Flank steak is perhaps one of the prettiest, and certainly, most delicious cuts of beef. It's perfect for a beef and broccoli type dish, but when I see that beautiful flank laid out on my cutting board, I want to honour it, not slice it up in a manner befitting a lesser cut of meat such as a round steak. Flank steak is not always readily available at my local grocery store and when it is, it's a little more expensive than say a top sirloin or rump roast. Last week, however, flank steak was not only available, but on sale, and as such, I just had to get one.
I've done flank steak with a variety of stuffings...savoury bread and scallion, mushrooms and rice to name a few...but I wanted to do something different. Mediterranean has been a cuisine I've been leaning toward lately, trying to incorporate as much vegetable with our meals as I can, while keeping them interesting and different. So I decided I'd do some sort of Mediterranean stuffing.
Looking around my kitchen and in the fridge, I spotted spinach, red pepper and feta cheese. I had gotten a bunch of each fresh local basil and mint, a beautiful organic cauliflower and a tremendous zucchini at the Farmer's Market. (The zucchini was so large, I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with it to be honest, but it seemed to be calling out to me, begging me to take it home!) Yes...sometimes, food calls out to me...almost like it's saying, 'Pick me! Pick me!'. Nothing odd there, right?
I decided to stuff my flank steak with roasted red pepper, spinach, onion, mushrooms and feta cheese, seasoned with basil. Mediterranean Stuffed Flank Steak was to be the star of the show! For my sides? I've never really done much with cauliflower before other than raw on a crudité plate, cooked in a stir fry or steamed with a cheese sauce. Neither of those methods quite fit my 'feel' for this meal. I had never tried pureed cauliflower before, and certainly had never made it, but I had noted creamed or pureed cauliflower was popping up on menus so I thought I'd try my hand at it.
It really couldn't have been an easier dish to make. Very simply boil cauliflower florets in milk and when the cauliflower is soft, spoon it into a blender with a slotted spoon, reserving the milk. Add a couple of cloves of roasted garlic, which I ALWAYS have on hand, add half of the milk, put the cover on and press 'Purée'. Add more milk as needed until you reach your desired consistency, then pour it all back into a sauce pan to keep warm. At that point, I mixed in a handful of finely chopped green onion and about 3/4 of a cup of grated parmesan cheese, leaving a little green onion to sprinkle on top for garnish. Pureed Cauliflower can be a stand-alone dish, but as a side it brings a silky smooth element that not even the creamiest of mashed potatoes can bring.
As lovely as the Pureed Cauliflower would be with the Mediterranean Stuffed Flank Steak, I felt the plate needed a little something else. Then there was that spectacular zucchini, so large and green, impossible to overlook. Quite often I simply sauté slices of zucchini with salt and pepper as a side and I swear, I could eat a whole zucchini that way myself! I've also used it in baking and roasted it...but what else could I do? Something different. Something Mediterranean but with the zucchini being the star, as it was demanding to be! (Yes...my zucchini was still talking to me...go figure!) I wondered about some sort of Mediterranean flavoured patty. I had fresh mint, scallions, lemon and feta. I decided on a 'keftedde' of sorts. Kefteddes are Greek meatballs made with ground beef or pork and ground lamb, bread crumbs, garlic, onion and mint, traditionally served as an appetizer with tzatziki sauce for dipping. But what about a vegetarian keftedde?
I peeled and grated that wonderful zucchini and then placed it in a colander lined with a dish towel, and sprinkled with some sea salt. Zucchini contains a lot of water, and a lot of water would make any kind of patty or keftedde impossible. I let the zucchini drain for about an hour before squeezing as much water out using the tea towel as I could, then placing it in a bowl, adding thinly sliced green onion, fresh mint, garlic, a little bit of lemon zest, 1 egg, some crumbled feta and panko, (Japanese bread crumbs). While Japanese bread crumbs don't seem very Mediterranean and I suppose I could use regular bread crumbs or dry Italian bread crumbs, I find panko excellent to work with. At the last moment, I flattened out the zucchini kefteddes, making them little patties, before cooking them until golden brown in a skillet. While my Mediterranean Flank Steak was cooking in the oven, I decided to toss a pint of cherry tomatoes with some garlic and oregano and a little extra virgin olive oil and slide that on in the oven too...roasted tomatoes on top of the Zucchini Kefteddes would work!
The combination of flavours in this meal was extraordinary....beef, spinach, roasted red peppers, feta, cauliflower, roasted garlic, parmesan cheese, zucchini, fresh basil and mint, all jiving together for one pretty awesome taste sensation. It was a fantastic tasting meal, and the aromas that filled the house? Get outta here! But even more important to me was all the nutritional goodness laid out on one plate. The health benefits of each element, listed below, are what I strive for in everything I prepare for my family.
Cauliflower: Several studies link cauliflower-containing diets to cancer prevention particularly for bladder, breast, colon, prostate and ovarian cancers. It also contains powerful detoxifying antioxidants and being an excellent source of Vitamin K, cauliflower provdes one of the hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrients. It's also an excellent source of Vitamin C and fiber.
Spinach: Long known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, spinach also contains powerful anti-oxidants, is an excellent source of Vitamins K and C, and as a great source of calcium, spinach is fantastic for the maintenance of healthy bones.
Zucchini: Zucchini is jam-packed with anti-oxidants, folate, potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and has moderate levels of B complex Vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, phosphorous and zinc.
Tomatoes: Excellent source of Vitamin C and beta carotene, a very good source of manganese and a good source of Vitamin E.
Flank Steak: As a lean cut of beef, it's lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than some other cuts of beef, is an excellent source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and a good source of folate and riboflavin.
Mediterranean Stuffed Flank Steak with Pureed Cauliflower and Zucchini Kefteddes topped with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes...the perfect balance of flavour and nutrition. Easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!