the sandwich is unfamiliar to you, a muffaletta is a sandwich generally made on a large round, flat loaf, containing ham, salami, provolone and slathered with a mildly spicy olive salad - traditionally containing (spoiler warning) olives, carrots, cauliflower, celery and other Italian-based flavorings.

To accompany it, I made a very traditional cole slaw. Not a common dish for me to make. But I found an excellent recipe in the Essential New York Times Cookbook. That book is turning out to be a great new resources and an enjoyable read, as it covers recipes from over 100 years of NYT food coverage.

"Everything" Cured Salmon and "Everything" Cream Cheese

There are these incredibly creative food innovators named Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot who recently publiched a book called Ideas in Food. Some of the things they do are really, really out there. By out there, I don't mean Sea Urchin Tortollini. You  could picture what that is, especially if you enjoy sushi. Of of their recent articles have been:

But it's not all such craziness. How about this. As best I can recall of their anecdote, they were crazing an "everything bagel", though no longer in New York. So they concocted a mix of spices that would re-create an "everything" bagel, but used it in a highly salted form to cure salmon, then put the salmon on a bagel. 

What you see below looks like a piece of sockeye salmon, which I bought at a local grocery. But it tastes quite a bit like an everything bagel: sesame seeds, salt, poppy, garlic, the whole deal. 

Additionally, you can take the seasoning mix, which they toast along with some powdered dried milk (to give it an element of dairy-ness) and mix it into cream cheese. Thus, putting the everything in the cream cheese instead of the bagel.  I can't tell you how strongly I recommend you try this.Curing the salmon might a more than you care to do, but dry roasting a few spices out of bottles and mixing them with cream cheese. C'mon. 

Click on this link to get their book from amazon in print or Kindle format. 

Almond Flan for Amy's Birthday

Almond Flan With Summer Fruits
Serve 8

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water

1 cup heavy whipping cream
One 14-ounce can condensed milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon almond extract
5 eggs

1.       Combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, but don’t stir. Wash down side of pan with brushfuls of water if needed. Allow to boil gently to reach a medium caramel color. Then swirl pan to combine, and pour into a serving dish. Tip so caramel coasts sides about an inch or so. Allow to cool completely.
2.       Combine remaining ingredients in a blender. Pour atop cooled caramel and cook in a water bath for 1 and ¼ hours. Allow to cool for several hours.
3.       If you dare, invert the flan for presentation, otherwise, scoop spoonfuls of flan atop berries and mint. 

Another Batali Steak Night

Here's another reason why this recipe works so well. With a 2-inch thick ribeye, you have an almost foolproof hunk o' meat. Flare ups, hot spots, etc. don't matter as much, because the meat is so thick you can remove it to a cool spot on the grill, and not have damaged the interior.

Here's the recipe and article. You must make this steak. With the ground, dried porcinis, mind you.

Get ready for these......

  • "Everything Bagel" home cured salmon (curing now, will be ready tomorrow)
  • Cryo-Blanched Asparagus (thawing now, to be cooked tonight)
  • Another Batali steak tonight. 
  • Vanilla Salt (not sure where that's going). 

1, 2 & 4 are from "Ideas in Food" by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbott. We'll see what happens. Report tonight after golf, or tomorrow am, while eating the salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. 

Pass on Cook's Illustrated's Cuban Black Beans and Rice.......

.....but not because it's a bad recipe.

I have been a consistent fan of Cook's Illustrated magazine. Not every article, recipe or thought - but they put  out a lot of good information.

This past weekend I made their Cuban Black Bean and Rice dish. They loaded it up with ingredients and techniques to give lots of punch to what can be a bland dish. For example, when cooking the beans, they called for fortifying the cooking liquid with half an onion, bay leaf, green pepper and probably a few more ingredients. Not earth-changing, but I've not seen too many bean recipes (can't think of any) that call for that approach. Usually the beans are cooked plain, then seasoned with whatever comes next. It also called for a handful of finely chopped salt pork. Great addition.

Anyway. The dish was delicious.  Yet I won't make it again. It was time-consuming, called for a long list of ingredients, it required cooking in multiple but separate steps, on the stovetop and in the oven.

Good recipe, nice payoff. But too much labor and elapsed time for me to go at it again. Buy their magazine, though. It's good.

Eh, Don't Bother with the Tilapia

Could it be that my Tilapia disdain is well placed (see last post)? Probably not. The recipe I designed for it was "just OK". And, I made it more work / complicated than it should be.

So - don't bother with it. Here's a picture, nonetheless. Even the picture is sloppy and out of focus. I guess that's what this recipe deserves.

Tilapia in Spicy Lime Sauce

I guess I've got a thing going for lime these days. Hmmmm.

