As inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts I’m following along with Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, in my tiny New York kitchen. Let’s see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Barbeques and Bouquets”
The Set-up: Ina and her friend Antonia are swapping expertise – I’ll let you guess which one is doing barbeques and which one is doing bouquets.
0:51 – First, up: Easy Gazpacho with Goat Cheese Croutons and Ina is dicing vegetables.
1:39 – This recipe does seem very easy. So far the process consists of Step 1. Make vegetables small with a knife. Step 2. Make vegetables really small with a food processor.
2:18 – Next, Step 3. Whisk the very small vegetables with seasonings.
3:03 – Finally, Step 4. Let the tiny, seasoned vegetables think about what they’ve done and grow in power.
4:22 – We take a break from our vegetable processing to see what Antonia is up to in the flower world. (Spoiler alert: she’ll be teaching Ina about making bouquets.)
4:46 – If Ina’s love of orange tulips and blue muscari has infiltrated even the most obscure Hamptons florist shops how has Antonia, alleged dear friend, escaped knowing this key piece of trivia? Time for a new BFF I think… (Call me!)
5:34 – Back with Ina to make crouton toppers for the gazpacho. Here the ‘crouton’ does not refer to a seasoned cube of bread a la Caesar salad, but a slice of baguette broiled to crisp perfection and schmeared with goat cheese. Yum.
6:51 – Ina puts the finishing touches on the soup as Antonia arrives with half the flower shop in her arms. They toast (pun not originally intended) with their soup and croutons.
11:09 – Time for the Barbecue part of the episode as kicked off by Antonia opening a bottle of white wine in prep for the Mustard Marinated Flank Steak. You have my full attention.
11:38 – Ina has two Pro Tips for us. #1: Scoring the top of the flank steak in a criss-cross pattern allows the marinade to absorb better. #2: mix the marinade right in the measuring cup.
12:22 – We learn that Antonia lives on Cape Cod now and has a tendency to follow her nose Yogi Bear-style to the backyard of anyone grilling which does sound like a good strategy for garnering invitations.
13:43 – Off to the grill! Pro Tip #3: Brush the grill with a little olive oil to keep the meat from sticking. Also, according to Antonia “It’s not a party unless something catches on fire.” Keep that in mind if you’ve invited her to dinner…
14:19 – Pro Tip #4: Always allow the meat to rest (10-15 minutes) before slicing to allow the juices to come back in. We don’t see the results, but I’ve decided to trust her that it will be “perfectly medium rare.”
19:34 – Last grilling recipe: Sicilian Grilled Swordfish in honor of Antonia’s Italian ancestry. This one is a little different – the marinade goes on after the fish is cooked. Again, extending trust here.
20:06 – Antonia is supposed to be making the marinade, but the swordfish filets are fairly thin (1/2” or so) and I can hear the panic Ina’s voice that they’ll be cooked before she finishes. There’s no time for explanations!
20:41 – “She wields a mean whisk.” One of my favorite Ina quotes.
21:25 – The swordfish is off the grill and the marinade is finished (whew!) Ina uses a fork to poke small holes in the filets, then pours the marinade over the top and wraps the plate in foil. I’ve never seen that technique before, but it’s similar to the flank steak trick we learned earlier.
26:17 – Onward with Act 2: Bouquets. Antonia will be guiding us through how to create an old-fashioned ‘nosegay’ aka: a small portable bouquet.
27:38 – Step 1: make a layer of flat green leaves to give the flowers a background and to cover the stems. Cut long stemmed flowers quite short so that the blooms are closer together.
28:22 – Step 2: put in a base of Flower #1 (Ina and Antonia started with the larger orange tulips) then fill in with small groupings of the contrasting Flower #2 (smaller blue muscari), and finally add a different texture with Flower #3 (orange star of jerusalem) choose something in the same color palette as Flower #1.
29:53 – Step 3: wrap that bouquet up with florist wire and/or tape and cut the ends to the right length. Step 4: pretend you’re bridesmaids and hum the “Wedding March.” Step 5: realize you’re wearing the same outfit too….
I never thought of putting a marinade on after the meat is already cooked – I want to try that some time.
Antonia’s bouquet lesson was really helpful; great tips!
I would happily buy a French blue shirt and join Ina and Antonia’s ‘bridal party.’
In May or June all my cooking magazines start talking about all these great recipes to make on the grill, but with a 12th story apartment, no terrace and definitely no backyard I’ve been left to live vicariously through photos. I decided to make a first attempt at what I’ll call “urban grilling” with the Mustard Marinated Flank Steak and the purchase of a Lodge cast iron grill pan.
The recipe itself is very easy to follow; if you can chop garlic and shallots and measure wine, olive oil and mustard you’re already half done. The tricky part is the grilling, but Ina was right on with her timing. I pre-heated the grill pan for a few minutes until it was hot, cooked each side for exactly 5 minutes, rested for 10 minutes under foil and the meat was hot and red in the center (medium-rare.) If you like beef cooked a little more then add a minute or so to the cooking time and check with a meat thermometer.
One final point: with the exception of the marinating time (I left mine overnight in the refrigerator) – the prep and cooking take no more than 30 minutes of hands on time. FAST.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, without question. I used one glass casserole dish (to marinate the steak in), one liquid measuring cup, a small cutting board, a cast iron grill pan, tongs, whisk, and chef’s knife.
Let’s be honest, short of burning the meat to a crisp or waaay over seasoning it steak will always be a hit in the Messersmith household, so it’s no surprise that we both really liked Mustard Marinated Flank Steak. The flavor of the mustard in the marinade comes through, but not so strongly that it masks the beef, and the grill pan did a great job of imparting caramelized sear – don’t forget to pre-heat! It probably would be a bit better with a little charcoal smoke from a real grill, but if your outdoor space is exactly zero this works pretty darn well.