Saturday, June 22, 2013

Seasoned Flank Steak Tacos

It is the middle of the week, it has been a hectic, stressful day, and your children or your spouse has invited someone over for dinner.  You are not prepared and need to do something fast!  This is Just the meal for you!  I fell in love with flank steak nearly a year ago when I found a recipe which served it over bread like a bruschetta.  I changed this one up, changing the spices from steak grilling spices to home-roasted taco spices, grilling the meat and slicing it small to fit into any sized or type of taco shell.  Ready?  This one will save your mid-week crunch and make Everyone happy!

Roasted Taco Seasonings

In a small pan, over medium heat, add:

2 tablespoons Chipotle or Chile Ancho powder
2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or, three cloves fresh finely chopped garlic)
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon salt and one tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon (or more) of dried Oregano, crushed in your hands

Roast the spices over medium heat in the small pan until you smell the cumin and  Chili powder, not burned.  Your nose will tell you when it is ready.  Place the spices in a bowl to cool and add the zest and juice of one lemon or lime to the spices.   

Allow the steak to come to room temperature and remove the flank steak from its wrapper and dry it with a paper towel.  Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) on both sides of the steak, and using your hands or a spoon, rub the spices onto both sides of the meat.  Let the steak sit another ten to thirty minutes, out of the refrigerator.  

Fire up your bbq grill or in-house grill plate over medium-high heat.  Be sure that you spray or rub the grill with non-stick oil.  I use an evoo spray on my grills.  Add the steak after several minutes and leave it on the grill until it releases by itself, about four or five minutes. Turn the steak for about the same amount of time. I do not see the need for the beautiful, fancy cross grill marks since the steak will be sliced up into small slices, anyway. Once done, about eight or nine minutes in all, remove the steak and allow it to rest another ten or so minutes, covered with foil.  It will continue to cook just a little more. 

*For incredible flavor, quarter an onion, yellow or white, drizzle the wedges with evoo, and also grill.  The combined flavor of the softened grilled onions and the flank steak are unbeatable!  You could also do this with red and green chiles!  (That will be next time and an addendum blog post!)

In the meantime, prepare your taco shells however you wish.  I chose to use small flour shells, unheated or fried.   

I sliced the flank steak against the grain, and it sliced effortlessly, like softened butter.  Between the steak and the slivered grilled onions I'd put on the grill, my tacos were the extreme in comfort food.  i realized that I had prepped and grilled in about thirty minutes, because i purchased the flank steak already thawed.  If yours is frozen, the time involved increases, but the prep and cook times for thawed meat are far less than thirty minutes. 

 Ready to slice for tacos?

 Time to Enjoy!

You could serve this with sliced radishes, lime wedges, finely chopped cabbage shreds and whatever cheese you have on hand or like. I went quite simplistic so as to enjoy the grilled flavors.  

Thank you for viewing!

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Annual Spring Treat:  Sunset Magazine's Celebration Weekend

Once again, my dear Aunt Mona came through and, for a belated birthday gift, took me to Sunset Magazine's Celebration Weekend in Menlo Park.  It was a scorcher of a day, Saturday, June 1st, but a day of enjoyment, learning and being star-struck.  Here are a few highlights, although, most sadly, I could not get close enough to get some good photos of some of my favorite celeb chefs, Susan Feniger (wonderful cooking demo, however) and Jamie Purviance, although I did run into him while bystanding at a garden booth.  I was able to watch his bbq demo from a distance, and it was great, and smelled even better!  I missed, altogether, three of my favorites, Chef Ryan Scott, Yugit Pura, the renowned San Francisco pastry chef and Safeway's Chef Jeffrey Anderson. In addition, I also missed Chef Ludo, whose appearance was on Sunday.  Sigh. Despite that, I have no complaints; Sunset had something for everyone each day. 

I DID, however, much to my Aunt's happiness, and my own, see Chef Fabio Viviani's hilarious cooking demo and Sunset's Food Editor. The man puts on a knowledgeable almost stand-up comic cooking demo. 

Chef Fabio warming up the already sunburned audience. 

