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Who's cooking: Smithtown caterer Myra Naseem

MYRA NASEEM

Co-owner of Elegant Eating, a catering company in Smithtown. She has two grown daughters who live in Manhattan.

How did you get interested in cooking? I was a home-ec teacher, which is how I learned to cook.

Was there much of a food culture when you were growing up? My grandfather had a bakery in the Catskills, and my grandmother had "golden hands." She used to make strudel. My father and uncle, when they were young, opened a restaurant.

What kind of memories do you have of growing up around food? The food was so different then. We didn't eat a lot of fish. We would have meat, vegetable and a starch. It was all very basic.

What are you likely to find in your kitchen that would not have been in your mother's? A lot of fresh herbs. We also have a lot of little gadgets - immersion blenders, a newly designed lemon juicer, and they're so much fun to use. I also do a lot of cooking with fish. I use a Thai chile pepper in a jar. We never had anything like that - the most we had was Tabasco sauce, but we never used it. It was too spicy. And all the exotic cheeses. We had American cheese as a kid. It was processed cheese, Velveeta.

Is there a particular ethnic kind of cooking that you're fond of? I like a lot of Middle Eastern flavors - cinnamon, coriander, cumin - and I use them when I'm cooking for my family.

What restaurant do you like? I like Kitchen a Bistro in St. James. The food is fabulous, and there's always something new.-- Linda Perney

MARINATED STEAK

3 pounds flank or skirt steak

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sweet sherry or red wine

Salt and pepper


1. Lightly run a knife in a crisscross pattern across the grain of steak and rub evenly with paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Place the flank steak in a bowl or baking dish.

2. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over the steak. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to cook, heat grill or broiler to medium high.

4. Season steak liberally with salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes on each side or to your preference.

5. Place steak on a cutting board and cover with foil. Let rest about 10 minutes (so all the juices don't run out). Slice thinly across the grain. Makes 5 to 6 servings.


BALSAMIC VINEGAR DRESSING

If you serve a salad with the steak, you might like this dressing.


¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons dark or light brown sugar

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (use garlic press if available)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ to 3/4 cup olive oil

1. Whisk vinegar in a bowl with sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolve.

2. Add oil by drops, whisking constantly (or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake). Taste and adjust the seasonings.

3. If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.

NOTE: If using a good quality vinegar, you should not need the sugar, but if using a lesser quality you might want the sugar to round out the dressing.

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