Monday, June 28, 2010

Thai-Style Steak Salad

I used to post recipes on here more often. But with the launch of a separate baking blog, there has not been much need. However, I do actually cook real food sometimes. And sometimes it's even good. Sometimes it is so amazingly outstanding, granted, rarely, but sometimes, that I make it over and over, take a picture, and post it.

If you're wondering what a new hungry nursing mom craves, it's fresh vegetables, red meat and lots of flavor. Which makes this salad my totally ideal meal. It's also nice that it's cool for the summer, quick to make (30-40 minutes), can be adapted for picky kids*, and does not even slightly resemble anything else in my usual rotation. And believe me, you do not need to be a fan of Thai food. I like Thai OK, but it's not my favorite; this salad has some Asian flavors for sure, but in my opinion it is in a category all its own. Love it!

And in case my endorsement isn't enough, this comes from America's Test Kitchen, so you know it is going to be fabulous. If you are making it, and taste the sauce in step 2 and think you don't like it, hold on. It is not until the final moment, when the onion, steak, vegetables, cilantro, mint, dressing and peanuts all come together that you have the masterpiece. I could eat the whole thing myself.Thai-Style Steak Salad
1 1/4 lbs flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice from 3 limes
4 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded (cut in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds with a spoon) and sliced thin - I just use the whole cucumber
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
2 T packed fresh cilantro leaves, torn
2 T packed fresh mint leaves, torn
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed, dried and torn into pieces (4 cups lightly packed)
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse (I use salted)

1. Pat the steak dry with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the steak and cook until well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the pan begins to scorch or smoke. Transfer the steak to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and pepper flakes together in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the dressing into a large bowl and set aside.

3. Slice the steak crosswise on the bias into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Cut the longer slices in half, into roughly 3-inch lengths. Add the steak to the small bowl of dressing, toss to coat, and let marinate for 5 minutes.

4. Remove the steak from the dressing and discard the marinade. Toss the steak, cucumber, onion, cilantro and mint with the reserved dressing in the large bowl. Arrange the lettuce on a large serving platter or individual plates. Spoon the steak and vegetables over the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with any dressing left in the bowl and sprinkle with peanuts before serving.

*For picky kids who are anti-sauce or don't like their foods touching each other, I just leave some steak out of the marinade, and leave some lettuce and cucumbers without dressing. Plain steak and salad for them.

Recipe from The Best Light Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Look Who's Two Months Old

And finally smiling for the camera...

And I would like to publicly thank her for the 5, 6, and yes, once even 7.5 hours of sleep stretches she has graced us with. Beloved, beloved daughter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poppy's Quilt

My mom is a supreme quilter extraordinaire. She has been quilting for as long as I can remember, though I think she picked it up in the 80's sometime. It is truly an art and a craft in the most skillful and talented sense of the words. Her house is hung and stacked with quilts; a napper never wants for cover there. Throughout our childhood, the beds were always covered with handmade quilts. When we each married, a wedding quilt was made. Each grandchild has a totally unique custom baby quilt. And now, as many of the grandchildren are getting older, Mom is working her way down the line making "teenage" twin size quilts for each of them, carefully consulting and working with each to make exactly what they like.

Likewise, each baby quilt has had input from the parents. For Hazel's I wanted a calming aquatic theme; it is gorgeous. For Ginger's, we went with a much-appliqued NYC park scene (since that was our life when she was born.) For each, I consulted with Mom on the phone since we did not live close. However, this time around we live 30 minutes away so the collaboration was more intense.

For Poppy, we chose a pattern I found years ago in one of her quilt magazines; it's called "I Remember Aprons" and I LOVE it. Mainly because it's totally cute but also because it allows a lot of variety and doesn't tie me down to any particular color scheme; I could just pick any fabrics I liked. As you can see, I liked quite a few.
I wanted a modern-vintage meld so we chose some of Mom's authentic feedsacks and vintage prints as well as some new quarters from the local quilt shop. We sorted, narrowed down, sorted again and rearranged the fabrics, and later the blocks, on several collaborative visits over the several months before Poppy was born. Mom really wanted to finish it before she was born and was very patient as I waffled on what to use for the border and backing, finally deciding on the outrageously festive polka dots and, for the back, a rockin' Amy Butler print named, what else?, "Fresh Poppies."
Even though I had chosen the pattern and fabrics, and knew basically what the quilt would look like, I was still blown away - totally flabbergasted - by the detail Mom put into each block. Here are a few close-ups - aren't they amazing?

Poppy is currently sleeping in our room, but in the next few months as she sleeps longer stretches we will move her into her own room, and this baby will hang center stage above her crib so she can stare at it in amazement as I do. As you are doing. As we all do.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Alfred Einhorn Day

This tooth has been bothering me for awhile and I finally called the dentist about it. After asking me some questions, he referred me to an endodontist, who I saw this morning.

Endodontists specialize in root canals and other procedures involving tooth pulp and root tissues. And let me tell you, those guys DO NOT mess around. I thought I was going in for a consultation and assessment. He took an x-ray, talked to me for a minute, and BAM!, we were doing a root canal.

He shot me up generously with novocaine and went to check on the at-least-two-other patients he was working on simultaneously while his assistant prepped me with a latex shield, tooth isolator thingy, and rubber wedge to hold my mouth open. Then he went to work and it was over in what seemed like no time.

While I lay there pondering the history of dentistry, trying to ignore the burning smell and drill sounds coming from inside my mouth, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to live in an age of analgesics. The tooth pain before had been horrible, so much so that I had started taking my leftover C-section prescription painkillers for it. It was impossible to imagine the pain of what he was doing to the tooth now, without something blocking it. I vowed to come home and learn the name of the saint that invented novocaine. It's Alfred Einhorn (1856-1917), a German chemist. Words can't say how much I appreciate him.

So I've decided to take action. I hereby declare June 10 Alfred Einhorn Day. Traditional celebrations include eating soup and milkshakes, visiting or at least hugging a dentist, and a lot of lopsided smiling. Happy Alfred Einhorn Day to you all.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Elusive Smiles

Poppy has started smiling, but ARGH!, will she do it for the camera? Not a chance. We keep trying, trusting that someday we'll catch it. In the meantime, here are a few attempts:
(Of course the swing was moving...)

Here's what we usually get when she sees the camera:

But sometimes we get some cuteness before the crying starts. She may not be smiling, but she is still. SO. CUTE.

(If this pic doesn't sell the booties, I don't know what could.)
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