Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brazilian Marinated Seaks with Chile Lime Sauce

Brazilian... really? while I can't vouch for the recipe's authenticity, I can imagine gauchos and vaqueros (link) knowing how to prepare a tasty steak. The idea and title come from Two Hot Tamales, and I'm not going to argue with that spicy duo. 

A 1 1/2-pound beef chuck roast sat on my counter, daring me challenging me to get creative, to move beyond the typical cold-weather pot roast, stew or chili. The calendar said it was officially Spring, the day was sunny and verging on warm; this was not a time for more wintery comfort food. I grabbed a knife and began the attack, moving forward without much of a plan. That small roast sliced neatly into four steaks, but then I had some concerns about the tenderness challenge.

Beef chuck comes from the shoulder of the cow, an area that is well muscled, heavily exercised, and has quite a bit of fat and connective tissue. It is known to be flavorful but tough chewy. One solution was to utilize a marinade. An acidic marinade can help tenderize a tough steak by permeating the meat and breaking down the connective tissues. I turned to this cookbook, an old favorite, for inspiration.

Red wine, lime, garlic and herbs - now that had potential. Flavorful? oh, yes! Chefs Milliken & Feniger recommend their marinade for rib-eye steaks, but a good rib-eye is already tender and I would hate to turn an expensive cut into mush. Chuck, however, seemed a good candidate for marination; chewy yet flavorful, affordable, and it was what I had on hand at the time. Done deal.

Lime juice and red wine are readily available acidic liquids and they did a fine job of tenderizing the chuck roast steaks in three and a half hours. Gauchos may not have time to marinate their meat for hours, but it was worth the wait for this city cook. The herbs and garlic added additional flavor and the resulting cooktop-grilled steaks were a major 4-star mealtime hit. The Chile Lime Sauce? Oh. My. Yes! don't skip the sauce, its bright tangy, citrusy taste was good enough to eat straight up off a spoon. We loved the fresh salsa/sauce on the grilled steaks, on rice, on grilled vegetables... 

I had forgotten my California marinated meat-grilling roots for a while, but I'm back on track now. We'll see this recipe again and again, the Capt. will insist on it. 

Brazilian Marinated Steaks with Chile Lime Sauce
Adapted from Cooking with Too Hot Tamales by Milliken & Feniger

4 rib-eye steaks (1 ½ -inch thick) (I used chuck steaks)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 small white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp ground (white) pepper

Chile Lime Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Place the steaks in a non-metallic pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

2. Blitz the remaining ingredients in a blender to form a loose paste. Pour over the steaks, turning to coat both sides. Cover and chill for 4 to 6 hours in the fridge, remembering to turn occasionally.

3. Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

4. Remove the steaks from the marinade, shaking to remove the excess, and grill until done to taste, roughly 6-7 minutes per side for rare to medium-rare. Don't overcook the meat or it will become tougher.

5. Transfer to a platter, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes so the juices redistribute. Serve with the Chile Lime Sauce.

Chile Lime Sauce
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 small white onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
juice of 3 limes
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
tamed jalapeno rings, or maybe Sriracha, to taste (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender; blitz to form a paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Yields about ½ cup (also good as a sauce for chicken, pork, lamb or seafood, or slathered on a grilled panini or taco.)  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Greens with Chicken Salad and Fruit

It's the berries...

"Superlative. This 1920s slang phrase would seem to convey the idea that berries are a choice snack or dessert. A similar phrase, 'the bee's knees,'has no such connection with reality aside from its rhyme and cute image."
It is the berries that first draw your eye in this plate of greens, but the chicken salad and vinaigrette dressing more than hold their own flavorwise. Sweet and savory tastes, varied textures and a vivid visual pop all combine to make this lunch salad an appealing winner.  
"Master Chef’s are fond of saying, “We eat with our eyes first”, but did you know there’s research to back it up?  A study in the late 1970’s showed that, when we find food more appealing, not only do we enjoy it more we also absorb more nutrients from it.  Subsequent studies have validated this finding." 
I have taken that saying to heart lately as I try to focus on healthy lunch plates that will satisfy my appetite and not feel like the dreaded "diet food" of old. Bright colors and attractive plating can make a dish look so invitingly delicious that you just know it's going to be terrific, even before the first bite. So far, it's working. 

Add some fresh herbs to the mixture of torn greens. I love the surprise flavor pop added by fresh mint, basil and parsley leaves. Change up the fruit for different flavor combinations. Tired of chicken? add tuna salad or chunks of salmon instead. Just remember, it's a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Chicken Salad with Grapes
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/3 cup pecans or almonds, chopped

In a bowl toss together lightly the above ingredients with the dressing. Let the mixture marinate for 15 minutes for the chicken to soak in the flavors.

Curry Dressing for Chicken Salad
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or lime juice)
2 Tablespoons lite Best Foods mayonnaise (or sour cream)
1 heaping Tablespoon Major Grey's chutney
3 Tablespoons oil
2 to 3 drops of Cajun Sunshine or your favorite hot sauce
Fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste

 In a small bowl whisk together the mustard, Garam Masala, cumin, vinegar, mayonnaise and chutney. Slowly add the oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified. Add the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust seasonings as needed. 

Vinaigrette for Mixed Greens Salad
3:1 ratio olive oil to white balsamic vinegar
dried basil & mint leaves
Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together to blend thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add sparingly to a bowl of cleaned torn greens and fresh herbs; toss to coat.
The Main Event
Cover a salad plate with a fluffy bed of lightly dressed mixed greens and herbs. Add a generous scoop of Chicken Salad with Grapes. Scatter 1/4 cup of fresh raspberries and 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries over the greens. Enjoy.

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