Dianne's Creative Table

I am inspired by light, all things natural, reusing previously loved items, and bargains!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bunny Hop

I wasn't planning to do an Easter post this year, but then I walked into Ross, my favorite store, and the cutest bunnies just hopped right into my cart!  How could I possibly resist?

So I had to look in every storage place for items that would go with my newest furry friends.  
My sweet husband didn't think the color combo was very Easter, but I kinda like it.  What do you think? 

You might notice that the aqua plates aren't all the same kind (look at the first close up at the beginning of this post).  I search high and low for additional plates to no avail.  I found the embossed American Atelier aqua plates on Ebay and thought there were a pretty good match. 

The Cast:
Placemats - Old Time Pottery
Chargers - Linens for Less
Yellow American Atelier Plates - Home Goods
Aqua plates - Home Goods and Ebay
Decorative bread and butter plates - Home Goods
Napkins - Had them forever
Napking rings - Essex Bargin Hunt
Mexican glassware - TJ Maxx many moons ago
Cambridge Flatware - Ross
Candlesticks - Home Goods

Linking to these fun parties: Susan's Tablescape Thursday , the Tablescaper's Seasonal Sundays and the newest party from Cuisine Kathleen; Let's Dish.  Thanks so much for hosting.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Salt Fried Steak - Best You'll Ever Eat - Promise

When I was growing up, my step-father used to cook occasionally.  He always made fudge when it snowed and put the pan in the snow to cool. I don't have much opportunity to play with that recipe, living in TN.   One recipe that he perfected and now I cook all the time is how to cook the perfect steak.  This is our favorite way to prepare a steak.  I have tried multiple other prep methods and trust me, this is the best!  Everyone that I prepare this for, usually agrees.  
My favorite cut of steak is a New York Strip, but it will work with any steak as long as it's thick.  Publix had strips on sale this week and we think they have the best tasting beef.  This steak is about 11 ounces and is about 1.5 inches thick.  My husband and I usually share one this size.  

I trim almost all the fat.  If you don't, it curls and then the steak doesn't sit flat in the pan.  Flat is important when you salt-fry a steak. 
You will need a heavy, regular skillet that can stand up to high heat, (you don't want non-stick).  I use my Calphalon pan and after 15 years, it's still like new.  Turn the oven on at 450 degrees to pre-heat. 
While the skillet is cold, sprinkle the bottom with salt. I usually use finely ground sea salt or just plain table salt.  Don't use too much salt.  You can always add more, but you can't remove it if it's too much.  (don't ask me how I know this).  
Turn the heat up to high and let the skillet heat until it begins to smoke slightly.   
Place the steak in the skillet and let it sear for about 2 -3 min.  The sear time depends on how thick the steak is cut.  You really want a thicker steak for this preparation method.  For a steak 1.5 inches thick, I let it sear for 2 minutes.  Don't move it around, or peek while it's searing.
The salt combines with the protein fibers and forms a crust on the outside of the steak.  Whatever you do, don't scrap it off! This is where all the flavor is!
Hold the steak out of the pan with a fork to allow the pan reheat and sprinkle salt in the bare spot left in the pan.   It's very important to keep the pan hot so the other side of the steak sears.  If the pan cools down, the juices will be released and then the steak will boil in the juice and lose the delicious crust.   There is probably nothing worse than a boiled steak!
Turn the steak over and sear the other side.  I let this one sear for another 2 minutes on the second side until it achieved that perfect brown crust.    
At this point, I drizzled the steak with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Then the pan went into a 450 degree oven.  How long in the oven depends on the thickness of the steak.  For this 1.5 inch steak, I let it stay in the oven for 5 minutes. 
While the steak is in the oven I prepared the broccoli and the sweet potatoes.   I buy the sweet potatoes in the plastic wrap because they are quick, easy and always delicious.  (I forgot to take a before photo). 
I love these Ziplock Zip n Steam bags for fresh vegetables. Just throw fresh cut vegetables in the bag and follow the cooking time guide on the outside of the bag.  
 This amount of broccoli filled 1/2 of the bag and the cook time was 1 .5 minutes.  
After 5 minutes in the oven, your steak should look like this.   Take it out of the pan ASAP to stop the cooking, cover, and let it rest for 5 minutes.   With nothing but salt left in the pan, it is not a good idea to use the same pan to make any type of sauce or gravy. 
The degree of doneness is a matter of personal taste.  We like medium rare so I am looking for a temperature 130 - 140 degrees. I use a ThermaPen instant read thermometer.
This is after resting five minutes.  If you don't like to see pink in your steak, you can cook to a higher temperature.  

