Steak Berbere with celery remoulade and panmolle

…or Perfect Summer Dinner v2.0

Today is (hey shorty, it’s; we’re gonna party like it’s;) my birthday! The hubz, some homies and I decided to let me cook last night instead of going out – I know that sounds like Opposite Day, but I was really feelin’ it, so we rolled with it.

Look at these brontosaurus steaks! I initially had been planning on making some African chicken stew and collards (I’m really into the Naija thing right now), but cooking stew didn’t sound good when it’s so hot in the house. So I made some Ethiopian berbere spice, which is basically two ingredients away from my secret rub (the two other ingredients are fenugreek and dried onion). I’ll do my African post next week, I have something up my sleeve.

Bottom round is a slightly chewy cut, but where it lacks in tenderness it more than compensates in flavor. And isn’t that what it’s really all about? I smeared the berbere into those thick-ass steaks with a bit of salt and let them sit for awhile while I prepped the sides.

I really can’t get enough tomatoes this time of year, but talk to me in a month, when all ten of my tomato plants are fruiting and I’m scrambling to get them into everything we eat (I tried to stagger my plantings with varieties that fruit at different times, but a cold spring really fucked that all up). I picked up a tub of perlini mozzarella and made a simple vinaigrette of good red wine vinegar, olive oil, minced thyme, basil and oregano, some lemon zest and S&P. Toss the perlini with cubed heirloom tomatoes and let it sit and marinate in the dressing for an hour or so. Serve over thinly-sliced, grilled levain for a sort of deconstructed panmolle.

I had some celery root that needed eating, and decided to keep it classic instead of coming up with some precious reinvention of the wheel (as is my wont). But tragedy! Just as I had my heart set on celery root remoulade, I realized that the celery root in my fridge was spongy and slightly lignified (i.e., not tasty). I tried to score some more at the store, but they only had two tiny ones. I supplemented the celery root with some shaved tender, white inner celery ribs and leaves. The ribs were an ideal, refreshing accoutrement to the dense, earthy root, and added a bit of crisp, mineral salinity to cut through the rich remoulade.

Remoulade, by the by, is just an emulsion of egg yolk, white wine vinegar and/or lemon juice and olive oil, whisked with a bit of Dijon and grainy mustard. It sounds fussy to make homemade mayo until you realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to use your immersion blender to do the heavy lifting (fuck sake, you’re making homemade mayo – you really got something to prove, whisking that shit by hand?). Add some chopped cornichon, shallot and capers, and some minced tarragon and parsley. I added some minced fennel flowers for a nice touch of anetholic sweetness – they taste like fresh Good & Plenty candies in flower form (the nectar was in full production), and compliment the tarragon perfectly.

Corn on the cob went on the grill and took a slather of compound butter. The only thing better than fresh, grilled corn on the cob is receiving a neck rub, or possibly a foot massage. Just shuck (but don’t jive) it right over the compost heap, and wash it with the garden hose. Brush with a little olive oil (help flare up the coals a bit), and cook until golden brown and chewy.

The perfect summer meal, good enough to cook on one’s birthday.

We enjoyed this with a precocious Walla Walla cab, a gift from Norm for Scott’s birthday. I intended to make a simple dessert of grilled peaches and mango nectarines with a sliver of brie, but it was getting dark and I was getting buzzed – but this is on the List! I also grilled the back of my pinky fucking with the corn, and decided that I’d had about enough of standing in front of a hot grill anyways.

Yay, birthday!