What You Eat Is What You Get

Gourmet eating in a fast-food world

Flank Steak with Leeks and Blue Cheese

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Sorry this photo of my steak is terrible

It tasted a lot better than this picture makes it look

I flirt with vegetarianism about once a year, mainly because I love animals. I buy meat directly from a farmer as much as possible and stick to organic, free-range meat when I can, but I feel enormous guilt over it. Lately, I’ve tried convincing myself that beef — like episodes of Doctor Who that I watch on the British schedule* or foie gras — is made through magic.

So why can’t I just stick to my morals and give it up? Because I love steak way too much. I bought some flank steak at Gene’s Sausage Shop a couple weeks back, thinking I’d use it for a recipe I pulled out of Wichcraft, Tom Colicchio’s excellent sammy cookbook that grew out of his restaurant of the same name. But tonight, I realized what I really wanted was a well-made, simple steak with some veggies on the side. And that’s what this was. I pretty much use the same approach for any kind of steak, although if I’m making something with significant marbling (like ribeye) I use my heavy saucepan rather than my grill pan.I also eat my steak rare, because if I’m going to eat a steak, I’m going to eat a steak.

I served this with a slice of homemade bread and steamed sugar-snap peas. I find that a light, green vegetable always complements a heavy steak really nicely, particularly something that’s got a little bit of a sweet crunch to it, like in-season peas or asparagus.

*I never thought I could recover from losing David Tennant, but Matt Smith’s pretty good, isn’t he?

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Written by Stevie

July 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Patty Pan Squash with Pea-Salmon-Mint Salad

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Patty-pan squash!Here in Chicago, our summer weather is sometimes as unpleasant as our infamous winter weather. The thermostat routinely hits 90+ degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is even worse. Just walking to the train and back makes you sweat. It’s not like this every day — or even on consecutive days. When one of those incredibly hot-and-humid days hits us, I can barely stand to drink coffee, much less eat a full meal. But as it is, you have to eat. One of the good things about our summer is that even this early in the season, our farmers’ market produce is pretty varied and excellent. So I pulled together this light, tasty, all veggie meal that was nearly perfect for the super-sticky dog days of June. I used a significant amount of butter on the squash, which you could probably lessen if you wanted, but to me, it kind of made the meal.

Patty-Pan Squash
Serves 2

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pint patty pan squash, each piece cut in half
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons paprika

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan on medium. Add garlic cloves, then squash, cut-side up, and add salt and paprika. Pan-fry squash until soft, adding paprika and salt to taste as necessary. Remove squash one by one with tongs and put on plates to serve. Top with four cloves garlic each. Spoon leftover butter-paprika mixture from pan over squash and garlic cloves. Serve while warm.

Pea, Smoked Salmon, and Mint Salad
Serves 2

1 cup fresh English peas, shelled
1 tsp hazelnut oil
3 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn

Boil salted water in a steamer, then place peas into steamer basket, steam until tender. Remove steamer basket, rinse peas with cold water until room temperature and put into bowl. Add hazelnut oil and mix until coated. Add salmon and mint, then toss lightly and serve.

Written by Stevie

June 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Bangers and Mash with Purple Potatoes

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We’ve got World Cup fever in the Kuenn-Phipps household, in part because soccer is a sport that Keith a) understands and b) actually likes. So today I googled “soccer food,” unsure what your typical hooligan eats at a match, besides beer, obvs. What I got out of that was a post on a gossip site about how Landon Donovan likes In-n-Out burgers and that Tim Howard likes bourbon.

So I decided to just make bangers and mash, although it was a twist on the traditional version. I skipped the gravy and  used Russian blue potatoes I picked up at the farmers’ market this week. It was, dare I say, delicious. And the perfect accompaniment to the first half of this game. (Go USA!)

Bangers and Mash
Serves 2

1 Polish sausage
4 small Russian blue potatoes, skin-on.
2 teaspoons butter
Salt to taste

Grill sausage whole until outside is blackened and inside is cooked through, turning when necessary to ensure cooking on all four sides. Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water. Add potatoes and boil until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from water (I pulled them out with a fork), set aside to cool briefly. Put two potatoes onto each plate, mash lightly. Top with butter and salt.

When the sausage is finished, remove from grill and cut in half. Serve with mustard over potatoes.

Written by Stevie

June 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

The Brian Cox

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Last night, Keith and I were sitting on our porch, enjoying a summer cocktail I’d made that afternoon and discussing what we should call it. The base was a minty lemonade I’d made on Friday night. Keith suggested the Aznavour, after the French-Armenian star of Shoot the Piano Player.

“It would just be a cool name for a drink,” he said.

“If I’m going to name a drink for an actor,” I replied, “I’m naming it after my favorite actor.” So, without further adieu:

The Brian Cox

Lemonade base (makes 6 glasses)

5-7 fresh mint stalks, to taste
1 tray’s worth of ice cubes
Juice of 4 lemons
1 cup simple syrup
20 oz. water

Combine all in order in a resealable pitcher. Shake slightly to mix; store in refrigerator.

