Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Pre-Donation Dinner.

There's an unspoken rule in my family that when the kids come home, they get to make dinner requests. "Hey, Mom? Since I'm coming home this weekend, will you make {insert craved meal here}?" I give blood as often as I can, but most times, my iron isn't high enough, which is very frustrating. Since I have an appointment to give blood next week, I thought I'd take advantage of being with my parents this weekend and request any foods high in iron and vitamin C (vitamin C helps your body absorb iron).

Mom, being the stunning woman that she is, responded to my request with a delicious flank steak she made with Dad one time, marinated in cider vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, olive oil, lime juice and zest. Sounds delicious, right? It was. Here's what she did...

Mom put a flank steak in a big plastic zip bag (double bagged, actually) with the marinade and let it hang out for 24 hours. When it came time to make this bad boy, she chopped up some vegetables (red, yellow, orange, and green peppers, red onion, zucchini) and sauteed them in a big skillet.

She also made Spanish Rice by chopping some green and red pepper, a jalapeño (without the seeds), and red onion. She put that all in a pot with some rice and olive oil, letting the rice start to brown and the vegetables get soft. She added some chicken broth (or maybe it was veggie broth) and some canned tomato sauce she had warmed up on the stove. She let it all cook until the rice was to the desired texture.

Meanwhile, Dad was outside manning the grill. Lucky for us,Dad happens to be a master of the grill, so he seared the flank steak by pouring some marinade on the coals so they would flame, then cooked it for a few minutes. Flipped it, seared that side, and finished cooking it to a beautiful medium rare. We let it sit for a few minutes with foil over it so the juices could redistribute, which was perfect because we needed to heat up the corn tortillas in the oven. We put everything on the table, in addition to sour cream, avocado slices, and salsa verde. The flank steak came out so perfectly. It was nice and juicy, the lime juice in the marinade made it really tender and gave it a little zing. Guess who's going home with the leftovers...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What exactly is a butternut?

When your mom gives you a butternut squash, what do you do with it? You could certainly dice it with some other veggies and roast them in the oven. But when your mom also gave you the 2009 (and 2010) Cook's Illustrated Annual and it has a recipe for Pasta with Butternut Squash and Sage, you of course give that one a whirl!

Now, lucky for me, I had a wonderful cooking partner to dice the butternut squash, but this helper happens to be a vegetarian and the recipe was not. The recipe called for chicken broth and bacon and the fat rendered from the bacon, but we were able to improvise. Vegetable broth and butter.

Step one: Cook some bacon in a skillet, sliced lengthwise and then cut into pieces. Add 8 large fresh sage leaves and let it cook until fragrant. Separate the rendered fat from the sage
and bacon.

Step two: Cook a medium squash, diced, in the skillet with 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat (or
butter, if you're dining with a vegetarian). Caramelize the squash, then brown it, add some butter, 6 thinly sliced scallions, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp. minced sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions are soft. Add 2 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for the vegetarian-friendly version).

Step three: Meanwhile, cook some pasta, like penne, until al dente (I can't think of any recipes where you cook the pasta to anything but al dente) and save 1/2 cup of the cooking water in case you need to adjust the consistency of the pasta sauce. Put the pasta and squash together in a big bowl or a Dutch oven, add 2 Tbsp. parmesan, 4 tsp. lemon juice and the bacon-sage mixtures. Add more cheese as desired.

And then eat it!