Thursday, October 30, 2008

Steakhouse Dinner at Home!

In this economy it's tough to go out for a steak dinner. So when I was craving red meat this week, I decided to recreate the American classic in my home and for more than half the price. So, here are my tricks:

1) Sub skirt steak for a NY Strip or Filet. Skirt Steak is SO underrated and if cooked properly it can be tender and delicious. A 1 pound skirt steak can feed 4 people and it will probably cost you $8. NY Strip or filets typically start at $18 per pound at the store and $36 at the restaurant!

2) Use plain veggies. Refrain from buying cream, butter, onions, and more for creamed or scalloped dishes. Just buy sour cream (starts at $1) for your baked potato and you've saved at least 6 bucks. Roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper is simple, delicious and pairs well with steak. Avoiding scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach is better for your waist line anyway...

3) Find a good red wine under $20. A decent Cabernet will start at $45 so ditch the traditional pairing and go for a different verietal that goes just as well with meats. An Argentinian Malbec would be a fine substitute and you can find them easily for 18-20 dollars.

Happy budget dining!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Love Bacon?

Check out this out! (click on picture or link)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs

My little sister loves mushrooms and I realized in a recent conversation that I never post recipes with mushrooms on the blog. The reason for this is that I am not as crazy for these earthy fungi as my sister is but this hearty soup looks like a culinary delight. The meatballs are an easy mixture of sirloin, egg, cheese and breadcrumbs and the soup as whole comes together with ease so you can whip this up during the week no problem.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs
  1. 4 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/2 cup pearled barley
  4. 1 large thyme sprig
  5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  6. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  7. 1 pound mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (or 3/4-pound presliced mushrooms)
  8. 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  9. 1/2 pound ground sirloin
  10. 1 large egg
  11. 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  12. 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  13. 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  14. Sour cream, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the stock, water, barley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is nearly tender, about 18 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the sirloin, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Knead the mixture until blended, then roll it into sixteen 1-inch balls.
  4. Add the meatballs and mushrooms to the soup and simmer over moderate heat until the meatballs are cooked through and the barley is tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the thyme. Stir the parsley into the soup and serve in bowls with sour cream.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurrie Sauce

Skirt steak is really underrated. It's cheap, it takes about 5 minutes to grill and with a fresh chimichurrie sauce it really can't be beat. I like to marinate my skirt steak in a little worcestershire sauce and seasoning before I pop it on my grill pan. In addition, I add some more heat to my chimichurrie by adding some Sriracha.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurrie Sauce
  • 1 pd skirt steak
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
Season steak and marinate in 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce for a minimum of 1 hour and up to 6.

Heat grill pan. Chop parsley (can use flat parsley) and add to rest of the ingredients. Grill steak 3 minutes a side for medium rare and served slices pieces with chimichurrie sauce.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grill-Roasted Vegetables with Pine Nut Pesto

Unlike a lot of fruit lovers out there, I love Fall's bounty. To me, nothing beats root vegetables and preparing them can be easy. Better yet, prep can be delegated. So children, friends and spouses can join you in the kitchen. Every cook has a task they love to delegate. For me, it's deveining shrimp and shucking corn. I can't remember the last time I did either. Delegating aside, this recipe doesn't call for much but some good ol' peeling and chopping.

In addition, this recipe gives you the grill vs. roast option so chose whatever you like best. For me roasting is easier than breaking out my grill pan. You can also skip the pesto and buy store bought but making pesto is a snap and fresh is always better.

Grill-Roasted Vegetables with Pine Nut Pesto
  1. 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  2. 1 pound parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
  3. 1 pound brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
  4. One 2 1/2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch pieces
  5. 2 large shallots, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  6. 6 thyme sprigs
  7. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  8. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  9. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  10. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  11. 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  12. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. In a large bowl, toss the carrots and parsnip pieces with the brussels sprouts, butternut squash, shallots, thyme sprigs and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat a gas grill to high heat (about 425°). Place 2 perforated grill pans directly on the grate to heat for about 10 minutes. Divide the vegetables between the grill pans and grill over high heat, stirring and turning occasionally, until they are tender and lightly charred in spots, about 50 minutes. Alternatively, roast the vegetables in a large roasting pan in a 425° oven, stirring them occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the pine nuts and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and garlic and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are browned and the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to a mini processor. Add the grated cheese and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse to a chunky puree. Season the pine nut pesto with salt.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and toss with the pine nut pesto. Serve hot or warm.


Monday, October 13, 2008


I can't remember the last time that Drew and I went on a date. Between looking for jobs, looking for an apartment, working opposite schedules and moving, we just haven't had the time. I have a laundry list of restaurants that I cannot wait to start crossing off in our new city. One restaurant close to the top is A16, a chic trattoria devoted to the food of Southern Italy. Chef Nate Appleman has earned certification by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, becoming one of the few certified pizzaiolos in the United States so their wood-fired pizza's are not to be missed.

From the outside, it looks tiny. However, when you walk past the wine bar, you quickly discover the long and narrow space that dedicates its entire right side to an open air kitchen with various work stations, including 2 wood burning ovens, a dough surface, saute and salumi stations and more. If you sit at the narrow 14 seat chef's table that wraps around the stations, you can watch a well-oiled kitchen that is surprisingly relaxed in a room packed with diners.

A16's wine bar boasts over 350 bottles to chose from and over 40 wines by the glass. The wine list is predominately Italian with a handful of California wines. I began our meal with a Moretti, a classic Italian beer, and mozzarella burrata with olive oil and crostini. The olive oil they use is top notch and adds even more depth to a dish that is very rich to begin with. For the next course we decided to try the roasted friarelli peppers with anchovies, calabrian chiles, lemon and fried breadcrumbs that we saw the sous chef make several times in front of us. Our Salsiccia pizza, a fennel sausage, roasted peppers, red onions, mozzarella, grana padano, garlic, chiles, came at the same time and the two went great together paired with my glass of a Sangiovese based blend.

The best part about this restaurant is that it's 3 blocks from my house. There is no question that this will quickly become one of our neighborhood go-tos. Word on the street is that it's always packed, especially on Meatball Monday's, so get there early or prepare to wait.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries

Fall is here and it's time start baking. This pumpkin bread with cranberries is easy to make and great to have around the house for a snack. I like to add a little nutmeg and walnuts to the batter for more texture and flavor.
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups pumpkin pureé (15 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
Combine flour, spice, baking powder, and salt in bowl; stir to blend the dry ingredients well. Combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil in a mixing bowl, beating until smooth. Stir in flour mixture, then stir in cranberries. Spoon into a greased and floured 9x5x2-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Souffléed Macaroni and Cheese

My sister's husband has a night class each Thursday for law school. I am telling you this because it allows my sister some culinary freedom. You see, Justin is lactose intolerant which means 6 days a week she goes dairy free. Now that's love.

Thursday's are now Cheese Thursday's. It's the day of the week where my sister gets to indulge in everything dairy while her husband is sitting through lectures taking notes. On tonight's menu is this mac and cheese recipe that caught my eye in this month's Gourmet.

Souffléed Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 4 generously
Start to finish:1 hr

* 1 1/2 cups scalded milk
* 1 cup soft bread crumbs
* 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
* 1 cup cooked macaroni
* 3 large eggs, separated
* 1/4 cup diced pimento
* 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
* 1 tablespoon grated onion
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3 tablespoons melted butter

Pour milk over soft bread crumbs; add cheese. Cover and let stand until cheese melts. Add macaroni. Combine and add beaten egg yolks, pimento, parsley, onion, salt, and melted butter.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into mixture. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350°F until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.