Another Great Steak Plus Fries!

This is another great steak recipe…..plus fries!  I know you will think this is a lie, but I don’t really eat that much red meat.  It really is by chance that I have posted so many steak recipes on Acorns On Glen.  I eat a lot of fish, pasta and chicken, but every so often, I crave a steak.  So the next time you crave a steak, here is a great recipe to cure your craving.  It all begins with that pretty little picture of meat above….the hanger steak.   

A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor.  In the past, it was sometimes known as “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale.  Hanger steak resembles flank steak in texture and flavor.  The hanger steak is not particularly tender and is best marinated and cooked quickly over high heat and served rare or medium-rare, to avoid toughness.  Anatomically, the hanger steak is said to “hang” from the diaphragm of the steer.  The diaphragm is one muscle, commonly cut into two separate cuts of meat: the “hanger steak” traditionally considered more flavorful, and the outer “skirt steak” composed of tougher muscle within the diaphragm. The hanger is attached to the last rib and the spine near the kidneys.  The hanger steak has historically been more popular in Europe, but over the last several years, it has slowly become more popular in the United States.

What I liked about this recipe was how easy it was to prepare.  I loved the taste of the marinade and enjoyed serving the steak with Dijon mustard and carmelized shallots on the side.  The other great thing was the addition of the oven-baked fries into the mix.  I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like.  What could be bad about steak and fries?  I baked my fries into more of a hash brown looking dish versus cooking them longer so they would be crispy fries, but the choice is yours.  Here we go as we cook us up some steak and fries:

Ingredients:

For the steak:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of hanger steak
  • 5 medium shallots, halved or quartered
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Whisk together 1/4 cup oil, the vinegar, garlic, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in a large glass dish.  Place steak in dish; turn to coat with marinade.  Let steak marinate, turning often, for at least 20 minutes.  I kept my steak in the marinade for about an hour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Season with salt.  Cook, adding 1/4 cup water in batches as needed to keep shallots from sticking, until tender and caramelized, 15 to 18 minutes.  Transfer shallots to a plate.

Wipe out skillet.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade; pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper.

 Cook steak, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees (for medium-rare), 10 to 12 minutes per side.  Tent with foil; let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.  Season with pepper.

Meanwhile, wipe out skillet; reheat shallots over medium heat.  Thinly slice the steak and serve with shallots and mustard.

Ingredients:

For the fries:

  • 2-3 russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheets
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Using a mandolin, cut the potatoes into ultra-thin shapes (or “shoestrings”).  You can do this up to four hours ahead; to prevent discoloration, place cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator until ready to use, then gently pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly coat two baking sheets with oil.  Toss together potatoes, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  Dividing evenly among prepared baking sheets, arrange potatoes in a single layer.

Bake, turning potatoes with a metal spatula a few times and rotating sheets halfway through, until crisp and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.  Transfer potatoes to a large piece of parchment paper; let cool 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Pretty easy, right?  Both recipes feed 4 people.  Although I have posted a couple of steak recipes here on Acorns On Glen, I have found that each one is very different based on the cut of steak that we used.  See which one you like better-ribeye vs. hanger steak.  I think you’ll find that both of them are equally as tasty as the other.  Enjoy!  Have you liked the recipes we’ve posted so far here on Acorns On Glen?

Meet My Garden

This is my garden.  You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been busy this week introducing you to all of my favorite places here on Glen Road.  I want you to see how they look now, so we can marvel together on Acorns On Glen over what they will become from now until Autumn.  My garden sits at the back of the property and is outside of the fence that guards the rest of the yard from visits by deer.  We learned in our very first year that while Bambi is cute, Bambi will also eat every last plant that can be found on your property.  The next year we installed a six foot tall fence in the woods that surrounds our property in order to keep the deer out.  During all the seasons, except Winter, the forest growth makes the fence appear almost invisible.  Because we built the garden outside of the fence, we installed protection to ensure our garden is not wiped out by deer like we experienced in our first year on Glen Road.

The actual garden is approximately 20 feet long by 10 feet wide.  Each of the four beds inside is close to 8 feet long by 4 feet wide with a white rock path that seperates each bed.  I try to organically garden as much as possible, so it was important to me that all of the construction material used was not chemically treated in any way.  Many raised bed gardens use treated wood to avoid decay, but I opted out of that.  I didn’t want any chemicals seeping into the soil that we use to grow and then those chemicals getting into me through the vegetables that we plant, harvest and eat.   