To make the Brian Cox:

1 stalk fresh mint
4 ice cubes
2 oz. vodka
Splash of grenadine

Put stalk at bottom of glass, cover with ice cubes. Pour vodka over ice cubes, fill with lemonade mixture. Add splash of grenadine. Serve and enjoy!

Written by Stevie

June 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

And we’re back. With mango salsa.

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So my life spun a little out of control last year, right about this time. I won’t go into the details, but it was a bad year and it wasn’t particularly conducive to blogging.

But I’m still in the kitchen, and if nothing else, I want to start documenting the stuff I make (particulary when it turns out well) so that I remember how to make it again.

Keith and I have a weekly tradition that we call Action Friday. Get your head out of the gutter, kids, because it’s not that kind of action. We make dinner and drinks, and then we watch an action movie. It began because we were working our way through les cinemas du Luc Besson and expanded from there. For tonight’s feature (After the Sunset; it should be appropriately terrible) we went with a Mexican theme. I know, the movie is set in the Bahamas. We play it fast and loose in this house.

Mango-Blood Orange Salsa

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 blood orange, peeled and diced
2 garlic clobes, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, diced
1 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
Juice of one lime
Salt, pepper, hot sauce, to taste

Combine everything in order. Mix together. Serve with chips and magaritas.

Written by Stevie

February 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Guinness Soup with Dubliner Toast

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Everyone is Irish today, and the Kuenn-Phipps household is no exception. Usually, we go to a Swedish bar for whiskey and free soda bread, but we went out last night (for, um, Irish pub food) and opted to kick it leprechaun-style at home instead with this very simple,  delicious soup.

Guinness Soup with Dubliner Toast

Serves 4

6 stalks celery
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup water
Salt to taste
1 Potato, cut into pieces
1/2 cup peas
2 tablespoons butter
6 oz. Guinness
2 tablespoons flour
2 palm-sized slices of bread (Ideally you’d use soda bread; I used whole-grain Breadsmith bread)
4 slices Dubliner cheese

Heat oven to 450. On a stovetop, add celery, garlic and shallots to a pot and cover with water. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then add potatoes and peas, and simmer for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, begin melting butter. When butter is about half melted, add Guinness and bring to a soft boil. Add flour and stir to mix. When the Guinness roux is ready, add to pot containing vegetables and bring to a simmer.

Top bread with Dubliner, place on top rack in oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese melts. Serve soup in bowls; top with toasted bread and cheese.

This goes best with Smithwick’s, Guinness, or your favorite Irish spirit.

Written by Stevie

March 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Avocado Cheesecake

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Hell yes.

Hell yes.

On Saturday, I realized I had two avocados I needed to use in a hurry, I’d already froze some guacamole and it turned out, Saturday was also Pie Day.

I’d been wanting to make an avocado cheesecake since eating one (well, a slice of one) at Vermilion, a Latin-Indian fusion restaurant that is a favorite of mine.

I didn’t have any cream cheese, so I decided to use goat cheese and some Greek yogurt instead. I made the Graham Cracker Crust from How to Cook Everything, and winged it on the cheesecake, after reading a few different recipes (HtCE, Joy of Cooking, AllRecipes). After it finished baking, I pulled out the chocolate glaze I have in the freezer (yes, I keep chocolate frosting in my freezer at all times), microwaved a couple tablespoons, and drizzled it on top.

It’s a pretty sweet cheesecake (avocados are sweeter than you may think), so if you wanted to make this as a savory cheesecake, I’d make the crust using crackers and omit the sugar and lemons.

All in all, it was a success, although I overbaked the crust slightly. Keith even asked when I planned to make it again. It was easy, taking about an hour total, so I will say: soon.

Avocado Cheesecake
(Serves 8 )
(I am not even going to attempt to calculate the health-consciousness of this, because then you won’t want to eat it.)

Crust (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

9 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar


4 eggs, separated
4 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup 2% fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 avocados
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar

For crust: Melt butter in a saucepan. Add graham crackers and sugar to food processor, pulse until well-mixed and turned into crumbs. Slowly add butter to mixture in processor, pulsing until well blended. Generously butter a springform pan. Using spatula, scrape mixture into springform pan, carefully press into bottom and sides. Bake at 350 until just set, about 8-10 minutes.

For filling: Separate four eggs; set aside egg whites. Using a stand mixer, beat yolks until light and slightly fluffy. Add goat cheese, yogurt, avocados, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar, beat until smooth (this will probably take awhile). Preheat oven to 450. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Using a spatula, slowly fold egg whites into mixture. Pour onto crust, in springform pan. Bake for 10-20 minutes (until filling is just set and slightly golden). Remove from oven, remove springform sides, and cool (about 20-25 minutes).

I drizzled this with chocolate glaze and served it warm. I suspect it would also be delicious if you refrigerated it for an hour or so.

Written by Stevie

March 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm