Today is officially the first day of spring. Although spring is not my favorite season of the year (I tend to be biased… I love autumn), spring brings hope of renewal, new life, and fresh beginnings. The sun sets later and later, stretching the days into long fun-filled moments. Spring makes me stop and admire the beauty that surrounds me. It’s hard to walk past budding flowers and not marvel at God’s grace.
I took a vacation day today to stay home and play hookie with The Husband and his sister, who heads home to Washington DC tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have a day filled with fun activities… but the sleep masters are still snoozing away.
To welcome spring, I made one of The Husband’s and my favorite dishes. It comes together really quickly and it’s filled with delicious fresh flavors. It’s one of those dishes that gets better as it sits on the counter cooling to room temperature and holds up for hours.
Last night I finished preparing dinner long before The Husband and his sister returned from a military excursion through the lake and woods. I stepped outside to play a little kickball with the neighborhood kids only to be stopped by my neighbor, Big Pop. Big Pop was lighting the grill and sipping a cold beer. I walked over to say hi and asked what he grilling. “Steak and burgers. Nothing fancy.” I told him I’d just made a steak type dinner and I’d bring some over when I was done playing with the kids. Later, I filled a small bowl and walked over to Big Pop’s back yard and handed it to him. He took his first bite and his eyes rolled back in his head with delight. The kids started gathering, wanting to know what was going on. Big Pop snapped, raised the bowl above his 6’4″, 375 lb frame and bellowed “GET BACK! I AIN’T SHARIN!” I’d earned myself a cold one.
Penne with Beef & Arugula
Giada De Laurentiis
1 (1 lb) strip steak (I used 2)
1 t herbs de Provence*
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c Olive oil, plus more for steaks
1 lb penne pasta (I used something different)
1/4 c balsamic vinegar (I used 1/2 white balsamic)
2 T dijon mustard
Salt & pepper
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped (I cut into strips)
1/4 c fresh parsley
2 c chopped arugula (I often use Arugula, but it’s just as good with spinach)
This is where the instructions from Giada go away and I’ll tell you how I make it (which isn’t too far off the beaten path). *I don’t use Herbs de Provence because I’m allergic to lavender, so I make my own variation.
Preheat a large skillet to medium. Lay the steaks out on a cutting board, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and the following dried herbs: thyme, basil and oregano. Turn the steaks, seasoned side down into the preheated pan then do the same with the unseasoned side. Cook each side for about 7 minutes per side for medium doneness. Once the second side is cooked through, I sprinkle the garlic on the first (cooked) side, flip the steak for about 20 seconds then transfer to a board to cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 1/4″ slices. I do this because the original recipe calls for you to rub the garlic into the steak before cooking. I never seem to be able to do that without burning it to pieces so I just lightly cook the garlic at the end.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta just until al dente (you really do want a bite to it).
While the pasta is boiling, prepare the remaining ingredients. In a large bowl (large enough to hold the spinach/arugula, all of the pasta and all of the steak), combine vinegar, salt & pepper to taste (easy on the salt), mustard and the chopped basil with a whisk. Slowly add the olive oil (I don’t think I’ve ever used 3/4 c… usually about 1/2 c) until the dressing becomes thick. Stir in chopped parsley. Taste and re-season if necessary. Place the spinach/arugula on top of the dressing and then transfer the drained, hot pasta on top of it immediately. Let it sit for about 2 minutes so the greens have a chance to break down. Add the sliced steak and stir everything to combine.
Let it sit for an hour or two… or just dig in and enjoy.
Question. At your house… do you “fix dinner” or “make dinner”? This is a never-ending argument in my house. See, I fix dinner and then my New Yorker husband argues that dinner was never broken.