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A Glamorous Shoestring

The 2005 MTV Video Music Awards take place this Sunday night but this event isn't just about the music. It's also about amazing food. Celebrity chef and cookbook author Todd English is the executive chef for this year's awards show as well as Diddy's green room.

He joins The Saturday Early Show this weekend to take the Chef on a Shoestring challenge with a great summer grilling menu, along with a few of the treats he plans for the official VMA afterparty.

The menu:
Watermelon Feta Salad
Grilled Flank Steak
Caramel Peaches

English is grilling Portobello mushrooms to serve along with his flank steak. The Portobello is simply a brown crimini mushroom in disguise.

When you're buying Portobello mushrooms, select plump firm and solid mushrooms, and avoid the limp or dried-looking ones. They should not be shriveled or slippery (which indicates decomposition). The mushroom should have a nice earthy smell.

To store them, remove the mushrooms from any wrapping and spread them on a tray and cover with paper toweling. Don't moisten the toweling or the mushrooms! Place them in the refrigerator in an area that allows the air to circulate. Avoid placing any other items on top of them. The mushrooms should keep about 5 - 6 days. Cooked Portabellos can be frozen and will keep for several months. Place in freezer containers or bags, excluding as much air as possible. (Uncooked mushrooms don't freeze well.)

Watermelon Feta Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups of watermelon, seeded and cut in very large julienne
1 red onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. Place the fennel, watermelon, onion and basil in a large serving bowl.
2. Add the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, and feta cheese and toss well.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Divide among four salad plates. Serve.

Chef's Note: If you can find Bulgarian feta, it is more flavorful and has a crisper bite than Greek. This is a perfect and refreshing picnic salad. The fennel, which tastes like licorice-flavored celery, adds texture and crunch. It should be sliced as thin as possible.

Skirt Steak with Cilantro Marinade with a Side of Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 4

Ingredients:
Cilantro Marinade:
2 roasted garlic cloves (see method below)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
grated zest of half a lemon
2 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. of skirt or flank steak
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Method:

To make the cilantro marinade:
1. Place the roasted garlic, mustard, cilantro, lemon zest, balsamic vinegar, and oil in a large shallow glass bowl and mash to a paste.

2. Place the steak in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

3. Prepare the grill or preheat the broiler.

4. Remove the steak from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with the salt and pepper. Grill for about 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium rare, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade.

To serve: Let meat cool for about five minutes at room temperature. Thinly slice on diagonal and serve with the grilled mushrooms.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms:

Ingredients:
4 portobello mushroom caps
olive oil to brush mushrooms with
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Method:
1. Brush mushrooms on both sides with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. 2. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice the mushrooms. Divide evenly among the four plates.

Chef's note: The longer you cook the portobello, the meatier (firmer textured) the mushroom gets.

Roasted Garlic

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil

Method:
1. Peel away the dry outer layers of skin from the head of garlic. Leave skins of cloves intact.
2. Cut off the pointed top portion (about 1/4 inch) with a sharp knife, leaving the bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves of garlic.
3. Place the head of garlic, cut side up, in a small baking dish.
4. Drizzle with olive oil.
5. Bake, covered, in a 400-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed.
6. Let the garlic head cool before handling to avoid burning yourself.
7. Then use your fingers to squeeze the paste from two cloves into a small bowl; discard the skins. Use the roasted garlic paste in the marinade as directed above.

Grilled Peaches

Ingredients:
2 large yellow flesh peach (not too firm, not too soft)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 pint vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons of olive oil to brush the peaches with
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Method:
1. Holding the peach and looking from above, trim the round ends off on both sides of the peach then cut the peach away from the pit.
2. You should have two full halves with the very ends trimmed off; now just cut those halves evenly into two from top to bottom so that you are left with four nice peach circles that you can grill on both side so the skin doesn't get in the way.
3. Brush both sides of the peaches with some olive oil. Place on the grill for just about two minutes or until it gets some nice color. Then remove and reserve.
4. Place a medium-sized stainless steel pot on the grill. Add the sugar and water to the pot. Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stir as the syrup cooks, until it turns a rich amber color.
5. This can take 10 minutes or so. Add your butter and salt to the caramel, then stir to incorporate.
6. Add your grilled peaches and any juices that have come from grilled peaches to the pot, swirl to cover the peaches.

To serve: Divide the peaches evenly among four dessert bowls, then top off with ice cream. You may garnish with mint if you wish.