I love the fact that my garden is surrounded by forest on all sides.  I didn’t need to remove any trees in the area I selected.  There was nothing in this area before the garden was constructed except for brush and rock.  The area is also very sunny, which is important if you hope to grow strong and healthy vegetables. 

My garden is my sanctuary.  I go there to garden, of course, but it also serves as a place that provides me great amounts of peace and tranquillity after a long week at work.  My garden also acts as my psychiatrist because I become calm and centered in the garden and then I am able to make the best decisions around what I need to do and what I do not need to do in my life.  The garden also connects me to nature.  I marvel at the lessons that nature teaches you if you just stop and take notice.  My garden is also my way of meditating.  There is nothing better than hearing the sound of wind, the warmth of sun on your shoulders, watching a seed grow, the feeling of soil on your hands to center you and make you one with the higher spirit.        

At the current time, all of my beds have a cover crop on them.  The cover crop is primarily winter rye grass and some red clover that I will turn into the soil in April.  As it decomposes into the soil, it will add nutrients to provide the garden with what it needs to grow vegetables.  Think of the cover crop as my garden’s vitamin pill.

In the picture at the top of the post, you will see what appears to be a white blanket covering about half of the soil in one of the raised beds.  This is a floating row cover that is protecting four rows of spinach.  Last Thanksgiving, I put on my thickest Winter coat and gloves and dug four rows where I planted spinach.  I then covered the area with a floating row cover to protect the spinach seeds from Winter snow and ice and the frigid temperatures.  The floating row covers also help to hold some heat in around the soil to help the spinach seeds sprout in the Spring when temperatures get a little warmer.  Spinach is one of a number of vegetables that do the best if grown in cooler temperatures.  It is true because I took up the floating row cover for the day and there were the four rows of spinach at almost an inch high.  Pretty good given the Winter we endured here in Connecticut.  With all the snow and ice, I thought that the spinach was going to be a lost cause.  I’m glad I was wrong!  I hope to be enjoying some spinach with garlic and oil in a few short weeks.  I will permanently remove the floating row cover in the beginning of May when the temperature rises and frost is less likely to occur.

 

I used two different types of spinach varieties in my Thanksgiving planting.  One was a smooth-leaf spinach which is the traditional kind that most people are used to and the second one was a savoy-leaf spinach, which is a spinach with a more curly leaf. 

  • ‘Space’ is the smooth-leaf variety.  It has medium dark green leaves with are upright and smooth to maybe a little savoyed. 
  • ”Tyee’ is the savoyed-leaf variety.  Again, the folks at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, http://www.johnnyseeds.com, really came through.  They were the first to offer ‘Tyee’ and it is now considered the standard of savoyed spinach for its bolt resistance and vigorous growth.  Dark green leaves with an upright growth habit.  I was told it was ideal for over-wintering.

So now you know where I will be most weekends from now until the early Winter.  The garden is one of my favorite spots and one of my earliest childhood memories.  I will always remember the gardening lessons I received at a young age from my Grandmother and my Father.  Honestly, they were organic gardeners way before organic was cool and necessary in today’s environment.  I have learned all of what I know in the garden primarily through them.  What are you doing in your garden that you would like to share at Acorns On Glen? 

Meet The Espaliers

This is my set of espalier apple trees.  They may be a little hard to see without leaves or fruit on them, but there are two of them.  Each tree has six horizontal branches on them–two at the top, two in the middle and two towards the bottom of the tree.  They are waiting for Spring to take full charge of the weather and then they will bud and sprout leaves.  I also hope to get a few apples from them this year.  The trees were purchased last year towards the middle of Summer at a local nursery that specializes in trees of all kinds.  While the tree nursery is not open to the public, my friend is a landscaper and was able to buy them on my behalf.  Each tree is approximately six feet tall and about five feet wide.  The first year, due to the trauma of their transplant, the trees were full of leaves but did not produce any fruit.  The nursery had told us that this was normal and that fruit should come on strong in the coming year for the trees.  When I bought them, the nursery said they were seven years old.  We are now going into their eighth year.  I wanted to show the bare trees now so that as they grow and prosper (meaning provide me with some apples) that we started at their 2011 beginning. 

A little history on espalier trees.  Espalier is a method of training and pruning a tree or shrub, forcing it to grow flat against a wall or a free-standing trellis.  The word espalier is French, and it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against”.  During the 17th Century, the word initially referred only to the actual trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it has come to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.  The practice was popularly used in the Middle Ages in Europe to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space and to decorate solid walls by planting flattened trees near them.  While they are very pretty in a garden, espalier trees are also an effective technique for producing an ample crop of fruit in a small space.

