Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Bonne Femme

Over the weekend I took my kids to the library, and of course, I had to check out the cookbooks! After careful consideration, I checked out the Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day, by Wini Moranville. 


This delightful cookbook was obviously appealing to me, being a "bonne femme" ("good wife") myself. Hmm...hmm. After reading it almost cover to cover (cookbooks are like novels to me), I whipped out my apron and began. The first recipe I tried was for "Hamburgers with Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms." I've never seen a recipe for a French hamburger before, and thought it would appeal to my American children. So, according to Wini, a French hamburger consists of a pan-fried hamburger patty covered with melted cheese (French, of course), served on a thick slice of toasted country bread, topped with a French sauce, and eaten with a knife and fork. How civilized! I found the Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms to be very easy and delicious; but, with the combination of the hamburger patty, it brought flash-backs of bad TV dinners, specifically, Salisbury steak. So, while I will probably keep making my hamburgers in American fashion, I will make this delicious sauce again, but serve it with a perfectly grilled steak instead! Mmmm!


Bordelaise Sauce Ce Soir

Makes about 1 cup, 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 small shallot, quartered
1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Variation for Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms: Add 1 cup sliced mushrooms, sauteed in a little butter, to the finished sauce and heat through.

Directions:

In a medium-size saucepan, combine the broth, wine, shallot, parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain the sauce into a bowl, discarding the shallot, bay leaf, and herbs; return the sauce to the pan. Mash the butter together with the flour to make a paste (a beurre manie). Add the beurre manie bit by bit to the reduced sauce, stirring with a wire whisk to blend away any lumps. Boil gently, stirring, until the sauce reaches the desired thickness, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Goodbye Summer - Hello Flatiron Steak!

Well, here we are, the last week of summer! I have to admit, after scorching heat and drought, I'm ready to see it go. No more futile watering, pesky mosquito bites, or walking around a little more "dewy" than I prefer! However, one thing I will miss is my recipe for "Ginger-Soy Flatiron Steak with Grilled Green Onions!" This more recent cut of beef, introduced in 2002, discovered by research teams from the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, and funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, is a relatively tender, economical, and flavorful cut of meat. The flatiron steak is one of the most tender cuts from the beef chuck, is similar to a blade steak, but it's been cut flat instead of across the shoulder blade, eliminating the tough seam of connective tissue found in the blade steak. Other names for this cut of beef are top blade steak, top chuck steak, book steak, butlers' steak (UK), lifter steak, and oyster blade steak (Australia and New Zealand). It's even been touted as being as tender as the tenderloin with the taste of sirloin, and has become one of the best selling steaks in the world! 

The flatiron steak likes to be marinated, and is simple to prepare using dry heat cooking methods, like grilling. In this recipe, it is marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and cooks in less than 10 minutes! The grilled whole green onions make a nice aromatic accompaniment. Trust me, it is delicious! I like to serve it simply with a green salad or grilled corn on the cob.


Ginger-Soy Flatiron Steak with Grilled Green Onions

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Marinade
1/2 cup (4 oz) low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (I grate it on a microplane.)

For the Steak
1, 1 lb flatiron steak
12 green onions, roots removed, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Directions:
For the Marinade
Combine the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger in a shallow, nonreactive dish just large enough to hold the steak. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Place the steak in the dish, turning to coat both sides. Marinate the steak at room temperature, turning occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate and marinate until ready to use, removing from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.

For the Steak
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling (over the coals) over high heat (400-450 degrees). Oil the grill rack. Remove the meat from the marinade, discard the marinade.

Grill the steak over the hottest part of the grill, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking, 4-5 minutes per side. (Do Not Overcook!) Remove the steak to rest. Coat the onions lightly with the vegetable oil and grill, turning once or twice, until softened and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.

To Serve
Thinly slice the steak across the grain at an angle. Line a serving platter with the green onions, top with the sliced steak, spooning any accumulated juices over the meat.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Filo, Fillo, Phyllo!

