From the food editor: Seared Steaks With Peppers and Almonds are elegant and simple

Published February 13 2018

If you buy good ingredients, half the work is already done.

That may sound a little hokey, but itís true and itís the cooking advice I need to heed more often in my own kitchen.

My husband and I are dining out on Valentineís Day this year, something we do not do very often, mostly because we donít have the foresight in January to make a reservation. So Iím excited about letting someone else do the work of feeding us for the evening.

But if I were cooking, I would make this steak recipe. Itís the kind of dish that looks and tastes elegant while requiring about 10 minutes of hands-on cooking time.

Go big with the steaks, opting for two filet mignons or New York strip steaks for your big night in. Top sirloin steaks also work.

I love working almonds into savory preparations, in this case pairing them with red peppers that are diced and cooked to form a bright topping for the steaks. Try dry-roasting the nuts in a small skillet for a few minutes before chopping them, for even deeper flavor.

These steaks are really good paired with a bright green salad, something like arugula that is light but zingy. I dressed mine with just lemon juice and olive oil, plus salt and pepper. And for a light dinner (or weekend lunch!), thatís really all you need. But for something a bit more elaborate, here are three sides that would pair well with your steaks ó and that you can make ahead of time, to save precious moments on this lovey-dovey weeknight.

Mascarpone Mash: Go to the specialty cheese aisle of the grocery store. Find a tub of mascarpone cheese. Consider yourself halfway to delicious mashed potatoes. To make, peel 2 pounds russet potatoes and chop into 1-inch pieces. Add to a large pot with 3 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves garlic, a big pinch of salt and enough water to cover the whole thing. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Drain, then return to pot and mash potatoes lightly. Then add 1 cup mascarpone cheese, ľ cup grated Parmesan cheese and ľ cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve or cool and refrigerate.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus: These taste best when cooked just before eating, but you can prepare the asparagus the day before so all you have to do is cook them in a skillet the night of. To make, start with a dozen slices of prosciutto (you can also use bacon) and 24 spears of asparagus. Cut each prosciutto slice in half, then tightly wrap one each around each spear. Place on a plate and set aside. To a small saucepan, add Ĺ cup balsamic vinegar and cook until reduced and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and add half the asparagus over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper, cover with a lid and cook for about 3 minutes, turning once. Reserve to a serving platter. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons butter and the remaining asparagus. Drizzle with vinegar syrup and serve.

Simple Risotto: Make this ahead of time, then reheat by adding to a saucepan with a little bit of water and a splash of white wine and cooking on low for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until warmed through. To make, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large, deep skillet. Add 1 finely chopped onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add 1 cup Arborio rice and stir, cooking for about 3 minutes. Add Ĺ cup dry white wine and stir. Add 1 Ĺ cups chicken broth and cook until absorbed, stirring often. This will take about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups additional broth, cooking again until absorbed. Rice should be getting tender and creamy. Taste it to make sure. If not cooked, add more broth and continue to stir and cook. If cooked, stir in Ĺ cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat. Just before serving, stir in a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Seared Steaks With Peppers and Almonds

2 filet mignon, New York strip or top sirloin steaks



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves peeled fresh garlic

1 teaspoon paprika

Ĺ teaspoon cayenne pepper

ľ cup almonds, finely chopped

3 or 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Pat the steak dry with a paper towel; season generously with salt and pepper.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm oil until hot. Add the steak and cook, turning frequently, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare for top sirloins and New York strip and 8 to 12 minutes for filet mignons. Transfer to a plate to rest for 5 minutes. Do not wipe out the pan.

Cut the red pepper in half, remove the stem, ribs and seeds, then slice lengthwise into ľ-inch-wide strips. Finely chop. Mince the garlic.

In the same pan used to cook the steak, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the bell pepper, garlic, paprika and cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Pepper should be tender. Add in almonds and stir to combine, then remove from heat.

Transfer the steak to individual plates, top with pepper mixture and garnish with parsley.

Serves 2.

Source: Adapted from Sun Basket