Grand Finale Labor Day menu is elegant, thrifty

August 28, 1991|By Sherrie Clinton | Sherrie Clinton,Evening Sun Staff

AFTER A SUMMER of hot dogs and hamburgers I like to splurge on Labor Day and indulge in an elegant repast.

This menu makes abundant use of seasonal fruits and vegetables for a luxurious taste on a small budget. Moderately priced flank steak is stuffed with a flavorful spinach mixture, a trick that stretches the menu to accommodate six generously.

The meal can be made one day ahead of time and whisked from the refrigerator to the table. The macaroni salad tastes best if allowed to warm to room temperature.

For dessert there's an elegant fruit salad with an adult twist: a subtle sprinkle of liqueur. Garnish with fresh mint and long, slender slivers of lime peel. Be sure to drain the fruit before serving.

Flank Steak Florentine

1 flank steak, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds

4 cups tightly packed fresh spinach

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large shallots or green onions diced, 1/4 cup

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

Pound the flank steak with a heavy, smooth-surfaced object, like a small iron skillet or smooth meat mallet to flatten it and break down some of the muscle tissue for easier rolling. Work the meat into a rectangle as much as possible.

Trim the spinach and rinse it in several changes of water to wash off any sand. There should be about four cups of tightly packed leaves. Steam the spinach over boiling water two to three minutes, just enough so it becomes limp. Drain off any water.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place one tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the shallots and cook until they become limp and have absorbed the butter.

Spread the shallots over the flank steak, which has been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Lay the spinach on top, covering the whole surface and season it with a little nutmeg. Roll up the meat and spinach, starting at the short end of the steak. Tie in four places with kitchen twine.

Melt the remaining one tablespoon butter and brush the outside of the roll with it. Again, lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the flank steak, seam side down on a rack in a roasting pan and put it in the hot oven. Immediately lower the heat to 275 degrees and cook about one hour -- checking frequently. Remove from the roasting pan and cool.

Macaroni Salad

1 1/2 cups pasta, cooked according to package directions

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups pitted black olives, sliced

1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives cut in wedges

3/4 cup drained garbanzo beans (chick peas)

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

3 tablespoon milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cherry tomatoes, quartered for garnish

Toss the cooked, drained pasta with the oil and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the black and green olives, the garbanzo beans and the parsley. Gently toss together so that everything is mixed.

Put the cream cheese in another bowl and smear it around the bowl until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and milk and blend thoroughly once again. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the macaroni mixture. Stir and toss carefully to blend all the ingredients and coat them with the cream cheese. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cherry tomatoes. The salad may be covered and refrigerated, but should be at room temperature when served.

-- Adapted from "Picnics" by Marilyn Myers; Running Press -- 1988, $19.95

Rosy Mushrooms

1 pound fresh mushrooms, cut into slices

3 medium scallions cut in chunks

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Place clean mushrooms in container with a tight-fitting lid. Set aside.

Place scallions and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smoothly blended and the scallions are so finely chopped they are unnoticeable.

Pour the dressing over the mushrooms and stir or shake so all the mushrooms are mixed with the marinade. Let them rest in the covered dish in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally to redistribute the mushrooms in the marinade. Make up to 24 hours ahead of time. Discard marinade before serving. Serve with forks or toothpicks.

-- Adapted from "Picnics" by Marilyn Myers; Running Press -- 1988, $19.95

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