Monday, June 9, 2008

On Carnivores and Cattle Herds ...

I'm tired today. You can thank my upstairs neighbors and the heard of cattle they lovingly refer to as their "children". I haven't met them but I'm pretty sure their shoes are welded to their feet and I suspect they each have an extra set of legs. How else to account for the thundering din that rolls from one end of the apartment to the other long about 6:30 a.m. every day? If you've ever spent a night in my guest-room, you know exactly what I mean.

Being tired and dieting is not always a fortuitous combination. I find that the more tired I am, the more likely I am to think about popping open a box of mac and cheese and calling it dinner. It helps to have a strategy for such times and a couple of quick and easy recipes that require little thought and even less preparation.

The Diva is married to a major carnivore. Left to his own devices, he'd happily exist on a diet of raw beef and a side of lamb chops. I don't particularly share his zest for the red stuff and I'm not a great fan of steak. Oddly enough I prefer the more pedestrian varieties of beef: meatballs, burgers and cheesesteaks. ~swoon~

That being said, I have on occasion really enjoyed a meal of Bistecca a la Fiorentina - or steak in the style of the Florentines. Not surprisingly, one of the most memorable versions I've had was in a charming restaurant in Florence. We dined outside on the piazza, under a canopy of umbrellas in the pouring rain, and both the food and the experience were nothing short of magical.

Fortunately for us the dish is easily replicated at home and goes a long way toward satisfying both a carnivorous husband and a weary Diva.

Bistecca a la Fiorentina

  • two sirloin strip steaks, or New York Strips
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 thick wedges of fresh lemon
  • a dusting of chopped fresh parsley
Rub the steaks with a bit of olive oil on each side, not much, probably a teaspoon each or so. Doesn't really matter. Season the steaks on both sides with the salt and pepper - to taste, but you can be generous here if you like.

Pre-heat your grill, or in my case a grill pan, to blazing hot and grill the steaks. You'll want a nice char on the outside, and length of cooking is up to you. The husband likes his still moo-ing, I prefer mine crisp and done. All the way done. (Sorry, I'm Irish!)

* Cooking tip from the husband - if your strips are 1 1/2 thick, grill them for 4 minutes per side for a perfect rare. I like my steak to be about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick, and if he cooks mine for the same time it works out perfectly - one rare, one well-done.*

As soon as you pull the steaks from the grill, rub them with the cut halves of garlic on both sides, give them a liberal squeeze of the fresh lemon, hit it with the chopped parsley, serve and enjoy. You may add a slice of lemon to the plates to refresh the acid balance as desired.

In Italy, there are varying schools of thought on adding the olive oil, or whether or not one should salt the meat prior to cooking or just at the end. This is my version of the dish and I like it just the way I've written it. Feel free to experiment and let me know the results. I like to serve it with one of my all time favorite summer sides:

Broiled Summer Squash

  • one medium zucchini
  • one medium yellow summer squash
  • one half of a Vidalia onion, sliced thin
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • dried or fresh basil, to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

Wash and trim the squash. Cut them in half, lengthwise, and then into 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Bring a medium size pot of water to the boil and season it with a bit of Kosher salt. Add the squash and onions, let the water return to the boil and blanch the vegetables for one to two minutes. Drain into a strainer and refresh under cold, running water for 30 seconds or so. You want the squash to retain its color, so don't over-cook it and don't skip this step.

Pre-heat your broiler.

Arrange the squash and onions in an even layer in a heat-safe glass or Pyrex pie dish. Sprinkle on a grating of fresh nutmeg and season with a bit of the dried basil, or fresh if you have it, or whatever herbs you favor. Top the mixture with the shredded Parmesan cheese to taste. I don't use much, just enough to coat the dish. Be sure to use fresh Parm., not the powdered stuff - otherwise it will not broil properly.

Place the dish under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling hot and slightly browned. Serve and enjoy!


HjDinny said...

Let me start by saying I am very luck to be the sister-in-law of this Diva. I have had the benefit of her insights, advice, humor, friendship and recipes for 32 years! I guess I couldn’t keep her all to myself forever. I am the sister to her carnivore husband so I too am a carnivore. I have made this steak many times. Yes it is easy and yes it tastes great. This make it a good choice not only when you are tired and need an easy meal but also a great choice when cooking for a date! It is simple yet sophisticated. It is easy for you and trust me impressive to them. It leaves them begging for more so only prepare this steak if you want a second date. With this winner of a recipe you can still work all day, cook for your man and have time for “dessert”.

Becky said...

Dear Diva, Thank goodness I can get on today to tell you that I think your dish is delishious any day of the week! I can't wait to have a steak, because you know that I always want a second date because once is not enough

The Diva on a Diet said...

So lovely to see you both - and so glad you were able to get in, becky!

hjdinny in 'da house! ~waves hands in the air~ Delighted to see you too. Many thanks for the ringing endorsement!

pixelgal said...

I LOVED Bistecca Florentina. Hadn't thought of using lemon on steak but it was really great. We grilled it outside, living in the 'burbs' and had the zucchini as well, but didn't blanch it. What a treat! Try it!