Hubby and I have been greatly enjoying Zen, the new Masterpiece Mystery that debuted Sunday before last on PBS.
Russell Sewell. Rome. Mystery character we haven’t read or heard of until now. That lovely, sexy, chic sense of Italian style in clothes and decor infused in the show. What’s not to like?
In honor of this latest Mystery series, I’ve vowed to make us something Italian for supper for each Sunday Zen airs. 🙂 (I mean, are we easily entertained, or what? 😉 *LOL*)
It’s been so h-o-t here that I’ve been casting about for dishes to make that don’t use the oven *shudders at the thought of the oven in this heat* and that are maybe a bit different in some way than the Italian-style dishes I make with some regularity.
This Sunday, I’m taking my inspiration from a Better Homes & Garden “Simply Perfect Italian” magazine devoted to Italian recipes and make Italian-Style Steak Sandwiches.
The description for this recipe says “A garlic-infused [banana] pepper spread lends fabulous flavor to the Italian–seasoned steaks and eggplant slices that stack up for an incredible sandwich.”
Oh, baby! You had me at “banana pepper.” 😉
I have become quite enamored of banana peppers and am looking forward to experimenting with them in a variety of ways — I’ve already learned that they are divine stuffed with cheese in a Tex-Mex style dish.
Me being me, I’m using the recipe in the magazine as a spring-board, changing it up to suit our tastes and what is affordable and available in our area.
Instead of steak rolls or sub rolls (as called for in the recipe), we’re using the lower calorie, lower carb onion poppy ciabatta sandwich rolls that we picked up from the WalMart bakery. I snagged a lovely, thick sirloin steak that I will marinate — the recipe that inspired me says only to rub the steak with Italian seasoning, but I want to ensure the steak is moist, tender, and flavorful, and so I’m going to fashion an Italian-style marinade. The package of steak is much bigger than what we need just for sandwiches, but any leftover will be divine in steak salad, with steak and eggs, and so forth (we can ALWAYS find a tasty use for leftover steak).
We’ll be grilling the steak and eggplant on our grill, but if you don’t have a grill, no worries — you can use an indoor electric grill, a grill pan on your stove-top, your broiler, or simply sear it in a non-stick skillet on your stove-top.
VEGETARIANS: Yes, vegetarians, believe it or not, I do have a tasty suggestion to enable you to make a divinely yummy sandwich sans the meat — add in an extra slice of eggplant and a nice little bit of provolone, mozzarella, or other desired cheese.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: Whenever you’re working with hot peppers, even a milder pepper, such as a banana pepper, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you wear gloves while handling the peppers, as the capsaicin oils in the peppers could irritate your skin to the point of blistering it. I always wear disposable gloves so I can just toss them out when done. It is also VERY IMPORTANT not to touch your face, most especially your eyes, while handling peppers. Once you’re done handling the peppers, carefully remove the gloves (I always peel them off so that they’re coming off “inside out” to help avoid the risk of accidentally coming into contact with those concentrated pepper oils) and discard them, and then carefully disinfect the area where you were working with the peppers.
I really think this is going to be so yummy that we’ll break out into a mambo! (Go on, take about three minutes of your life and watch this — it’s really cute!)
Italian-Style Steak Sandwiches (Allow about 3 to 4 ounces of steak per sandwich — leftover steak will be delicious on salads, with eggs, etc.)
For the pepper spread:
- Splash of olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 onion, chopped (I’m using 1/2 red onion and 1/2 white onion)
- Minced garlic (about 4 cloves, or more or less to taste)
- Mess of fresh banana peppers (8 to 10, or 8 to 10 ounces), halved and seeded (NOTE: You could also use red cherry peppers)
- Couple healthy splashes (couple of tablespoons, or more or less to taste) balsamic vinegar
- Sprinkling of salt (suggest sea salt or reduced-sodium salt)
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add in onion and garlic; cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Add in peppers, vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Set aside and let cool.
- Transfer cooled pepper mixture to a food processor or blender. Cover and process until smooth (spreading consistency).
- Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
For steak marinade:
- Thick-cut sirloin steak (may also use flank steak or any other lean cut)
- Dollop of olive oil
- Hearty splash of red wine (or vinegar — red wine, balsamic, white, or apple cider, depending upon the flavor you want)
- Seasonings to taste (keep it simple!): Italian seasoning, dash of red pepper flakes and/or coarse ground black pepper, and splash of Worcestershire
- In a large plastic food storage bag or other non-reactive container, mix together the olive oil, red wine or vinegar, and seasonings to taste.
- Trim any fat from steak. Add steak to marinade. Marinate, turning occasionally, for anywhere from 1 hour to 24 hours. Keep refrigerated.
- About 1 hour or so before you’re ready to cook the steak, remove from the refrigerator to allow it to lose some of its chill (this will allow the meat to brown better).
For the sandwiches:
- Eggplant, peeled, if desired, and sliced in 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices (Vegetarians: You’ll want extra eggplant for your sandwiches)
- Olive oil
- Salad greens (romaine, endive, raddicchio, iceberg, escarole — whatever you have that you think will be tasty on the sandwich — I’ve got romaine on hand, so that’s what we’re using)
- Cheese, if desired (Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, Romano — whatever you have that sounds appealing to you)
- Steak, sub, or sandwich rolls
- Brush both sides of eggplant lightly with olive oil. Lightly salt and pepper, if desired.
- Remove steak from marinade. (Discard marinade OR, if you desire to use the marinade as a sauce, bring it to a boil and boil it for one to two minutes.)
- Over a medium heat, grill eggplant and steak until eggplant is tender (turn eggplant only once) and steak is cooked as desired (e.g., rare, medium-rare, medium, or well done — we’re on the rare to medium-rare side of things, ourselves). Obviously, the eggplant won’t take as long (5 to 8 minutes); the steak will take longer. (NOTE: If you don’t have a grill or if the weather isn’t conducive to grilling, use an indoor electric grill, a grill pan on your stove-top, your broiler, or sear the eggplant and steak in a non-stick skillet.)
- To assemble sandwiches: Lightly brush sandwich rolls with olive oil, if desired, and toast. Generously spread pepper spread on both sides of sandwich roll. Layer with salad greens, eggplant, and steak slices (cut steak against the grain), and cheese (if desired).