I ♥ The Barefoot Contessa!!

herbesdeprovence.jpg Photo: the perfect pantry

When it comes to cooking, I'm the type of person you would rather have set the table rather than take one step too many towards the stove.  It's not that I don't like to cook, it's just that as a single girl I don't have much occasion to don an apron and do my best Julia Child impression, because, let's face it -- cooking for one kind of sucks.

My step-mother bought me Ina Garten's latest book "Back to Basics" in her never-ending quest to make a cook out of me, and the recipes are so fabulous that the two times I've cooked using the book, my guests have cleaned their plates.

My new go-to meal, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa is French Bistro Steaks with Provençal Butter and Oven-Roasted Vegetables:

French Bistro Steaks with Provençal Butter

For the butter:

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon capers, drained

2 tablespoons minced chives

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

For the steaks:

4 teaspoons herbes de Provence

kosher salt and coarsely cracked black pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 hangar steaks, 8 to 10 ounces each

For the butter, put the garlic, capers, chives, thyme, zest, and pepper in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter and process until completely mixed.  Transfer butter mixture to a piece of parchment paper and roll it into a log, twisting the ends.  Store in the refrigerator.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill.

Drizzle the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle each one with herbes de Provence and salt and pepper.  Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to take the chill off the meat.

When the grill is hot, grill the steaks for 4 to 5 minutes on each side (for medium rare).  Place the steaks on a platter, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Skice the meet crosswise diagonally and serve hot with one or two pats of the prepared butter on top.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed

1 pound fingerling or small potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)

1/3 cup good olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound French string beans, trimmed

1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact.  Place on a sheet pan.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and place them on the pan with the fennel.  Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Toss with your hands.

Roast the vegetables for 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking.  Toss the string beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes until the green vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Set the table, light the candles, put Carla Bruni on the stereo and it will feel like you are in the charming corner bistro in Paris of your memories (or your imagination!)