Iron Chef Cat Cora cooks up some tacos

Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Serves 6

Chile powder and lime give an inexpensive cut of meat a lot of flavor. Then, when you spoon up a tangy, colorful pineapple salsa next to these soft tacos, you have a delicious dinner with style and flair.

Every part of this meal can be done on the grill, but here stovetop/oven option as well.

You can brown the pineapple slabs on the grill or leave the fruit on the grill until one side of the pineapple is truly black, 4 to 5 minutes.

Cat prefers the charred look and love how it tastes in the salsa, but taste and see what you like. The pineapple needs a few minutes to cool when you take it off the grill, so you might want to grill the fruit first and use the time while it's cooling to cut up the remaining vegetables for the salsa.

This recipe makes a lot of salsa, but it's good to have on hand in your fridge for a few days, ready to liven up simple quesadillas.

Ingredients:

Marinade

  • 1 teaspoon pure chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
Preparation:
  1. In a small bowl, mix the spices, salt, pepper, lime juice and oil to make a paste.

  2. Place the steak in a shallow dish and rub the paste evenly over both sides.

    Cover and let marinate for 1 to 4 hours.
Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients:
  • 1 small pineapple (3-3 ½ pounds)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ fresh jalapeno or Serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 16 6-inch corn tortillas
Preparation:
  1. Light a charcoal grill about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

  2. Slice off the leafy top of the pineapple and just enough of the bottom so the fruit rests flat on a cutting board.

  3. Slice off the skin with a sharp knife, cutting from top to bottom and taking off as little of the flesh as possible, rotating the pineapple as you go.

  4. Discard the skin. Cut out any "eyes" with a paring knife and discard. Slice the fruit away from the core in 4 or 5 slabs.

  5. Place the pineapple slabs on the hot grill and grill until the fruit is just beginning to show some browning, 2 minutes per side, 4 to 5 minutes per side if you want it charred (see previous page).

  6. Let the pineapple cool for a few minutes, then dice. In a medium bowl, mix the diced pineapple, onion, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and chile, and blend well.

  7. To cook the steak: Grill the steak for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or slightly longer for well-done meat. Remove from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

  8. Meanwhile, place the tortillas on the hot grill and grill for 10 seconds on each side, then wrap in a cloth napkin to keep them warm.

  9. Slice the steak across the grain into ½-inch thick slices and arrange on a serving platter. Place the tortillas and the bowl of salsa on the table and serve family-style.
Cat's note: The steak and pineapple can be cooked in an oiled ridged grill pan on top of the stove and the tortillas can be wrapped in foil and heated in a 350 F oven.

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Cilantro Slaw with Sautéed Garlic
Serves 6 to 8

The big flavors of this slaw stand up to a pork sandwich and add crunch and color. Because it has no mayo, it's great to take on picnics.

Small heads of cabbage are sweeter and more tender than large ones, so I dive into the display at my farmers' market and hunt for the smallest heads.

Tear off and discard the outer leaves and slice the cabbage into thin ribbons about ¼ inch thick (about the width of skinny curling ribbon on a gift)

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ head green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • ½ head purple cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preparation:
  1. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat just until it shimmers.

  2. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring until the garlic pieces begin to show some color, about 3 minutes.

  3. Remove from the heat. (The garlic will gain a little more color in the hot oil, and that's fine.)

  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pour in the warm olive oil with the garlic pieces. Whisk lightly.

  5. Toss the cabbage in a large serving bowl and pour the dressing over it.

  6. Toss until the slaw is lightly coated with dressing. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  7. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the slaw just before serving.
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Grapefruit and Cherry Ambrosia with Honey Cream
Serves 6 to 8

When I was growing up in Mississippi, ambrosia was brought to family reunions, picnics, graduation parties, and potlucks.

This version saves what was good about the original but uses fresh, juicy grapefruit segments and sweet, dark cherries in place of canned fruit.

Because honey has so many subtle flavor notes, the cream that accompanies the ambrosia tastes much more complex than if it were sweetened with sugar.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup grapefruit segments, membranes removed
  • 3 ½ cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup pitted fresh Bing cherries or frozen, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
Honey cream

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preparation:
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the grapefruit segments, pineapple and cherries with the lemon juice, cover, and refridgerate for 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack int eh middle. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until it begins to turn golde, 5 to 7 minutes; don't let it get too dark.

  3. For the cream: With an electric mixer, beat the cream, honey, and vanilla until it forms soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes

  4. With a slotted spoon, divide the fruit among 6 to 8 dessert glasses or bowls, leaving behind most of the fruit juice. Top with the honey cream, toasted coconut, and chopped walnuts and serve.
Cat's note: You can go with a light honey, such as clover, lavender honey, or a dark, more brooding one, like a full-bodied buckwheat honey.