More dominant though, is my frustration as to what to do with tilapia. Margie likes fish a lot, and so do the kids. The ubiquitous tilapia seems to frequently be on sale. Yet I approach it with disdain, as I don't have any favorite recipes for it. Of course any fish cooked in butter with salt and pepper is a pretty good experience.

This recipe looks a little involved, but really is just a series of steps pouring ingredients into bowls, then blending.

Update: After making this - my review of the dish: it's "just OK". Hardly worth the complications that I prescribed. Here's the promised picture. The pasta with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, peanut oil, topped with scallion and cilantro - was better than the fish. 

Five Spice Paste
1/3 cup thinly sliced lemongrass
4 medium garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Zest and juice of 1 large lime
2 tablespoons ginger (or galangal, if avaialble)
-- Roughly chop garlic and ginger. Puree in a blender until well combined.

Lime Sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2/3 cup water
6 medium garlic cloves
2 small red chilies (or 1 tablespoon jalapeno or serranno pepper, chopped)
-- Blend water, garlic and chilies to form a loose paste. Add remaining ingredients.

Tilapia in Spicy Lime Sauce
1.5 to 2 pound tilapia or other thin white fish fillets
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup five spice paste
Cilantro and julienned cucumbers for garnish
  1. Combine oyster, soy and fish sauces, sugar and paste. 
  2. Add this marinade to the fish, covering all over. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. 
  3. Prior to cooking, gently wipe marinade away from fillets. 
  4. Heat a tablespoon or more of olive oil in a large fry pan, cook fillets about 1.5 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. 
  5.  Add another tablespoon of oil, along with remaining spice paste and the lime sauce. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. 
  6. Lower heat to simmer and gently place fish atop sauce. Spoon sauce over fish fillets for about 1 minute.  
Serve fish over steamed rice or thin pasta tossed with oil and rice wine vinegar. Top with sauce.
Accompany fish with cilantro and cucumber strips.


Batali's Porcini Rubbed Ribeye - Best Steak Ever?

I've been hinting at sharing this recipe for a while now. Finally I can share it - because I have had a breather and can transfer a few photos and write it up for you. Thanks for recent patience, as I've had a light stream of information for you - I expect a solid resurgence in the next weeks as a major non-cooking project wraps up.

Long ago I started making a Cajun rubbed strip steak - chili, thyme, cayenne, garlic, olive oil, maybe a few other things. Our friend Arnie called it the 'best steak he ever had' and asked for it every time we got together. Other people like it too.

However, when I saw this recipe in Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook, I was a little more impressed with his call for 2-inch thick ribeyes than I was the seasoning. I also was dismayed to see the instruction calling for wrapping the crusted steaks in plastic and letting them sit overnight in the fridge. I was going to eat steak an hour or two later no matter what.

I created the rub, stored on steak in the fridge for the next day and the other after about an hour of marinating time. A side-by-side comparison would be interesting.

The result? As they repeatedly say on The Bachelor, AMAZING. The sugars,  garlic and spiciness were out of this world. The flavor of the dried porcinis came through nicely. It was, perhaps, the best steak I'd ever made.

Only there were two things I didn't do. The first batch of steak didn't sit overnight, nor did I use a 2 inch thick steak, as you can tell from the picture above.

Thing 1: The next day I opened the refrigerator and immediately was punched in the face with the earthy smell of porcini. The second batch of thin steaks was remarkably better than the first. Noticeably better, remarkably better, no doubt even better.

Would two inch steaks make a difference? A few weeks later there was a sale on boneless ribeye, so I had the guy at the meat counter cut me four 2-inch thick steaks. See above how they dwarf my big chef's knife?

Thing 2: Oh yeah. You WANT to find a 2-inch ribeye, put this rub on it and grill it the next day.

Side note - By the third time I made this dish I ran out of porcini and tried dried shitake. Don't bother. If you don't have dried porcinis to grind up, just use the rest of the ingredients and reduce the olive oil by a tablespoon.

Batali's Porcini Rubbed Ribeye

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
5 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, ground
- In Houston, the Specs Liquor downtown superstore has good quality dried porcinis at a fair price.
4 tablespoons olive oil
A 28 ounce ribeye steak, cut 2-inches thick

  1. Grind dried porcinis in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.  use the grinder for whole black peppercorns separately.  Add all remaining ingredients and combine.
  2. Spread the rub evenly on all sides of the steak(s). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for 24 hours. 
  3. Grill the steak over high heat for 5 minutes per side, including standing the steak on edges - about 20 minutes total cooking. You can / should use an instant read thermometer to measure internal temperature - get to 125 for medium rare. 
  4. Let steak rest for 10 minutes after cooking. 
  5. Serve with a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar. 

I encourage you to buy the Babbo Cookbook. Some dishes are involved and excotic. But as you can tell from this recipe, some are out of this world, and not too difficult at all.

The Babbo Cookbook 
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