My espalier trees are two different varieties.  The first is a “Spartan” apple tree.

The Spartan apple is a cultivar developed by Dr. R. C. Palmer and introduced in 1936 from the Federal Agriculture Research Station in Summerland, British Columbia.  The Spartan is notable for being the first new breed of apple produced from a formal scientific breeding program.  The apple was supposed to be a cross between two North American varieties, the McIntosh and the Newtown Pippin, but recently it was discovered through genetic analysis that it didn’t have the Newtown Pippin as one of the parents and its identity remains a mystery.  The Spartan apple is considered a good all-purpose apple.  The apple is of medium size and has a bright red blush, but can have background patches of greens and yellows.

The second type of apple tree that is in the garden is a “Liberty” apple tree.

The Liberty apple is a hybrid cultivar developed by the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. It was first pollinated in 1955 by crossing a Macoun with a ‘Perdue 54-12’ for the sake of acquiring disease resistances. It was first released to the public in 1974.  The skin is red and smooth with a juicy flesh.

So I hope you enjoyed meeting Mr. and Mrs. Espalier.  I will share their journey throughout this year.  Our goal will be a picture here on Acorns On Glen of an apple pie that contains the fruit from these two trees at the end of the season.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Next for our espalier couple is having my landscaper friend come and build a support system (a trellis or frame of sorts) for them to keep their branches straight and help provide support when the branches become heavier with their leaves and fruit.  There’s a lot more to come with our trees.  Do you have a favorite apple recipe that you would like to share here on Acorns On Glen?

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

This is a confession.  I love peanut butter.  I like it on toast, on a banana and sometimes I just stick a teaspoon right into the jar and eat it without anything else.  However, the number one way I like peanut butter is in a cookie.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew I had to make it.  Not only does the cookie itself have peanut butter in it, but the cream frosting in the center of the sandwich also contains my secret pleasure.  They are delicious!  The recipe is also pretty easy.  Just mix, refrigerate, slice and bake.  I hate recipes that are complicated and take all day.  Join us here on Acorns On Glen as we make these peanut butter delights. 

Ingredients:

For the cookie:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 large egg

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, preferable natural
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter until light and fluffy; beat in egg.

 With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture, beating just until combined (do not overmix).

Form dough into two 8-inch-long rectangular logs. Wrap each log in waxed or parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 1 hour.  I made mine late in the evening and chilled overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. With a sharp knife, slice dough 1/4 inch thick; place on two baking sheets, 1 inch apart.

Bake until cookies are puffed, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Make filling.  Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer on medium until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down side of bowl.  Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature; stir with a flexible spatula before using.

Spread about a tablespoon of filling onto the bottom part of one cookie.  Place another cookie on top placing the bottom part on top of the filling.  Finish filling the remaining cookies and then dive in and have a couple.  The recipe makes 30 completed cookies.  What food item (like peanut butter) can’t you get enough of when it is in the house?

Friday Dance Party

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen.  Why do we do this every Friday?  I think we all need time to celebrate another week of LIVING through reflection and dancing.  Let’s start by giving thanks that we have survived another week.  We’ve gotten through work, taking care of our families, checking up on friends.  We’ve even gotten through the “Spring ahead” time change.  We were a little fuzzy after the time change, but we survived it.  However, the best thing to celebrate–we are alive and kicking.  This week we need to be especially grateful about this fact given the tragic events our poor friends in Japan have been enduring.  Be strong, Japan!!  So take a minute to reflect about your great life and getting through the challenges that faced you this week.  Also say a prayer for the people of Japan.  You are truly lucky, especially after the devastating events we’ve witnessed this week.  Did you do that?

Good….now let’s dance.

It needs to get warm here.  I don’t think my hands or feet have been warm since mid-December.  We’ve had some sun, but will it last?  Earlier this week, I wrote about Spring and how it needs to get here…NOW!  I am sick of snow, of clouds, of gray sky…..OK, I am sick to death of Winter.  Spring needs to take charge now and send Winter packing!  I need some full-time sun to warm me.  So how can I get warm until the sun decides to show up for the long haul?  Well, we can start by going to a place that has a weather forecast for the next few days in the low 80’s.  So I’m going to ask my Baby to smile at me and we’re going to RIO…..DE JANEIRO!  Yes, Rio.  So turn up your speakers and join my Baby, Peter Allen, some Rockettes, a camel and me on an imaginary trip to Rio De Janeiro.  At least the dancing will help warm me up until Spring decides to become the boss.  Samba, anyone?  Enjoy the video show and remember to shake it hard…you’ve earned it!!  Do you have any ways that you celebrate life on a regular basis that you would like to share?

