Kerry Fastenau, a homemaker, lives in Massapequa Park with her husband and daughter.
How long have you been cooking?
I started learning Greek when I was 14. I always loved the language and the culture. I first went to Greece when I was 21, with my sister. Over the next four or five years I went every summer, and I had my aha! moment about cooking in Greece one summer when I was about 25. I had a boyfriend who had a place with a bunch of guys and all of them knew how to cook. They learned from their mothers. They didn’t have access to takeout food or fast food, so even young, single guys cook for themselves. These guys had a little propane stove, no oven. (If you had anything that you needed to bake, you went down to the bakery and they would bake it for you for a small fee.) Living in a new culture opened my eyes to simple cooking.
Have you branched out?
I’m always trying different things. I love Indian food. I have a brother and a sister-in-law who are chefs. We have cooking genes around us. My husband and daughter are super-adventurous eaters. They’re also vegetarians, so I am always thinking of how to accommodate them.
Any tips for success?
For the vegetables, I have a couple. Roast the peppers first, close to the heat of the grill, and char them — but be careful not to burn them — and then directly from the grill put them into a bowl and cover them. The steam they produce will loosen the skin and it will just peel off. Use the juices that collect at the bottom of the bowl to dress them, along with a little olive oil. Some people only like peppers or onions but not both, so I serve them in separate bowls.
What about the hangar steak? Hanger steak has a tough membrane running down the center. If it is not cut into two pieces by the butcher, you will need to separate it into two pieces, removing the membrane with a sharp knife. You will have two long strips of meat left when trimmed. Some places sell it like this, already cut, but I always check it because sometimes the membrane is still there and I make sure to remove it and trim the pieces. It’s important to cook it just right, to a temperature of 135 degrees. Undercooked, it will be mushy. Overcooked, it will be tough.
GREEK-INSPIRED HANGER STEAK WITH TZATZIKI SAUCE
Kerry makes a tomato-onion salad dressed with olive oil, and a plate of feta slices with Kalamata olives, both of which can be eaten as sides or put right onto the pita.
For the tzatziki:
1 cup good-quality full-fat Greek yogurt
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, pounded to paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3⁄4 tablespoon white vinegar
1⁄2 hot house cucumber, unpeeled, finely grated, drained or squeezed of excess liquid
3⁄4 tablespoon fresh dill, finely minced
For the steak:
4 bell peppers (use a mix of colors)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 hanger steak (about 1 1⁄4 pounds, can substitute skirt steak for similar flavor), separated into 2 pieces, tough membrane removed
Ground black pepper
2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into thick slices
4 pocketless pita breads
1. Make the tzatziki: Combine the yogurt, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add drained cucumber and minced dill, mix, and refrigerate until ready to use. Just before serving, drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill, if desired
2. Make the steak: Preheat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal fire. Place the whole peppers on the grill over high heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a lid. Allow peppers to steam for 10 minutes, peel away their skins, remove seeds and cut into strips. Drizzle with olive oil and transfer to a serving bowl.
3. Season meat with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until medium-rare (135 degrees). Let steak rest 5 minutes, slice against the grain into either strips or chunks. Keep warm.
4. Put onions on the grill when you put the meat on, turning them once and removing them to a serving bowl when soft.
5. Wrap the pitas in foil and put on the top tier of grill to warm them. Remove when soft. Cut rounds into halves or quarters. Remove pitas and wrap in towel until ready to serve.
6. Assemble meat, peppers and onions on warm pitas. Top with tzatziki. Makes 4 servings.