IT'S 8 P.M. Groceries line the kitchen counter; bags are strewn on the floor. You've washed the dishes, stuffed the dirty laundry in the washing machine, sent out for the wine. You're alone in the kitchen, and for once when your 8:30 guest arrive you are going to be ready for them.
This 30-minute meal is full of simple recipes that taste wonderful.The flank steak stuffed with blue cheese is so foxy, so simple a recipe that it's ridiculous. Just goes to show you that there is beauty in simplicity. I got it from a Philadelphia friend who just happened to be talking about great picnic food. It was his idea to make enough so you'll have leftovers -- for a cold picnic the next day.
The meal can be made in 30 minutes of your time. But there is one flaw -- the dessert, spiced grapes, has to spend two or three hours chilling. So, either plan to devote five minutes to making it earlier in the day or cut up some fresh peaches, strawberries and/or cherries and bury your favorite sherbet with them.
Now if you make the spiced grapes, bear in mind that this dessert is spicy and pungent. The iced peppered vodka cools the nutmeg perfectly. You can make your own in just a couple of minutes if you know two weeks in advance. Or, as a timesaver, you can buy Pertsovka peppered vodka at around $10 per fifth. Just leave it in the freezer to get it good and cold before serving.
When you buy the flank steak, ask your butcher to cut it large enough to allow a half-pound for each of your guest, then add an extra half-pound for the next day's picnic. Have the butcher cut a pocket in the center of the steak for the stuffing. Be sure to use flank steak -- no other meat meshes with the blue cheese and takes the flavor so well.
Once it's rubbed with pepper and stuffed, you quickly broil it -- keep it rare -- and when you carve it you get juicy layers of steak, melted blue cheese and steak again. Serve it with zucchini and tomatoes sauteed in butter, garlic and shallots, and boiled new potatoes.
End the evening out on the front porch with the icy peppered vodka, spiced grapes and a good fat Havana cigar. Can't you just see it: a hot summer night in the city, the meal is over, everyone gathers under the black sky and just sits, quietly singing your praises. THE MENU Blue Cheese-Stuffed Flank Steak Garlic Zucchini and Tomatoes Boiled New Potatoes Chilled Peppered Vodka Spiced Grapes
HAVE ON HAND: Salt, whole peppercorns, butter, fresh nutmeg.
YOU WILL NEED: 2 1/2-to 3-pound flank steak, 1/2 pound blue cheese, 2 medium zucchini, 2 cloves garlic, 1 large or 2 small shallots, 2 medium tomatoes, 8 new potatoes, 1 bunch fresh parsley, 1 large bunch green seedless grapes, 1/2 cup devonshire cream or heavy cream, peppered vodka.
ORDER OF PREPARATION: Boil potatoes. Boil water for tomatoes. Light broiler. Peel zucchini. Blanch tomatoes for 15 seconds and peel off skin, then seed. Finely chop garlic and shallots. Stuff flank steak with blue cheese and put under broiler. Melt butter in large frying pan, add garlic and shallots and lightly saute. Add zucchini and tomatoes to garlic shallots. Add oregano. Turn flank steak, broil 5 minutes more and remove to serving platter. Carve steak. Garnish with parsley. Drain potatoes, toss with butter, sprinkle with chopped parsley. Dish up zucchini and tomatoes. BLUE CHEESE-STUFFED FLANK STEAK (4 servings) 1/2 pound blue cheese 2 1/2-to 3-pound flank steak, with a pocket cut in it 1/2 teaspoon or more whole ground pepper Salt, to taste
Cut blue cheese into small pieces and stuff an even, thin layer inside steak. Be sure to stuff the pocket all the way back. Nothing is more disappointing than carving only to find the end an empty hole. nRub pepper into surface of steak and salt to taste. Place under preheated broiler and cook for 7 to 10 minutes on each side. Remove from oven, slice on diagonal and serve immediately. GARLIC ZUCCHINI AND TOMATOES (4 servings) 2 medium tomatoes 2 medium zucchini 3 tablespoons butter 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped 1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and finely chopped 1 tablespoon oregano, fresh or a good dried import Salt and pepper to taste
Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove and carefully lift off skin. Cut into quarters and seed. Peel and slice zucchini. Heat butter in a large skillet, add garlic and shallots and saute lightly (until soft, but not browned). Add zuchini, tomatoes and oregano and saute lightly. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately. BOILED NEW POTATOES (4 servings) 8 medium new potatoes Butter Salt and pepper, for seasoning Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Scrub potatoes, place in saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Potatoes are done when fork slides easily into center. Before serving drain off water, place on serving dish and toss with butter. Garnish with fresh parsley. PEPPERED VODKA Fifth of inexpensive vodka 4 to 5 chile peppers, cut in half, or 3 to 4 jalapeno peppers (if you like a real bite)
Add jalapenos to bottle of vodka, cover, and let sit in your kitchen window for 2 weeks. It's better to use too much pepper because the final product can be diluted by adding more vodka. Before serving put in freezer and chill. Serve in frosted cordial glasses. SPICED GRAPES (4 servings) 1 large bunch seedless green grapes, washed 1/2 cup devonshire cream or whipping cream 1 whole nutmeg, or to taste
Remove grapes from stems. If using whipping cream, whip it just until slightly thickened; devonshire cream can be used as is. Grate in nutmeg. Stir in grapes and put in refrigerator to chill for 2 to 3 hours. Ten minutes before serving dessert, pass around the cigars and chilled peppered vodka. Spoon grapes into small dessert bowls. Retire to the porch and hope for a light evening thunderstorm