Phyllo (aka., fillo, filo) dough is flaky, tissue-thin layers of pastry used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. The name phyllo originates from the Greek word "filo" meaning leaf. If you've never worked with phyllo before, it is easier than you might think! The most important thing when working with phyllo is to always keep the sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel. If you don't, they will dry up in a matter of minutes, break into a thousand shards, similar to a pile of autumn leaves. The second thing to remember is to use a very soft pastry brush to help prevent the sheets from tearing when you brush them with butter. 

A great recipe, that is very forgiving, is for "Tomato Phyllo Pizza!" This is a unique twist on any other pizza you've ever had! The phyllo layers are brushed with melted butter and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese creating a very tasty, crisp, and flaky crust. Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced onion, the most flavorful tomatoes you can find, like homegrown, and dashes of oregano and thyme make this pizza taste fresh and fabulous! A simple green salad with your favorite vinaigrette makes it a meal, but it also makes a great appetizer for parties! The pizza can be made up to 6 hours ahead, left at room temperature, and reheated for 10 minutes in a 325 degree oven.


Tomato Phyllo Pizza

Makes 1 pizza

Ingredients:

5 tablespoon butter, melted, plus extra for the cookie sheet
1, 17-ounce package phyllo pastry sheets, thawed to room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 lbs ripe, medium-size tomatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Brush a large cookie sheet with butter. Take one or two sheets of the phyllo and place it on the cookie sheet, covering the entire pan. Brush the sheets, using a soft brush, with some of the melted butter. Add the next sheet, sprinkle with some of the Parmesan cheese, and continue buttering and sprinkling with the Parmesan until you have seven layers in total. (This doesn't have to be exact. You can have more than seven, if you wish!) It is okay, and maybe necessary, to overlap each layer to fit the cookie sheet. Crimp the edges around so you form an edge. Sprinkle the top layer with the grated mozzarella, thinly sliced onion, and sliced tomatoes, creating a grid of tomatoes. Season with the oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Serve on a large tray or bread board, cutting squares with one tomato for each serving.

Recipe adapted from Bridgehampton Weekends, by Ellen Wright.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Milk?"

Wisconsin, the land of cheese, milk, and butter! People from this state are lovingly known as "Cheeseheads," and are serious about their dairy products! In fact, I attended a wedding there a few years ago, and it was the only wedding I've ever seen where waiters and waitresses proudly carried huge trays bursting with glasses of milk; after all, it is the state beverage! My husband just got back from a trip to Wisconsin, and milk is not the only product in great abundance there, they also have tomatoes, lots and lots of tomatoes! So, lucky for me, he brought back a box piled high with beautiful home-grown tomatoes! With my bounty at hand, I knew exactly what I wanted to make, "Soft Mozzarella Poached with Tomatoes and Basil!" This recipe is fantastic! Soft creamy mozzarella surrounded by a pool of sweet tomato sauce and basil! All that is required is a glass of wine and plenty of crusty bread! Although, if you're a cheesehead, you'll probably want milk!


Soft Mozzarella Poached with Tomatoes and Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped, and drained (for help peeling tomatoes, check Techniques), or canned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2, 8 oz balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, drained, at room temperature, and cut in half
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Basil sprigs, for garnish
Crusty bread

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. (Don't burn the garlic!) Remove the garlic and discard. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the tomatoes, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and begin to liquify. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth.

Twenty minutes before serving, bring the sauce to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place the mozzarella, cut-side down, in the sauce so that it is half submerged. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit 6-8 minutes.

In the meantime, cut the basil into thin strips. To serve, place a piece of mozzarella on each plate. Stir the basil into the sauce. Spoon the sauce around the mozzarella. Garnish with basil sprigs and serve immediately, with bread.

Recipe adapted from Weir Cooking: Recipes From The Wine Country, by Joanne Weir.