He taught us how to make fresh pasta and fake-out Italian meatballs (using sausages) and tomato and basil sauce also known as:  "Chef Fabio's Lazy Meatballs".


Near Safeway's outdoor kitchen was this beautiful succulents outdoor dining table setting.  Very nice!  



At a nearby  booth, where boxes are constructed and hung on walls planted with beautiful varieties of succulents, one whole wall appeared as Winnie the Pooh, all in succulents.  It was so popular, sadly, I could not get a good enough angle (too many people at any given time) to snap a good photo.  Sorry, folks. I was, however, able to snap this of a heart-shaped box.  Enjoy this.  Share it with your loved one. 

With this, gentle readers, have a great day, and get out there and cook and plant!!!  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bacon Mac and Cheese Burger

I was inspired to make this burger because I had a craving for my "Growed Up Mac and Cheese" and a hamburger, simultaneously.  I had guests coming for dinner Friday, however, and the kids would be having the mac and cheese.  With that in mind, I could not make it "growed up", incorporating beer into the boiling water of the macaroni and also the roux, so I settled for an Italian inspired mac and cheese, adding Tuscan Seasoning (found in most grocery stores) along with my own fresh oregano, and, bacon. The burger is my regular burger, but it all comes together decadently with the mac and cheese square, and I served my meal with marinated red onion and tomato slivers, inspired by my son's grandmother.  Here's how it all goes:

Starting line-up for the burgers themselves:
 1 package of 4 - 8 dutch crunch buns, or your favorite burger buns
1 pound lean sirloin or ground beef
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 yellow or red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tuscan Seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano, finely chopped
Mix all of the ingredients together, form six large hamburger patties, indenting in the center for even cooking on the grill, and set aside or in the refrigerator to rest.  Remove the burgers twenty minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.  
Before serving altogether with the mac and cheese, toast the buns under the broiler, if you wish.  I wish. 
I made an aioli to go along with the burgers.  I simply mixed half a cup of mayonnaise with a teaspoon of sriracha, a teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped oregano and grated garlic.  The aioli I put on the top and bottom of the buns.  And yes, I used mustard, too!  I cannot have a burger without mustard!
Bacon Bed for the bottom of the Mac and Cheese Bake:  Chop up on package of thin sliced bacon and render in a large skillet.  Toward the end, I like to place the skillet in the oven at 400 degrees to crisp up the bacon even more.  You have to preheat the oven, so if you have an oven-safe skillet, you can multi-task!  Once fully cooked and crisp, remove the bacon and set it on a plate with a paper towel.  Set aside. 
The Mac and Cheese, semi-Italiano style:
 1 package of elbow macaroni
2-3 teaspoons flour
2 cups of grated Jack, Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese
1 cup of grated Italian Cheeses:  Mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan and also Provolone (one cup altogether)
1/4 stick of butter
1 cup of milk or buttermilk (I like to use buttermilk for the tangy bite)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of Tuscan Seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh or dried oregano
1/4 cup of chopped, cooked bacon, pancetta or prosciutto

In a large pot, bring four quarts of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water when it boils.  Add the elbow macaroni and stir for a minute to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Allow to cook until al dente, according to the directions on the package, about eight minutes.  Strain and set aside for a moment.  

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan over medium heat, you will begin making the roux.  Add the butter to the large sauce pan (high-sided is best!) and allow it to melt.  Add the flour to the roux and stir until the flour cooks out.  Add the milk or buttermilk and the seasoning ingredients.  To that, once incorporated well, add the cheeses, a little at a time.  It will all melt into a wonderful, gooey mess that will smell pretty heavenly.  

Yes, I said "heavenly".  Sorry, it's the best word I could use.
Add the pasta to the mix and fold in repeatedly, to get all of the pasta bathed in the cheese sauce.  It should be flexible and "gooey", as I mentioned above, not runny. Set aside for a moment. 

Now, I used an 8" by 8" pan, sprayed it with olive oil cooking spray, and spread the fully cooked bacon on the bottom.  I added a heaping pile of the macaroni and cheese to it, but only to make a two or three inch layer.  I packed the mac and cheese down and topped it with grated parmesan cheese.  I baked it in the 400 degree oven until the top had crisped up and was golden brown.  Perfect!  The cheese melds around the bacon and solidifies as it cools, so when you cut it in about fifteen minutes, it will not slide around, as the bacon is a solid base. 

