The listeria hasn’t gotten us … yet. We’re still kicking along, and dare I say it, feeling more settled in. I don’t know what it was about this week that just made things feel like they have “gelled” here. The boxes have been unpacked since the beginning of June, but something didn’t quite feel permanent yet. Maybe it was the last few annoying things on the miles-long to-do lists, or buying Rowan’s school uniforms and shoes, or maybe it was finding the long-lost car keys that I thought were gone forever. But somehow, things seem more permanent and settled. I’m not saying everything is perfect, and I know we still have a lot to learn. But for this semi-settled state, I feel grateful. We celebrated my birthday last weekend, and I loved it. If there’s one thing my parents taught me, it was to revel in birthdays, even as an adult. My dad still celebrates his with shameless abandon, and my mom, orphaned at a young age, is always grateful for another year. “Better than the alternative,” right? For my birthday this year, we went out to dinner, really to celebrate both my and Neil’s birthdays, since his was overshadowed by the big moving week. I got a lovely stack of vintage cookbooks from Half Price Books, some lovely cookware (on eBay!) and a slice of cake from one of our favorite new bakeries. All of my boys sang to me and wrote me the most adorable cards. I’m a lucky lady.
Once we came down from the sugar high of birthday cake, I made a few Contessa recipes. I had planned to grill the French Bistro Steaks with Provençal Butter (Back to Basics) and Grilled Bread with Prosciutto (How Easy is That). I had planned on grilling both of these recipes, as instructed, but anyone who has spent any time in Houston knows that a thunderstorm can come up out of nowhere and ruin outdoor plans. (As it turns out, a storm can also ruin the outdoor planTs without proper drainage – sorry, oregano.) Until we get a gas grill (it’s on the wish list), we have to plan ahead to light the charcoal and heat it up. And I do love a charcoal grill, so I don’t regret having it. With the unpredictable weather, I did a google search on how to cook a hangar steak indoors. I found this method, and using a cast iron pan, I cooked it all inside. As it turns out, I could have used the grill after all, but after a stormy day, I didn’t want to take any chances.
A note on ingredients: when I asked about hangar steaks at the meat department at the grocery store, the butcher told me that they don’t carry hangar steaks, but that the closest thing that they had was a fajita steak. I bought that instead, and it worked just fine. For all I know, it’s the exact same thing. The herbed butter called for herbes de provence, which, I’ll be honest, I just forgot to buy. But then I read online that herbes de provence include lavender only in the United States. I’m not a big fan of lavender as a scent, so I can’t imagine I’d be thrilled about it on steak. So, I used just the fresh herbs instead, and they were all kinds of awesome.
The “grilled” bread with prosciutto was less of a hit. I don’t know – maybe I should have broiled it for longer, or maybe I should have sliced the mozzarella a little more thinly. (Whenever I get stuck in a long line of “maybes” like this, I can’t help saying that line in Steel Magnolias when Truvy says, “Maybe she’s praying because the elastic is shot in her pantyhose! Who knows!”) For whatever reason, this recipe didn’t wow me, even though there was nothing terrible about it. I do think it would have been better on the grill. It reminded me a little bit of what could have been a grilled pizza, without sauce. So, if you’re itching to try a grilled pizza but you’re still a little gun-shy about raw dough on the grill, try this first.
The final summery recipe this week was the honey vanilla fromage blanc from Back to Basics. This is one of a long line of “honey vanilla [fill in the blank]” recipes from Ina, and sadly, I think this was my least favorite. It was just too tangy for my tastes. It was easy, so if you’re short for time and need a quick dessert for guests, I guess you could whip it up, especially if you don’t really want them to come back.