helter swelter.

Hello, y’all!  I hope you had a fabulous Fourth of July celebration week in spite of the sweltering heat!  Not surprisingly, life threw a curveball at me and put a wrench in my travel plans.  I was supposed to be heading to New Jersey on the 4th to help take care of a new little bundle of joy…but that bundle is still hanging out on the inside, all warm and snuggly.  So, I changed my flight and ended up making a quick, much-needed trip to our friends’ lake house in Alabama for the Star-Spangletastic Pork of July Party 2012.  Yeeha!!!  I did a whole lot of relaxing- floating in the lake, eating pork of many kinds, laughing with friends, and enjoying two sets of fireworks on the water alongside a two-year-old whose commentary was simply precious.  I even got to write my name in the sky with a pretty sparkler.  I took next to no pictures- leaving my phone in my room the whole time- disconnected from the real world.  What I did capture before I even put my purse down, however, was this beautiful sight.

A sea of tomatoes, straight out of Gustave’s garden.  Gustave has a super green thumb, and she always tells me all about how easy it is to grow everything under the sun.  She doesn’t realize her talents!  This year’s bounty was amazing.

In addition to all of these lovelies, there were lots of peppers, squash, okra, and eggplant.

After canning loads of tomatoes as if it were second nature, Gustave sent me packing with bags of garden fresh goodies, and I was excited to get home and cook up dinner.

This week, Jackson Lowe’s CSA community will receive tomatoes, squash, basil, and green beans.  I give you this simple summer supper of Grilled Hanger Steak with Stuffed Tomatoes and Green Beans.

Hanger steak is an under-celebrated cut of beef that “hangs” between the rib and the loin of a beef cow and is part of the diaphragm.  It is an extremely tender piece of meat, boasting the buttery qualities of a filet mignon and the “chew” you expect from a New York strip.  Although some say it’s difficult to prepare just right, like a skirt steak can be, Adam and I have had great success marinating and grilling hanger steaks over hot coals.  Our butcher removes the membrane before we buy it, but you may have to tackle that step on your own or ask your butcher to assist you.

In a bowl or zip -top bag combine:

1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar

1 heaping T whole grain mustard

2 cloves garlic, sliced

splash of canola oil

good several pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the ingredients together, taste it to be sure it’s salty, and then toss your steak to coat it well.  Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or so.  I use this marinade on pork tenderloins, steaks, chicken, you name it.  It’s quick to put together and packs a great punch of flavor in a short time.  If you have even less than 2 hours on your hands, you can add the juice of a lemon to speed up the marination process.

With our steak soaking, we moved onto our tomatoes.

For these you’ll need:

1/2 Cup whole wheat couscous

3/4 Cup chicken or veggie broth (low sodium or homemade is best)

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1/2 magda squash (about a Cup), diced small – any kind of squash or zucchini will do.

1/4 Cup pine nuts, toasted over low heat until golden brown

zest of a lemon and juice of half

a sprig or 2 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons or torn last minute

1/2 Cup or so shredded Asiago cheese- or the cheese of your choice.  Anything that will melt will be perfect!

4 – 6 large tomatoes or even more small tomatoes

In a small pot with a lid, bring your broth to a boil.  Once boiling, add your couscous and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid and remove from heat.  Let the couscous steam for 5 minutes.  Easiest thing ever.  Once it’s cooked, fluff with a fork and turn the couscous out into a large bowl.

Slice the tops off your tomatoes with a sharp serrated knife, then carve a circle around the perimeter.   Use your fingers to scoop out most of the seeds.

I chose to use a melon baller to gut the tomatoes and I placed their meat into a strainer.  Once your tomatoes are clean, sprinkle them with salt and turn them upside down to drain over a paper towel for about 20 minutes.  You want to remove as much liquid as possible from the tomatoes.

While your tomatoes hang out, dice up your onions, squash, tomato pulp (squeezing out any excess liquid), and press your garlic.  Heat a medium pan with a drizzle of olive oil to medium heat.  Saute your onions with a pinch of salt for about 4 or 5 minutes, letting them soften.  Add your garlic and stir for about 30 seconds to a minute.  Add your squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 2 minutes or so.

Then remove the veggies from the heat to a bowl, letting them cool down a few minutes.

Place all of your stuffing ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Then, use a paper towel to blot the liquid from the gutted tomatoes.  Season the insides with salt and pepper and stuff ’em.

Use your hands to gently pat the mixture into the cavity, not packing them too tightly.  Then, top them with cheese.

Preheat your oven to 400°, and heat your grill to high.  Remove the steak from the fridge about 20 minutes before you’ll cook it to take the chill off the meat.

Meanwhile, rinse your beans

and snap off the stemmed ends.  These beans are so fresh and crisp, they don’t need much in the way of preparation.

Use a knife to slice the long ones in half, and leave the shorter ones whole.

Get your handsome steaks on the oiled grill and cook about 2- 3 minutes on each side, creating a beautiful charred crust on the outside.

You’ll want to pull the steaks off when they reach about 130° on an internal meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.  When your steaks are approaching their prime temperature, pop the tomatoes into the oven on a sheet pan, and let them cook about 10 – 15 minutes.  The stuffing is already cooked, so you just really want to melt the cheese.

Remove your cooked steak to a plate or platter, allowing the steak to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

This will give the juices time to redistribute within the meat, offering the most succulent steak possible.

Lastly, bring a medium pot of water to boil.  Salt the pot once boiling and add your green beans.

Boil your beans for five minutes, then drain.  You can run them under cold water to stop the cooking, or just drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Slice that steak with a sharp knife

and plate it up!

Lay several slices of steak on each plate alongside a stuffed tomato and a nice helping of green beans.

Mmmmmhmmmm.  This dinner was scrumptious!  The steak was super tender.  Buttery and flavorful with a melt-in-your-mouth quality at the beginning of each bite and a chew factor that gives you time to really savor the taste.  The basalmic vinegar and mustard give it the perfect amount of tang.  Every bite was spectacular.  Each green bean was crisp and sweet, full of summer.  And those tomatoes.  Yum!  The sweetness of the tomato itself shined, while the couscous worked like a charm to soak up all of the juices on my plate.  The slight stinkiness of the Asiago cheese offered balance, and the al dente  squash and toasty pine nuts provided texture within each forkful.    Summertime success!

I hope this post finds you healthy and happy, immersed in the sun and fun of summer.  I hope you’re playing around with your tomatoes- putting them in just about every dish possible, and enjoying them sliced and salted on hearty pieces of bread slathered in mayo (or not).  Here’s to another week of July goodness, love, light, and joy.

Happy cooking and eating to you!

ashli

 

 

 

 

 

 

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