Friday, May 23, 2014

a long weekend twofer: grilled steak, slaw and the quickest pasta ever!

a long weekend twofer: grilled steak, slaw and the quickest pasta ever!

Scenario One: So you know when the weather is nice and you feel your grill calling your name? 

Scenario Two: You cannot even fathom cooking a thing and all your take away stand-bys leave you feeling well, sad.  What do you do?

The good news is I have a solution for BOTH!  Yeah You!

Scenario OneAncho rubbed steak tacos with spicy slaw.  (This is a great slaw recipe for those who are mayonnaise averse.  I know, I know.  I don’t understand it either, but there are some folks who recoil at Hellman’s, even those who like a mayo based slaw will love this one.  And it’s not hot for kids—mine love it!)

Ingredients: 1 to 11/4 lb. Flank steak or skirt steak
                          1-1/2 tsp. pure ancho chile powder
                          2 tsp. granulated sugar
                          Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
                         1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
                         1 to 2 medium jalapeños, stemmed
                         2 Tbs. olive oil
                         1 container prepped cole slaw mix (if you really want to cut up some cabbages, you are more than welcome to…but do you really want to cut up some cabbages?!)
Step 1. Take out your steak, pat it dry, and combine chile powder 1 tsp of sugar, 2 tsp salt and ¾ tsp pepper.  Rub this on the steak, both sides, and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
the dry rub
the steak patted dry
rubbed on

(here’s the thing, any kind of beef needs to rest at room temperature before you grill it or fry it or whatever it.  It helps the fibers release or relax or something the Food Lab can tell you about.  Please do it.  I usually freeze mine, and thaw it in the fridge, but before I do that, I typically season it with some kosher salt.  It helps the same fibers…somehow.  But trust me, it is the most succulent when you do it this way.)

Step 2: Prepare a gas or charcoal grill meaning, clean it and then start it. 

(If you’ve got time, before you start it.  Take a couple paper towels with some canola oil and after cleaning it, wipe the grill grates down with it.  It will cook better this way and it is the only real way to grill fish and be happy about it.)

Step 3: Cut up your onion to large rounds
and then slice and remove the seeds from your jalapeno pepper.
slice into the center 
cut out membrane and seeds
clean pepper, discard gloves only
after throwing the seeds, membrane away
thick rounds of onion

close up shot

(I wear gloves to do this, and the simple reason is this, fresh jalapenos have oils.  And they burn.  If you touch your eyes or your face, you will remember never to cut any hot fresh-- or dried for that matter--pepper without gloves ever again. )

Step 4: Set the onion rounds and jalapeños on a large plate and sprinkle with 1 Tbs. of the oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Then grill them, about 3 to 4 minutes a side, grill hood shut.  Note that the onion may burn, so move it to a cooler part of your grill.  In the interim, in a medium size bowl, combine 1 tsp sugar, and ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and 1 TB olive oil.
adding  1 TB fresh lime juice
sugar, salt  & oil

Step 5:  Take the pepper and onions off of the grill and put to the side.  Place the steak on the grill, hood open and let cook for about 5-6 minutes then flip and cook again 5-6 minutes.  Turn off your grill.  Take the steak off the grill and allow it to rest on a cutting board loosely covered with foil for about 10 minutes.

(I’ve found that my grill gets super hot and this is sufficient for medium-rare to medium steak.  If, after it has rested, it is too red for your liking after you cut into it, place it back on the grill for 2-3 minutes a side.) 

Step 6:  Place your onions and jalapenos on a cutting board and begin to dice them.  The easiest way to do this is to take your knife and begin to rock it back and forth in a fan pattern.  Let your knife do the work for you. 

What I’ve learned about knife skills:  

I took a knife skills class once as a recreational cooking class.  What I learned is this: If you don’t find a knife that feels comfortable in your hand, cooking will be a chore for you.  You need to have a knife that weighs okay, and is comfortable for you.  You can go to Williams-Sonoma and they will let you try as many knives as you like.  Look for a chef’s knife and feel it in your hand, check the weight as you chop.  See if it hurts to do it.  I use this knife, which is recommended by Cook’s Illustrated.  It has a fiberglass handle and is very light.  My wrists are small and this works great for me.  Below is an illustration on what I mean.  Allowing the knife to work for you will make your hands a lot less tired and this kind of prep work will go faster.

Step 7: Add the lime juice to the bowl and then add the diced pepper and onions. 
Finally, combine the cole slaw mixture in and toss.  Add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to rest to let the flavors combine.

Step 8: Grill your tortillas, less than a minute per side will do.  Then place them in a clean dishtowel on a plate to stay warm. 

Step 9: Slice the meat thinly and place on a plate.  Serve with guacamole, cheese, sour cream and the slaw.
and you're done!


Scenario Two: The No-Fail, Easiest Pasta Recipe Ever.  And it is. Seriously, I saw this one-pan pasta in Martha Stewart Living and made it.  And have been making it ever since.  It’s amazing.  And easy.  

Here’s what you need:
12 oz linguine
12 oz, cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced. 
1 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise.  (Red or white doesn’t matter)
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced (don’t mince this, it will disintegrate, you want it in thin slices,the soak in the water will take out the “bite” of it.)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
 2 tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper
4.5 cups of water
A large skillet—mine is 13” but 12 should do it.
Freshly grated parmesan for serving

The tomato trick I learned from Sarah Carey:  place your grape tomatoes between two take out container lids.  Press down firmly and slice through.  Magic.
1. the grape tomatos on lid
2. sandwiching between lids

3. Pressing down firmly with left hand,
slice through with knife in right.
4. all cut!

Step 1: Combine all the ingredients except the water and parmesan in a skillet like pictured. 

Step 2: Then add the water, bring to a boil.

Step 3: Keep turning the pasta with tongs, it will cook in the skillet and you cannot substitute the pastaThe starch from the pasta is what helps make the sauce.  (This is why you see recipes that call for you to reserve some pasta water to thicken the sauce.)

Step 4: It’ll take about 9 minutes for the pasta to thicken and you can then add salt and pepper to taste (I’ve never added either), and add some parmesan and fresh basil on top. 

Step 5: Act like it took you forever and accept the universal praise.  You’re due.

You can always drink some iced apricot black tea with it.  Just relax and enjoy.  Cheers!

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