Filet Mignon with Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce

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A few weeks ago, Steve and I celebrated ten years since the day we met. Actually, since the night we met. It was a rather inelegant affair, in a dive bar, with a sloppy make out session in the corner. But that’s a story for another time.

After ten years, when we give each other gifts, they often end up being gifts for both of us. The most common gift we give each other is food. We love to find unique ingredients, strange and exotic edibles, and rare treats that we offer each other in order to then share them. A few years back, he gave me a can of green peppercorns for Christmas. I had never heard of them before and I was a little skeptical at first. I’ve never been a big black pepper fan. And I absolutely despise pink peppercorns.

So, I did an online search for recipes and found this recipe for a filet mignon with a green peppercorn cream sauce. It’s a pretty standard recipe for steak with a pepper cream sauce, except that instead of ground black peppercorns, it uses tender green ones. It turned out to be such a fantastic recipe, I’ve been making it for years.

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Filet Mignon with Green Peppercorn Cream Sauce – From Epicurious.com

Serves 4

Note: The can has a lot more green peppercorns than you’ll need. What I do with the left over peppercorns is rinse them of their brine and put them in a small bowl. I add distilled white vinegar to cover them, I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and I put them in the fridge. I find that they stay good for several weeks that way.

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
3 tablespoons butter
4 6- to 8-ounce filet mignon steaks (each about 1 inch thick)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons drained green peppercorns in brine

Directions:

Boil stock in small saucepan until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Cook steaks to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plate (do not clean skillet).

Add chopped shallots to same skillet and sauté 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add reduced beef stock, 1 cup whipping cream, 3 tablespoons Cognac and green peppercorns. Boil until mixture thickens to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Season sauce to taste with pepper. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve.

Miso-Creamed Kale

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Our trip to Cyprus was fantastic. In just a week, we did so much. We visited an ancient amphitheater, perched on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. We went to the little mountain church where I was baptized, built in the 15th century and still standing. In the village, where we stayed for part of the time, we got a private tour of the Byzantine icons museum from the most exuberant guide we’ve ever encountered, an elderly Cypriot man who told tales and mixed myths with science and at some point, serenaded us with a Byzantine hymn. We walked in the remains of a settlement from 9,000 B.C., their houses and retaining wall still partially intact.

And of course we ate. There was the dinner my mom prepared, with homemade pastitsiokoupepia (stuffed grape leaves), and kleftiko (lamb cooked in the oven until it melts in your mouth). She made a Lebanese mahallebi, a dessert of custard, pistachios and syrup, that we kept searching for during the rest of our trip, with no luck. We ate shamali, a syrup-soaked semolina cake that I absolutely love, and kolokotes (turnovers with pumpkin, bulgur wheat, and raisins). We had Syrian food as well, with deeply flavored muhammara, lovely fattoush salads, and the most delicious chicken livers I’ve ever eaten. They tasted of olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin. One rainy afternoon, we ate pork souvlaki and sheftalies (ground meat with spices, wrapped in caul fat) cooked over coals and served in the large, oval-shaped pita bread of Cyprus.

By the end of our trip, though, I started to really crave food from somewhere else. I wanted Chinese dumplings and mu shoo pork. I wanted pad thai or chicken laarb salad. I wanted kale with shitake mushrooms, smothered in a miso cream sauce. Something that didn’t include olive oil or lemon juice or ground lamb with parsley and onions or salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese .

Of course, it’s been just five days since we came back, and I’m already wishing I could get my hands on some sheftalies for dinner tonight.

DSC03472Miso-Creamed Kale – From Food52’s Genius Recipes

Ingredients:

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shimeji mushrooms with stems, or shitake mushroom tops
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white (shiro) miso, or more to taste

Directions:

1. Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When melted, add the shallot, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over low heat without letting the garlic and shallots color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the kale and continue to cook for a few more minutes until wilted. If it won’t all fit in the pan, just add what’s left after it’s cooked down a bit.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the mushrooms become too dry, add another tablespoon of butter. Stir in the soy sauce, cook another minute and turn off the heat.

3. Once the kale is wilted and soft, increase the heat to medium high, add the vermouth and cook until it’s just evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cream and miso, stirring until completely incorporated. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 2 more minutes until the sauce reduces slightly and tightens up the around the kale. Taste for seasoning (but don’t forget the mushrooms have soy sauce). Place the kale on a warm platter and scatter the mushrooms over the top. Serve immediately.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

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Spring is (sort of) finally here! Temperatures are above freezing and we have actual continuous periods of sunshine. Sure, it’s raining today, but I don’t care. Because Steve and I are taking off for a weeklong trip to Cyprus with three of our friends. We’ll visit my family and drive around the island in search of poppy covered mountainsides, turquoise blue seas, orange blossom scented villages, and lots and lots of good food. DSC03763

No two ingredients say “Meditteranean!” better than olive oil and lemons. They are at the very core of the soul of the people that have lived for millennia around this beautiful sea, with its temperate climate (though not always as warm or friendly as most people think) and plentiful fish (which are currently endangered from overfishing and pollution).

So, in honor of our Mediterranean adventure, I give you my favorite version of a lemon olive oil cake. You gotta love a cake that has a total of five ingredients. All things you probably have at home right now. With these humble ingredients you can have a cake that is not overly sweet and incredibly tender, making it an equally good option for afternoon tea or breakfast. Top it off with a dollop of lemon curd or sweetened whipped cream and you have a great dessert. This is a cake that in every bite, you can taste what it’s made of: the taste of eggs is right there, cut through by the acidity of the lemons, while everything is smoothed out by the mild grassiness of the olive oil.DSC03775Lemon Olive Oil Cake – Slightly adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
1 lemon (preferably organic/unsprayed)
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising) (see here for instructions on how to make your own cake flour)
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch (24-cm) springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.

Finely grate enough all the lemon zest and whisk it together with flour. Halve lemon, then squeeze and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil (3/4 cup) and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.

Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.