Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Turkish Delights

Beef Kofta, Veggie Couscous and Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

It is hottt. Hot with, like, nine "t"s. I wanted some tasty summer food. Conveniently, my roommate went berry picking and I returned home to find her sorting through a huge pile of strawberries. I also visited the Persian store recently, and picked up a new ingredient...

Ingredient of the Day: Sumac

Sumac is a popular seasoning in Middle Eastern cuisine. It's made from the crushed dried berries of a tree, and has a pleasant tanginess with a hint of fruitiness that works especially well with ground meats. If you eat at a kebab restaurant, you might find a jar of it on the table. I like it on my couscous, too. Do try to find it at an ethnic grocer, where I got 3 oz for $1.79, as opposed to the fancy herb catalogue that sold a .5 oz jar for nearly four bucks.

Broiled Beef Kofta

1 lb ground beef
2 egg whites
3 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp sumac
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper

Mix meat and seasonings, then roll into cylinders about the size of a sausage and place on a rack inside a metal pan. Broil for 10-12 minutes, turning at intervals to get all sides browned.

Veggie Couscous

1 tsp garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
Pepper (black, or Aleppo pepper)
2 tbsp lemon juice

Sautee garlic and chopped veggies in oil until lightly browned. Add couscous, broth and seasonings, lower heat to lowest setting and cover, cooking for 5 minutes. Add black pepper and lemon juice at the end when couscous is cooked. Stir and fluff before serving.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

3-4 strawberries, chopped
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh black pepper

I poured this over my salad, and then found I liked it on the meat even better. It's best if you can use a sweet, thick brand of balsamic. If yours does not fit that description, add a teaspoon of sugar to the mix.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Steak? Is It My Birthday?

How To Broil A Steak

Steak! For me? You shouldn't have! A good steak is the perfect treat for all carnivores, both boys and girls. I don't eat a ton of steak in real life, but it's remarkably easy to broil one at home and save on nights at the Outback. Even better, a steak is many peoples' idea of the perfect reward, a meal for celebration. As a food, it is a form of foreplay in and of itself. Now put on your sexy underpants and go find your broiler...

Examine your oven for a moment. The broiler is most likely in a drawer at the bottom. You might have been using it to store things, but today you will use it for steak. Steak always comes first. If there is no drawer, you may have the type of oven where you need to shift the oven rack to the topmost notch to broil food. Some ovens do not have a "broil" setting. In that case, go find a flame thrower. Just kidding. Don't do that. If your oven can't broil, I'll post a "pan-seared" steak recipe for you soon.

I won't go into extensive descriptions of cuts of beef. Personally, I like a good boneless sirloin, which is particularly flavorful. Porterhouse steaks are extremely popular, too. I'm sure some obsessive steakaholic will read this and say "oooh! you can't cook a (insert cut) like that!" But I have, and it came out at least as well as the steak I ordered at the fancy steak place, so you can take a walk, Mr. Fancy Steak Man.

First you should marinate your steak for at least an hour. All marinades should contain an oil, an acid (lemon, vinegar) and a sugar (sugar, molasses, kecap manis). They actually "cook" your meat a little, so in my opinion there is little to be gained by marinating things forever unless a recipe calls for it.
Here's a yummy marinade for your steak:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp coarse mustard
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
Let your steak soak for a bit, turning it over to make sure the marinade covers all surfaces. It's a good idea to marinate in the fridge, but let the meat reach room temperature before cooking. Get out a solid metal pan (make sure it fits in the broiler!!), and a rack. Your broiler may have come with a special broiler pan with a slotted surface over a base. Once your steak is ready for cooking, set the oven to "broil". Cook the steak for 5 minutes on one side, then get your meat fork and flip it over, cooking the other side for 5 minutes. This will get your steak somewhere between rare and medium-rare. If you're looking to become an obsessive fancy steak man, get yourself a meat thermometer. If you like a well-done steak, cook it for 2-3 minutes more, but don't overdo it. The broiler is powerful. Respect.

If the steak is cooked to your satisfaction, I recommend mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. Enjoy the rest of your evening...