Every year some 400 new cookbooks cross the desk of a newspaper food editor. During my 25 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, I dutifully slogged through them all. Most, truth-be-told, were quickly relegated to the UT Library’s annual booksale bin.
Several dozen made their way into FOOD front page stories each year. About a dozen made it into the section’s end-of-the-year cookbook round-up which attempted to give guidance to folks doing their Christmas shopping.
The very best ended up in my kitchen.
This week I taught a cooking class at Great News!, the gourmet cookware shop and cooking school located in the Pacific Beach section of San Diego. The class was billed as the best recipes that I discovered during 25 years on the job at the UT...seven delicious dishes from the hordes I’ve read and tested.
Students in the class asked me if it was hard picking the recipes from such a vast pool. It wasn’t. These seven popped into my head while I was still on the phone discussing the idea of the class with Ron Eisenberg, Great News’s owner.
Of course, when I started flipping through cookbooks in my kitchen, I discovered there were scores more that I loved. I guess that’s the menu for a future class.
Here are three that will wow ‘em at your next dinner party.
The folks in the cooking class wanted to hear about my favorite cookbooks too. Tomorrow I’ll post a list of those dog-eared, balsamic-stained, Post-It-noted volumes that I can’t live without.
GRILLED FLANK STEAK WITH COFFEE AND BLACK PEPPER MARINADE
From “Bistro Cooking at Home” by Gordon Hamersley
Gordon Hamersley has been one of the brightest stars on the Boston scene for more than 20 years. His restaurant, Hamersley's Bistro, remains a trend-setter in the industry. Hamersley is there every night, working the line in his signature baseball cap.
1 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
About 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus a little more for rubbing on the steak
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely round black pepper
1 ½ - 2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
Combine the coffee, mustard, garlic, shallot, balsamic vinegar, the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a large dish or zip-top plastic bag. Remove and reserve ¼ - ½ cup marinade and set it aside to be used as sauce.
Add the flank steak to the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning the meat occasionally.
Heat a grill to medium-high. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the liquid for basting. Lightly pat the steak dry with paper towels, rub it all over with a little oil and season with a little more salt.
Grill, basting frequently with the coffee marinade, until cooked rare to medium-rare, 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness. (You don’t want to overcook flank steak so take it of the grill when it’s slightly less done that you would like.)
Let meat rest at least 5 minutes before slicing it thinly, across the grain.
Combine any juices that have collected with the reserved marinade, heat in a small saucepan, and pour over and around the beef. Serve.
Serves 4 to 6
PASTA WITH BROCCOFLOWER IN A SPICY PINK SAUCE
Adapted from “Cucina Simpatica” by Johanne Killeen & George Germon
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes in heavy puree (preferably Muir Fire-Roasted)
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ cup coarsely shredded Italian fontina cheese
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large head broccoflower, broken into rosettes
1 pound pasta shells or penne rigate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.
In a mixing bowl combine the tomatoes, cream, cheeses, peppers, pepper flakes and salt.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water. Two minutes later drop the broccoflower into the water. Cook together for another 5 minutes. Drain well and add pasta and broccoflower to the mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
Transfer the mixture to individual ceramic baking dishes or one large one. Melt butter in small sauté pan. Add breadcrumbs and stir until crumbs are moistened evenly with butter.
Top pasta mixture with the breadcrumbs and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bubbly and brown on top. Serves 6 to 8 as appetizer; 4 to 6 as entrée.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CAPERS AND GARLIC
1 large head cauliflower, broken apart into rosettes
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place cauliflower rosettes in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and stir with wooden spoon. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until rosettes are tender and have well-charred edges.
Remove oven from pan and immediately add minced garlic and capers. Stir to combine. Serve immediately. Serves 3 to 4.