Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Months and month ago now, I went out to dinner with some former co-workers at a restaurant/slash bar here in CT (Eli’s on Whitney for those who are local/interested). One of my friends got a seriously amazing looking steak salad, which totally gave me entree envy. My dinner was good, but hers looked so delicious that I just could not get it out of my head. This salad was composed of greens, candied walnuts, craisins, gorgonzola cheese, Granny Smith apples, and was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and she had it topped with a perfectly cooked steak. I still have yet to have this specific salad, but I knew then and there that I would be putting steak salad on my dinner planning menu in the near future. Now, I knew Ron would not be thrilled about the craisins or apples in the salad (he’s not generally a fan of fruit, and especially not a fruit+meat person), but I knew he’d love the idea of steak in any form, so when I saw this salad in Rachel Ray’s magazine I immediately put it on our menu. She uses spinach and watercress in her version of this salad, but I decided to go with a more general baby greens mix, and I also changed out the Petit Filets for a more budget-friendly cut of beef. This salad turned out so well, that we immediately put in on the menu for the following week, and now looking at the pictures I wish I had the ingredients to make it again tonight.

Steak Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Steak Salad with Bacon Bits and Blue Cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients:
6 slices bacon
2 lbs steak (Petit Filets are suggested, but use your favorite tender cut- I used sirloin tip steak and cut it very thinly against the grain)
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar (you could use Sherry, champagne or red wine vinegar as well)
8 cups salad greens (I like using a mix that contains baby spinach)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a grill, or heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (for easy clean up), place bacon on sheet, and cook for 15-18 minutes. When cooked, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of excess fat. Crumble when slightly cooled.

3. Season steak with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Cook on grill or skillet until cooked through to your liking. The timing will depend on the type of steak used, but for a petit filet, about 4-5 minutes per side will cook it to about medium-rare. Let rest for 5-10 minutes once cooked, and then slice against the grain very thinly.

4. In a small bowl, or salad dressing mixer (pretty sure that’s not the real name of that haha), whisk together the lemon juice, garlic clove, mustard and vinegar. Slowly stream and whisk in the olive oil if doing this in a bowl, otherwise just add the olive oil and shake to combine, or use the salad dressing plunger.

5. Place about 2 cups of greens on each plate, split sliced steak, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, and sliced red onion evenly among the plates, and top with dressing.

Source: EveryDay with Rachel Ray, May 2014

Whole Lemon Bars

Whole Lemon Bars

One of my favorite desserts in the world are lemon bars. I know this is shocking, because they don’t contain any chocolate, but I just love the sweettartness (yep, that’s definitely a word) of them, and I love the contrast between the shortbread crust and the creamy lemon topping. My grandmother makes the best lemon bars I’ve ever eaten, and I really do need to make those myself at some point… but, when I saw this recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I was intrigued by the idea of using an entire lemon in a dessert (peel, pith and all), and so I decided I just had to make them, and leave the other lemon bar recipe for another time. These really were simple and delicious. I do still consider my grandmother’s lemon bars my favorite, but these were also great. It really is amazing to me that you can slice up a lemon, puree it with a few other ingredients, and come away with this awesome lemony filling. I found these to be a little sweeter than my grandmother’s lemon bars (I have to say that I really love the tartness of hers), and I can’t assess the ease factor compared to her recipe as I haven’t made them myself, but I can say that these were hardly any work at all, and since you make both the crust and filling in the food processor, it hardly dirties any dishes, which is always a plus in my book.

Whole Lemon Bars

Whole Lemon Bars

Makes 16 2-inch bars

Ingredients:

For crust:

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar

1/4 tsp table salt

8 Tbsp (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

For filling:

1 small-to-medium-sized lemon (about 4.5 oz or 130 grams, or about 3 inches long)*

1 1/3 cup (265 grams) sugar

8 Tbsp (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 large eggs

2 Tbsp (15 grams) cornstarch

1/4 tsp table salt

For topping:

Confectioner’s Sugar (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle of oven. Line a 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment paper lightly.

2. To make the crust, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but will hold together when pinched firmly. Pour the crumbs into the prepared baking dish, and press down firmly to create an even crust. Press so that the crust goes about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Poke holes in the crust with a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, to make the filling, *first cut the lemon in half, and measure the skin of the lemon. If any part of it is thicker than 1/4-inch across, remove and discard the skin from half  of the lemon. If the skin is less than 1/4-inch thick, you are good to go! Cut the lemon into thin slices, and add to the food processor (yes- skin, pith and all!). Add the sugar, and run the food processor for about 2 minutes, until the lemon is pureed. Add the butter and process until smooth- scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt, and pulse until combined.