While the mac and cheese baked in the oven, grill or fry the hamburgers to your liking, about six or seven minutes per side.  I sprinkled each side with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.  That was because I did not add any salt and pepper to the meat in the beginning.  I like the seasoned carmelized crust that forms on the burger when you add that.  Yum!

So here is how you put it together:  cut the mac and cheese into fourths.  Easy.  Arrange your buns on your plate, add the aioli, or whatever condiments you like, to the buns,  and place a burger on the bottom bun.  Now, carefully remove a mac and cheese square with a spatula and place  atop the burger.  Top the mac and cheese with the top bun, and you now have a Mac and Cheese Bacon Burger!

 As I mentioned above, the kids were to have Mac and Cheese, so I made theirs in ramekins. Here they are:

 In addition, I served the burgers with marinated red onion and tomato slivers.  The longer you can marinate the veggies, the better the taste.  You can also add thinly sliced cucumbers, too, which is what Grandma U does.  One of the best sides I have ever had the pleasure of eating!  Simply add 1/3 cup of vegetable or extra virgin olive oil to a container, along with a a third of a cup of red wine vinegar, one grated clove garlic, fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt.  Yum!  I even added a teaspoon of Tamari sauce instead of salt.  Just a wonderful, cold side dish to a rich, pretty heavy meal. 
Thank you for viewing this meal.  I have just a little kitchen now, so organization and staying on task while socializing was a challenge, but a fun one!

What I Have Been Up To Lately....Another Installment
Hello and WELCOME to another short, sweet installment of "What I Have Been Up To Lately".  I will be sharing with you, mostly in pictures, several dishes I have made in recent weeks.  I hope you like them!  Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about the following dishes and sweets.  Thank you!
I made this Cheesy Eggy Pizza for a work breakfast.  I used store-bought ready to roll out whole wheat pizza dough, eggs, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and a little bit of soy chorizo (also known as "Soyrizo", a vegetarian chorizo, which can be found in your chain grocery stores in the chorizo or sausage areas.  Easy to make, and bakes in less than thirty minutes!
I have made my Bacon Belted Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sage a couple of more times, and each time has been quite a success.  This is a Must Try to impress guests in a time crunch!
Quick, easy and the oven does half of the work for you!  Please see my blog, as I have the recipe in a previous post.  Thank you!

With so many fresh citruses in season, this is a perfect salad to make on those warm late spring and summer days!  The reduces pomegranate balsamic drizzle lends a sweet and tangy bite!  Basil is cut into ribbons and sprinkled across the plate.  Delicious!
The previous blog post is all about this big and hearty, yet healthy meal.  Please take a look!  Perfect for tag-teaming the grill and the stove-top!  My son and I grilled marinated lamb and pork shoulder chops, and while he grilled, i made the pasta inside.  Great tag teaming!

I marinated chicken breasts in my homemade Pomegranate Balsamic Grilling Sauce, grilled the chicken, sliced it and served it over cold spinach and raspberries with a homemade vinaigrette.  Perfect for a warm late spring or summer evening and for healthy eating!  I suggest a white, white zinfandel or homemade iced sangria with this meal?
 I served these herb rosted baby new potatoes with both my Bacon Belted Chicken and my Pomegranate Balsamic St. Louis Style Grilled Ribs dishes.  Perfect accompaniment with a fresh salad of any kind. 

My Pomegranate Balsamic Grilled St. Louis Style Ribs and Spinach Salad with Blackberries and Herb Roasted Potatoes.  Great meal for friends!

On to the sweets! Mini Pizzettes with Chocolate Cream Cheese and Raspberries.  Quick, Easy, and a real crowd pleaser!

And Finally.......My brownies with chopped Reese's Buttercups spread over the brownie batter, melted into the brownies during baking.  I had a request to deliver these to friends working the summer extended days!  Very nice compliment, I believe!
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of ......well, you know.  Thanks for viewing!!!