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Cooking With Myra: Seeing how the other half lives

By By Myra Starkey
April 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 16, 2012 at 11:17 p.m.

Flat Iron Steak with Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad

Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad

6 cups arugula11/2 cups chopped basil leaves11/2 cups corn kernels (fresh cut from cobs after boiling corn)1 cup halved cherry tomatoes3 Tbsp. olive oil2 Tbsp. lemon juiceSaltWhisk oil and lemon together. Toss with remainder of ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Flat Iron Steak

4 Tbsp. cracked black pepper 1/8 tsp. ground allspice 1/4 cup chopped green peppercorns 6 (4-oz.) flat iron steaks (flank steak can be used as a substitute) Kosher salt 4 Tbsp. olive oilChopped fresh rosemary leaves, for garnish (about 2 sprigs)

Rub spice on steaks and refrigerate for 2 hours. Grill over hot coals or saute on stove top in iron skillet. Place olive oil in skillet and heat until smoking. Place steak in skillet; sear and then turn. Cover skillet for 2 minutes. Steak should be pink in the middle. If not then turn again and cover.

I ducked into the ladies room for a peek in the mirror to see if there was anything I could do with my windblown hair.

It must have been blowing 50 miles per hour out there. There was an older gal next to me also trying to improve her curb appeal. She had gray hair and was applying bright red lipstick in large amounts.

I glanced as she pressed her lips together and then kissed a paper towel to remove the excess. When she smiled I noticed that some of the lipstick appeared on her front teeth, a common casualty among lipstick wearers.

I felt no compulsion to tell her as both of us still stood in front of the mirror and I would only be pointing out the obvious. "Are you on the home tour also," she asked, as she turned to grab her purse.

"Yes, we started this morning and have seen several. The houses are amazing," I replied.

"Beautiful and hideous, depending on your point of view," she said. She sort of spit out the word "hideous."

I personally had not seen anything I would have described as hideous. Perhaps not all of it was my style, but there was no doubt that the different homeowners had invested lots of time, money and design work.

It was the weekend of the annual Rockport Art Center's homes tour. We asked Laura, Doug, Janet and Kim to join us. We had such a great time last year, I wanted to share the experience with friends.

We started out early visiting a two-story home on Fulton Beach Road. The colors were so soothing and reminded me of sand, sea and driftwood. Each room was painted the same blue-gray and decorated with beach objects and comfy upholstered chairs.

The salty breeze, the noise of the waves and the panorama of Aransas Bay was just across the street, and could be readily experienced from the wide screened porches.

I took a minute to soak it in before being hurried to the next room by the sweetly smiling docent in charge of making sure we did not tarry too long. The main room of this house had an enormous kitchen with a living area on the opposite side of the room.

Wood floors the color of driftwood continued through the home and up the stairs where two bedrooms waited eagerly for the guests that were sure to arrive. Since we were on a home tour, we trekked through even the bathrooms and closets. It seemed sort of odd to be in the intimate areas of complete strangers.

Taylor and I live in a really old house. It was built six or seven years before the Civil War started. Several years ago, we were asked to be on the Victoria Preservation Homes Tour. I accepted the invitation knowing it would push me to do all the things to the house that I had been putting off like scraping and repainting our peeling front porch.

As if that were not enough pressure, I also agreed to be on the garden tour that was a week or so before, figuring that this would also force me to give our yard some overdue attention. My preparation seemed endless.

I painted baseboards with the precision of a "professional" and still could not get it all done. In the end, I decided "it is what it is" and that is just an old house, which is exactly why we love it, peeling paint and all.

As the tour day approached, I was warned that being a docent in your own home is not for the faint of heart. Apparently, the folks on the tour make a lot of loud opinionated commentary, which may offend the homeowner.

Having thick skin, I signed up to be a guide in my house, figuring that I could take it. For the most part, all the folks who came in were pleasant, and I can remember only a few comments that probably would not have been uttered if I had identified myself.

By the end of the first day, I decided to start my speech by explaining that I was the owner and figured that if someone wanted to comment they were warned of my presence and possible sensitive nature.

The point is, having your home on a tour open to the public means you are vulnerable. You are opening your life to those who traipse through for the mere price of a ticket (and you don't get the proceeds).

Many of us have a secret desire to see how other people live and play. For this reason, home tours are wildly popular - and so are reality shows. The comment of a home being both "hideous and beautiful" can apply to almost all of our houses.

My only negative comment to Taylor on the homes tour was to beg him not to ever get a large boat. One of the "homes" was a beautiful hand-built 44-foot long trawler complete with a kitchen, full size refrigerator and master bedroom, all below deck.

It was a very windy and wavy day. I spent about 10 seconds gyrating around in those cramped spaces before being overcome by profuse sweating and nausea. I rushed back upstairs, hitting my head on a corner cabinet and feeling like my legs were jelly.

I jumped back on solid ground, but it took me awhile to feel normal again. All I could think about was what a nice and tolerant wife the boat's owner must have.

The day was beautiful and many of the homes were extravagantly decorated. I had the opportunity to see mother of pearl wall covering and beautiful tile mosaics on bathroom walls.

I felt like a heiress as I looked out over the balcony of one of the homes toward the bay. Just below me, by the pool, were blue chaise lounges just waiting for bathing beauties. Outdoor kitchens were plentiful on the tour, and I enjoyed seeing how others had used precious outdoor space to create patios.

At the end of the day, my mind was swirling with ideas, but as I arrived home, I realized they would have to wait as the grass needed to be mowed and the yard edged, and that is all I could handle for now.

In my day-to-day cooking, I usually do not prepare beef. In fact, I hate to admit this, but I don't actually cook anything on many days because Taylor often cooks a simple breakfast and makes me a cafe latte.

We eat out for lunch because we are at work and since we are empty-nesters, we sometimes don't eat much of anything for supper. Anyway, when I do cook, my meat of choice is fish and so Taylor has to accommodate my taste, since I am the one planning the meals.

I saw a recipe for pan sauteed beef with garlic and thought I would surprise him. I chose a flat iron steak to prepare and dusted it with peppercorns and salt. I heated olive oil and watched as the steak sizzled and crisped. I served the steak with an arugula, corn and tomato salad. A perfect meal for spring.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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