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How to Segment a Grapefruit:

To supreme is to cut off all the membrane around each segment of a grapefruit or other citrus fruit. This chef's trick makes citrus desserts and salads taste better because the membrane is not only tough but has a bitter flavor.

Use a large, sharp knife to cut off a thin slice across the stem end and the opposite pole. (This gives you a flat surface on which to rest the fruit and a starting point at the top.)

Slice off the peel in long strips, moving from the top of the fruit to the bottom and discard the peel. Working over a bowl, use your knife to cut each segment of grapefruit away from its membrane, allowing the segments and juice to fall into the bowl.

About Cat Cora:

It's no surprise Cat Cora became a world renowned chef. Her culinary aspirations began at an early age, and by 15, she had developed a business plan for her own restaurant.

In 2005, she made television history on Food Network's Iron Chef America as the first and only female Iron Chef, and in November 2006 Bon Appétit bestowed her with their Teacher of the Year Award, an award she calls, "the greatest recognition she could achieve as a chef."

That month, she was also honored with another great culinary distinction when she was named executive chef of the magazine. There is no doubt Cat's upbringing had an influence on her career. She was raised in a small Greek community in Jackson, Mississippi, by a family for whom cooking and eating were the center of life.

At the Cora house, it was common to eat spices from the South, as well as fresh sheep and goat cheeses and home-cured olives sent by relatives from the island of Skopelos. Her first cookbook, Cat Cora's Kitchen, was inspired by her Greek and Southern heritage and contains many of her family's favorite recipes.

With advice from her famous mentor, Julia Child, Cat left Mississippi for New York, where she received the education of her dreams at The Culinary Institute of America. While in New York, she apprenticed with and worked for chef Anne Rozenweig at Arcadia and worked at the Beekman Tavern under chef Larry Forgione of An American Place.

Cat's culinary education continued in Europe with apprenticeships with two of France's three-star Michelin chefs. From George Blanc of Vonnas, she learned a great deal about tolerance, extreme cooking and the cuisine of the French countryside.

With Roger Verge, she learned not only about classical French cuisine, but also about embracing life and living it to the fullest. After returning to New York, Cat honed her skills as a sous chef at The Old Chatham Shepherding Company under chef Melissa Kelly.

She soon headed west to plant her roots in Northern California, where she served as chef de cuisine at Napa Valley's Bistro Don Giovanni. Cat made her TV debut in 1999, as co-host of Food Network's Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito.

She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate and Fine Living's Simplify Your Life. A documentary, Cat's In The Kitchen, was also made about her first James Beard dinner in April, 2002. Cat is part of Macy's Culinary Council, a national culinary authority, comprised of 15 of the world's most prominent chefs.

The Council serves as the face of Macy's Culinary and Housewares divisions, impacting how customers are inspired to shop, cook and eat at home. Outside of the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy.

She is president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization which was founded in response to the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Modeled after Doctors Without Borders, the non-profit organization gathers the culinary community together to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency, educational and hunger-related causes. In addition to this, she recently became the nutritional spokesperson for UNICEF.

With her recently launched second book, Cooking From The Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals (Houghton Mifflin), Cat elevates at home cooking to new levels. The book applies her "go-with-what-you've got" philosophy to creating simple, yet sensational meals. Cat resides in Southern California with her family, including her biggest fans, her two sons.

For more information, visit www.catcoracooks.com

Please Join Cat on June 14 at 6 p.m.
Macy's in Union Square
Free and open to the public
Seating is limited so RSVP 800-786-2665
Website: www.macys.com

Macy's culinary council chef Cat Cora comes to Union Square: Offering fresh ideas on family dinner to bring them back to the table!

Look, learn and taste as this smart chef (and mom) introduces her new cookbook and recipes! Take a page out of Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes, Cat Cora's third cookbook. She will demonstrate how to transform complicated classic recipes with quick, healthy twists and ways to simplify meals for todays busy households!

Meet Cat! After the demo, Cat will greet fans and sign copies of her book purchased at the event.

About the Book:

On the wildly popular show Iron Chef America, Cat Cora uses her instincts to transform random ingredients into exciting creations on a moment's notice. In this book, she turns her eye to some of our most popular dishes to make them faster, fresher, and lighter.

These are the swift meals that Cat relies on when she comes home from work to cook for her own family: Greek-Style Nachos, Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos, Crispy Baked Fish Stix with Mustard Dipping Sauce, Quick Chicken Curry with Peas, and Sour-Cherry-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes.

In dishes like Baked "Fried" Calamari with Marinara Dipping Sauce and Tex-Mex Tuna Casserole, Cat puts a new spin on old favorites. She updates others, tossing chipotle-spiced croutons into a Caesar salad, or replacing the usual beef in stroganoff with chicken and adding fresh tarragon.

Each recipe illustrates Cat's motto: just because a dish is a classic doesn't mean it can't be improved upon.

>> Buy this book on Amazon: Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes

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