Here's the after pic of the sweet potato in the jacket.  I steam them in the microwave for 8 minutes and they come out just perfect.  
I can't guarantee that you will think this is the best way to prepare a steak, but it's our favorite. We prefer this to grilling or broiling. 
As a side note, I had the nightly news on while I was preparing this meal and heard that a new study was released today that said eating red meat daily will increase the risk of premature death by 13%.  I have impeccable timing don't you think?  To be honest, we eat red meat less than once a month and I throughly enjoy it when I have it. Tomorrow we go back to chicken.   Enjoy and let me know if you try it and what you think.  
Linking up with Foodie Friday and Seasonal Sundays

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tablescaping 101

A few weeks ago I shared a post about the bread making class I took as part of the annual fund raiser for a local private school.  You can view that post HERE.  This past week I took another class in that same fund raising series offered by one of the most talented amazing people I have ever met.  Terry White is a local floral designer that does spectacular decor for wedding and parties.  He had the class in his amazing home, which is more like an art gallery.

He explained to us that the house is all concrete.  It is perched on a slight hill, surrounded by terraces front and back and has a perfect view of the sunset.  It had just stopped raining when we all walked out onto the beautiful back terrace.  
A new home was built next door so Terry built this custom screen.  He modeled it after Hollywood Squares.  Each square contains something different; wood slices, copper, wine bottles and various other things.  Overall, it was a visual delight.  A tiny stream ran below with water falling from above.  
I apologize for the fuzziness, but the sun had set and I didn't want to use a harsh flash.  Terry made this sundial using concrete, leaves and a collection of his old watches to mark the hours.  

This entire hill side is planted in Annabelle Hydrangeas.  Here you can see the upper terrace.  
I was working with only a tiny bit of remaining light, but the sky was beautiful. 
Inside, Terry showed us to use wine glasses and other simple items to create a casual tablescape.  He only uses natural, real items in all of his scaping, with one exception; artificial grapes.  After catering for several years, I agree.  Real grapes are too difficult to make look good in an arrangement.  

We then moved to the table where he showed us how to use available natural items to create an inviting centerpiece.  The tabletop was custom made by Terry using six inch alternating squares of smooth and hammered copper.  

He also made the custom copper doors throughout his house.  
The containers were also hand made using concrete and interesting rusted nails.  All the plantings were found at Home Depot and Lowes.  

He customized this chandelier with a copper covered orb.  
We all joined Terry in the area where he consults with his clients.  When a new clients asks,  'Who is Terry White', he points to this table as a way to describe himself.    

The dried hydrangeas from his hillside were found all around his house.  

He made the boxwood frame from cuttings and when they started to turn brown, he used several shades of green spray paint to bring them back to life! 
My apologies to Terry for a poor photo of him, but I wanted you to see the blank table that he transformed with a striking buffet centerpiece.  

Another table he covered in copper with embossed leaves.  
You can visit Terry's website and see photos of some of his amazing events HERE.  You can also link to the blog of another Terry White student from last year's class HERE.  A big thank you to Terry for opening his lovely home and sharing his talents with us.  This will definitely be a class I won't mind repeating year after year.  
Linking to Seasonal SundaysCenterpiece Wednesday and Tablescape Thursday.  Thanks for hosting!