A Miracle Turns Ugly

This is a waterfall that I never knew existed.  In a recent post about Spring, I had mentioned that I had taken a long walk on Glen Road.  Our dog, JoJo, joined me as well.  It was a nice feeling being out on a beautiful Spring-like day and it was the perfect opportunity to get JoJo out for a walk.  She loves the out of doors and this Winter has not given her much of an opportunity to get out and about.  After a few new twists and turns from the path we normally take, I began to hear the sound of splashing and running water.  As I walked towards the sound, the water noises began to get louder and louder.  Rounding the corner, I came across a little miracle….a waterfall.  Maybe water from the swollen creek coming over a dam built by some busy beavers?  I had no idea that this waterfall existed.  Maybe it was just created by the melting winter snow and rain?  I stood there taking these pictures thinking about how something so lovely and peaceful could just pop up out of nowhere.  JoJo stood there in silence as well.  I think she was as surprised as I was that something so beautiful existed so close to home.  This is like a story about life, really.  The fact that you never know what you will see when you round a corner or start a new chapter in your own life.  Nature, in particular for me, gives me miracles almost every day if I look for them.  A sprouting seed, a tomato on a vine, a butterfly, a waterfall.  All signs that wonderful things are out there if you are aware and in the moment.

As JoJo and I ventured closer to the dam itself, it did indeed appear to have many traits that told us this was the work of a beaver.  Beavers are known for their natural trait of building dams on rivers and streams, and building their homes (known as “lodges”) in the resulting pond.  Beavers also build canals to float build materials that are difficult to haul over land.  They use powerful front teeth to cut trees and other plants that they use both for building and for food.  In the absence of existing ponds, beavers must construct dams before building their lodges. First they place vertical poles, then fill between the poles with a crisscross of horizontally placed branches.  They fill in the gaps between the branches with a combination of weeds and mud until the dam impounds sufficient water to surround the lodge.  This dam and the waterfall over it was spectacular.  A couple more shots from the path and then JoJo and I would be ready to walk again knowing that we would absolutely come back soon.  I picked JoJo up and we began to walk.  Then it happened…………

There was a slapping noise on the water and then the sound of feet crunching on dead leaves and grass.  I could not believe what was crawling towards us.  Before our eyes was a brave beaver now standing right by us.  You know I do not like critters, especially ones that drop by without an invitation.  I’m not sure what size a normal beaver really is, but this one was huge (in my mind).  Wet, dripping, redish-brown fur, black beady eyes and five inch razor-sharp claws.  I even think I caught a whiff of hot, steamy, foul-smelling breath coming from its nostrils and mouth.  I was terrified!  How could this be happening to me?  In my mind, I could see the beaver attacking me.  It has teeth that can cut down trees, so I knew that this beaver could easily take me with one bite.  It would knock me out with one slap of its tail on my head.  It would chew me up and store me for future meals.  Future explorers to the dam would look down to find a dirty leg bone (mine) that was used to hold back the water.  The Coroner would confirm on the news a week later that the bone did indeed belong to the man from Glen Road that went missing in the woods.  Thank God I had JoJo in my arms.  The beaver just survived a punishing winter and had to be hungry.  Maybe it was thinking that JoJo looked like an appetizer?  Do beavers have a taste for Yorkies?

I did the most manly thing I could think of while standing there paralyzed with fear.  I let out a high-pitched scream.  This scream was so loud and shrill that it could be heard by animals within a seven mile radius.  No human would ever be able to hear my scream due to the high decibel level that came out of my mouth.  Human ears just aren’t capable of hearing at this pitch.  I turned around, Yorkie in hand, and ran for my life.  I made some zig zags in my course in case the beaver used its strong legs and lunged at me.  It might miss me if I keep going to the left and then to the right.  I quit running about a hundred yards away.  I turned around to see the beast, but it was gone.  Back into the water it loves so well.  That damned dam….why did my miracle have to end so ugly?  What are some of your real-life critter stories that you can share on Acorns On Glen? 

The Seeds Have Arrived! The Seeds Have Arrived!

