Tag Archives: crostini

Denver Beer is a whole other story.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Good Lord! This recipe looks ugly.” You’ve said that before, and you’re about to say it again. This hors d’oeuvre has lots of ingredients, many steps and big, scary challenges like homemade mayonnaise. It’s time to channel Dr. Bob Nakosteen. Dr. Bob was my econ and stats professor during my MBA program. One day, he explained why we hate math.

“When we read a paragraph of prose,” said Dr. Bob, “it contains a certain amount of information. Our brains have gotten pretty comfortable with that ratio of text to info. Math, on the other hand,” he said, “contains a lot more info per character. In fact, a line of mathematical symbols could contain as much information as one or several paragraphs of prose. This is when your head explodes.”

The key is to take a deep breath, change the speed on the record, and break the problem down.

Recipes are the same. The purée mashes together peas and sautéed shallot, simmered in a little stock to add depth and liquid, and seasoned with mint. The vinegar balances the slightly cloying sweetness of peas.

Mayo is simply oil whisked into egg yolks, using mustard to hold it together and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and wasabi. We chill the seared steak in the freezer so it is firm enough to slice thinly. Then we put it all on toast.

That’s it. Two really short paragraphs that translate  all those steps and ingredients below. Sure, it’s four recipes in one (if you count toast), but you can do it. Plus, it looks and sounds really impressive, just like math, so you can tell your friends just how amazing you are. That, my friends, is worth a toast (with a Denver Beer – you’ll have to ask Dr. Bob about that too.).

*Shout out to the Isenberg School of Business at UMASS

Berbere beef crostini with wasabi mayonnaise and minted pea purée

Ingredients:

Minted pea purée

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1# bag frozen peas
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1-2 tbs Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*

Wasabi mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks**
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tbs wasabi powder or wasabi paste

To assemble

  • 1# sirloin steaks, about 1-1.5″ thick
  • 1-2 tbs Berbere seasoning*
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 baguette cut in 1/4″ slices

*Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar is slightly sweet and mildly acidic. I would substitute a splash of sherry vinegar. Berbere is a complex spice blend unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean food. It’s got a lot of ingredients, but you can make a simple start with equal parts cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cayenne and paprika. 

**The egg yolks in homemade mayonnaise are not cooked. There is some risk here, just like crossing the street or bungee jumping. Buy your eggs farm-fresh from someone you trust. If there are special health risks you are worried about, talk to your doctor or use store-bought mayo and mix in the wasabi powder.

Directions:

Make the pea puree:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until softened.
  • Add peas and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add mint. stir through and turn off heat.
  • Mash peas in a food mill or a mortar and pestle. You want a little texture to remain. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper. The sweetness of the peas should be light, not cloying.

Make the wasabi mayonnaise

  • Whisk together egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until yolks are thick and sticky, about 30-60 seconds.
  • Whisk in oil, a couple drops at a time, until mayonnaise starts to form. Add remaining oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Mayonnaise can feel quite thick.
  • Whisk in wasabi. Let rest in fridge. Before serving, season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if needed.

Season and sear the beef

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cut sirloin into 2″ wide strips. Pat dry and season with salt, pepper and Berbere. The Berbere will need to be a thick rub, because the flavor will only come from the outside of the thinly sliced steak.
  • Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to the pan. Heat to almost smoking and add the beef, searing on all sides for 1-2 minutes, until browned.
  • Remove beef to a plate, tent and let cool to room temp. Place in freezer until firm, but not frozen. Using a sharp knife, cut beef into the thin slices, 1/4″ or less.

Make crostini

  • Place baguette slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned. Remove and let cool. (That was easy!)

Assemble

  • Check the seasoning on the pea puree and the wasabi mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper, wasabi, vinegar etc… as needed.
  • Spoon the mayonnaise into a ziplock bag or piping bag. Cut a tiny point off the corner of the bag.
  • Top each crostini with a tbs of pea purée. Place a slice of beef over the peas. Pipe a thin stream of mayonnaise over the beef.
  • Eat them all because they are so delicious. Make another batch for your guests. Or just bust out the Brie and crackers.
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Give generously. Look fabulous doing it.

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I really hate shopping for gifts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for people. At the mere mention of something meaningful I will spend hours chasing down a childhood book, favorite food or memoir of a home town. But the thought of just having to buy something is torture.

Over the years I have learned an important lesson. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you give, but that a special someone has something to unwrap on the big day; on Christmas morning, you can hand them a brightly wrapped gift and say, “I love you. Enjoy.” Upon opening, the recipient can hug you saying, “thanks.” Sometimes, it is not the gift that counts, but the giving.

Holiday entertaining is the same. Sometimes holiday get-togethers are more about fellowship than food. That, however, is no reason not to impress.

There is a generosity in offering your guests the gift of  luxury, in letting them spend a few hours living finely and fabulously. However, it is a gift doesn’t need to work your last frazzled, holiday nerve, nor does it need to be the last straw on a stretched budget.

Learn simple dishes that taste divine. Work with inexpensive ingredients and layer them with flavor: onions caramelized in butter, hand-whisked mayonnaise with bright herbs served alongside fresh, local crudités. Take a minute to think through the garniture for each one. Pipe a little sauce on top, arrange a whole parsley leaf, and crack some fresh black pepper. Light plenty of candles, buy inexpensive, fresh flowers and mass them in large vases, and play Bing Crosby’s classic holiday album.

Or try this. A favorite every time. Pretty, delicious, and easy. You’ll feel relaxed, have plenty of time to do your hair before your guests arrive, and they’ll think you had the evening catered.

Tapenade

Nothing out of a jar compares to the flavor of fresh parsley and garlic. No matter how much you think you hate anchovy paste, please go ahead and use it. You’ll never taste the anchovy and it does incredible things for the flavor of this spread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbs capers
  • 1/8 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • Red wine vinegar

Directions:

  • Place olives, garlic, herbs, cheese, capers and anchovy paste in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times for a rough chop.
  • With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Process to bind.
  • Scrape tapenade into bowl and season to taste with vinegar and black pepper.
  • Serve with crostini.
  • Dress it up! Spread a tablespoon on crostini, top with a slice of buffalo mozzarella*. Broil for 1-2 min. to soften cheese. Top with a basil leaf.
*Buffalo mozzarella comes packaged in a plastic container in brine. You will either find it at the deli or in the cheese case.

Crostini

There is no excuse for not making your own! Grab a baguette and slice on the bias into 1/4″ thick slices. Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until golden. Let cool and store in a ziplock bag for up to 5 days.