Date Night: Linguine with Zucchini and Pecorino; Florentine Steak with Rosemary

I write (…to myself): So every so often (especially when Cook Angel submissions are kind of slow like they are right now), I’d like to share what I’m going to make; maybe it will inspire you or maybe it will just show that when I cook I’m usually feeling my way around like most everybody. Anyways, this Saturday night has been designated “date night.” The Bruins are making a play for the Stanley Cup and I’m not going to stray 10 feet from my TV. Calling it “Date Night” puts a nice spin on things – I’ll act surprised when the game magically appears at 8. I will make something nice, though. I’d like to make a simple pasta with some zucchini and linguine – cut the zucchini into thin strips so it’s long and thin like the pasta and then toss it with basil, Pecorino, and some sun-dried tomatoes – light (even with a splash of cream) and elegant. For a second course, I’d like to pick up a good steak like a rib-eye (perfect for splitting), saute it, and then serve drizzled with a rosemary oil – my take on Florentine steak. Serve the steak with some baby arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and then it’s game time… I mean date night.

Serves 2: Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time 30 minutes

What I’ll need: Ingredients: Linguine (or other long pasta like fettucine or spaghetti), olive oil, zucchini, onion, heavy cream, lemon, fresh basil, sun-dried tomato, S+P; steak (12 oz. to 1 lb – a 1-inch thick strip steak or rib eye would be good) olive oil, fresh rosemary, red wine vinegar.

Equipment: 2 skillets (one for the steaks – I’ll use my cast-iron pan- and one for the pasta), pasta pot, saucepan (for the rosemary oil), wooden spoon, tongs, cutting board, chef’s knife, strainer.

How to do it: For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta (1/2 lb. for 2 to 3 servings) and cook, stirring, until it’s just tender to the tooth, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain well. Meanwhile, thinly slice a yellow onion (about 1 cup) and the zucchini (1 large – about 1 1/2 cups) into long strips (use a Japanese mandoline if you have). Heat a splash of olive oil (about 2 Tbs.) in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering hot, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the onion, sprinkle generously with salt (about 3/4 tsp.) and cook, stirring, until it starts to soften and brown lightly, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt again (about 1/2 tsp.) and pepper (about 3/4 tsp.) and cook, stirring, until it wilts and softens, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked pasta, a splash of the pasta water (about 1/2 cup), 1/2 cup grated Pecorino (or Parmigiano is fine), 4 or 5 basil leaves (torn into small pieces), 4 sun-dried tomatoes (thinly sliced), and a splash of heavy cream (2 to 3 Tbs. is enough). Cook, tossing over medium-high heat, so the mixture melts into a light sauce that coats the the pasta and the flavors mix and meld. Add more pasta water if the mixture dries out. Stir in 1 Tbs. lemon juice and season generously with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with some more basil and Pecorino.

For the steak: Let the steak (a 12-oz ribeye or strip steak or even a 1-lb. flank steak) sit at room temperature for 15 minutes (so that the interior starts to thaw which will allow the steak to cook through more quickly and evenly). Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. and 3/4 tsp. respectively). Set 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 sprigs rosemary in a small saucepan over medium heat and heat until the rosemary starts to sizzle and become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. For the steak, open up any kitchen windows (if you got ’em) and heat a large heavy-based pan (I will use my cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat until a droplet of water instantly evaporates when it hits the pan’s surface, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add a little olive oil (about 1 Tbs.) and heat until shimmering hot, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the steak and cook without touching until it browns around the edges and easily releases from the pan when you lift up an edge, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it, too, browns and the steak is just firm to the touch, about 2 to 3 more minutes. The steak should be about medium-rare right now – make a nick into a thicker piece to check. Continue cooking if you’d like the steak cooked more or if the steak is really thick (and still rare), finish cooking it in a 425F oven until done (preheat the oven ahead of time if you’re working with a steak that is 1 1/2 inches thick or more). Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice, sprinkle with a little salt, a touch of red wine vinegar, and the rosemary oil (save extra for a salad dressing).

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