This is a picture to confirm that the seeds for my 2011 garden have arrived.  If you remember my last seed post, I had narrowed down my search for the right seed company to Johnny’s Selected Seeds out of what seemed to me to be hundreds of seed catalogs that came to Glen Road.  Right after that earlier seed post , I sat down and made my order and now they are here.  It is perfect timing since this coming weekend will be about the right time to plant these seeds and place them under the grow light in preparation for planting when the soil gets to the right temperature.  I am estimating this will be mid to late-May.  While most of my seeds came from Johnny’s, I did buy some heirloom seeds from a runner-up, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Let me share with you what seeds I have ordered for the 2011 garden.  Let’s start with the order from Johnny’s, http://www.johnnyseeds.com:

  • Skywalker F1 Organic Cauliflower – best organic variety for fall harvest.  Uniform, medium-sized, self-wrapping heads.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.
  • Tendersweet F1 Cabbage, Early Green – midsize, flat heads stand well without splitting.  Leaves are thin, sweet and crisp.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.
  • Celebrity F1 Tomato, Red Short Vine – my father’s favorite tomato to grow.  Medium-large, 7-8 ounce tomato.  Flavorful, globe-shaped, firm red fruits that ripen mid-season.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.
  • Granadero F1 Organic Tomato – wanted a great sauce tomato.  Produces a uniform, attractive, bright red fruit, 4-5 ounces in size.  Thick-walled construction makes it good for sauce.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.
  • Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix Greens, Salad and Braising Mix – Johnny’s most popular brand of salad greens.  Able to hold its color and resist mildew.  Made up of Green Oakleaf, Red Oakleaf, Green Romaine, Red Romaine, Lollo Rossa, Greenleaf and Redleaf lettuces.
  • Rover F1 Radish, Small Round Red – a great round red radish.  Smooth, round, dark red roots with a crisp, snow-white flesh.
  • D’Avignon Radish, Speciality – a traditional variety from Southern France.  3-4 inches long with a mostly red root, but with white tips.
  • Bull’s Blood Organic Beet, Heirloom – this beet shows a candy-striped root and the leaves are dark red and can be used to jazz up your salad.  This variety is often listed on different garden websites as one of the best.
  • Touchstone Gold Organic Beet, Specialty – this beet shows smooth roots that are golden in color, even when cooked.  Sweet flavor.  Leaves are green in color.
  • Nautic Organic Brussel Sprouts – a full-season sprout for late fall harvest.  Medium sized sprouts with an excellent taste.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.
  • Purple Top White Globe Organic Turnip – this is a traditional American turnip.  Smooth, round roots, 3-4 inches in diameter, that are white below the soil line and bright purple above.
  • Copra Organic Onion Plants F1 – onions are easier to grow from pregrown, spring dug plants.  These will be live onion plants delivered in May.
  • Traviata F1 Organic Eggplant, Italian – traditional Italian eggplants from organic seed.  Glossy black fruit in classic bell shape.  I will start this one indoors under my grow light and place outside in mid to late-May.

Here’s a little glossary of some terms used above or some notes I have made that are relevant:

F1: F1 refers to “first filial” or first generation offspring. Hybrid varieties of vegetables and flowers are typically F1 hybrids.  Hybrids are the offspring of a cross between two or more varieties, usually of the same species.  Hybrids are developed by the long, slow process of traditional plant breeding, which relies on natural reproductive methods. Hybrids are crosses between two or more parents with different desirable traits. Pollen from one parent plant is transferred to the flowers of the other parent plant. The seeds that develop are an F1, first filial generation, hybrid.

HEIRLOOM: An old variety that owes its present availability to the seed-saving efforts of amateurs.

UNTREATED: Seeds that have no chemical treatments. All seeds in my order were specified to be untreated.

Here is my small order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, http://www.rareseeds.com:

  • Blue Lake Bush Bean – this dark-green bean has been a standard for over 40 years.  The bush plants set heavy yields of flavorful pods that are tender and crisp.  Developed in 1961 from the Pole Blue Lake.  I ordered these because they are listed on many garden websites as one of the best bush bean to grow.

You might see some obvious exclusions in my orders.  No peppers, squash or broccoli–I’m not really a fan of these popular vegetables.  Sweet corn, peas or cucumbers–not sure I have enough room in my garden.  You need a lot of these to get enough to eat and I have some space limitations.  Carrots–a lot of gardeners I talk to say it is just easier to buy organic carrots at the supermarket.  I take orders well, so I’ll believe them.  As Spring gets here, I have so much to share about my 2011 garden in the next few weeks.  I am busy!  I would imagine you are as well with your gardening chores.  What are you doing now to get ready for your 2011 garden?