4. Pour the lemon mixture into the baking dish (over the baked crust). Bake for 35-40 minutes until the filling is set, and the top is beginning to get light brown. The bars should jiggle just slightly when finished.

5. Cool on a rack, or in the fridge. When completely cool, use parchment paper to help remove the bars from the pan, and cut into 16 squares. Sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar if desired. I like to eat these best when they are cold.

Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

P.S. Have you seen the Pink Lemonade Bars on Deb’s blog?! I must try those this summer!

Pork Milanese

I’ve had Giada de Laurentis’s cookbook Everyday Italian for years now, but haven’t really made much out of it unfortunately, through no fault of the cookbook. That’s definitely a problem I have- I buy these awesome cookbooks, make maybe one or two recipes, and then never venture further.  I really need to work on this, because there are so many amazing sounding recipes in all my cookbooks that I’d love to make. I need to be like Julie from Julie & Julia, and cook every recipe out of a cookbook or something.  Maybe I need to make a goal to cook 1 or 2 recipes a week from an actual cookbook. I get so many food magazines, and read so many blogs, that I have a pretty much unlimited supply of recipes to choose from, and it seems like sometimes the cookbooks get lost in the shuffle. Sad, because they are pretty much the books that I love best.

Anyway…. this pork was awesome!! As I mentioned in my last post, this is one of the best pork dishes I have ever personally made. The breading that coats the pork was so flavorful, and I think it would adapt well to swapping in chicken for the pork, if pork is not your thing.  It’s shallow-fried, which is definitely not as intimidating as deep-frying, and only left a slight lingering smell of oil- one of my biggest turn-offs for frying things in my home.  I definitely recommend giving this recipe a try.  I know I’ll be making it again!!
Pork Milanese
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
4 8-ounce center-cut pork chops (about 1-inch thick)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Directions:
1. Place the flour in a wide shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Place the beaten eggs in another wide, shallow dish. In a third wide, shallow dish, mix together the breadcrumb, Parmesan cheese, basil, and thyme.
2. Place the pork chops between two pieces of plastic wrap, or in a large storage bag, and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin, until the pork is 1/4 inch thick. Season the pork chops on each side with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp of each for the four pork chops).
3. Dredge each pork chop (one at a time), first in the flour, then in the egg (let excess drip off), then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the mixture on gently. Place the pork chops, in a single layer, on a baking sheet.  (These can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Just cover and refridgerate until ready to cook.)
4. Preheat oven to warm (150 degrees, or as close as possible- the lowest my oven goes is to 200 degrees), and line a baking sheet with a rack.
5. Melt butter and oil together in a large saute pan with high sides over medium heat, until hot. Cook the pork chops, 2 at a time, about 3 minutes per side, until light golden brown. Transfer the cooked pork chops to the prepared baking sheet and season with more salt to taste. Place in the oven to keep warm, and repeat the process with the other 2 pork chops.
6. Serve the pork chops with the lemon wedges on the side. Squeeze the lemon juice over the pork chops if desired.

Lemon Chicken

So another food item that my boyfriend Ron and I recieved from his grandparents for Christmas were boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I was psyched about this because they are just so versatile! They are one of the staple grocery list items that I buy pretty much every week. I know that some people aren’t big fans because they can be boring and dry, but I really believe that if cooked well, and paired with yummy flavors, that they are the best!

Now, because I’ve made it a priority to clean out my freezer, fridge and pantry, I wanted to choose a recipe that I didn’t have to buy a million ingredients for, and use what I had already. This Lemon Chicken recipe is something I had bookmarked forever ago that uses very few, and simple ingredients, but packs a really nice flavor punch.  I loved it!  It was pretty light, which is perfect for my healthy eating resolution, was really nice and simple for a weeknight dinner, and was super yummy!  If you like lemon, you’ll like this chicken!

Lemon Chicken
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 lemon slices
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:
1. Place your chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, or in a gallon-size ziplock bag, and pound them until 1/4-inch thick.
2. Season both sides of your chicken with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp butter, and olive oil to the pan.  When the butter is melted, add your chicken.  Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, until the chicken is browned, and cooked through. Remove chicken to a platter, and tent with foil.
4. Reduce heat to medium.  Add chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the lemon slices, and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat, add the remaining butter and the parsley.  Stir together until the butter has melted.
5. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts and garnish with the lemon slices, or do like I did and return the chicken to the pan, flipping the chicken over once to coat with the sauce, and place the lemon slices on top of the chicken.

Source: Southern Living and MyRecipes.com via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures