Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw
flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves.
~Marlene Dietrich~

To achieve the taste of Argentina, we are going to grill our flank steak over a charcoal fire and toss a couple of big chunks of mesquite into the fire. Don't give me any crap about wood chips soaked in water...that's for weenies. We're going to use two big chunks of mesquite and nestle them right into the coals as is. 

Mesquite is strong stuff and really only works well when you are cooking something quickly over a fire. We're only going to have our meat over the coals for 12 minutes, so we will get the perfect amount of wood-smoke flavor in our steak. Mesquite becomes too overpowering if you are cooking something for a long period of time. And again, you want chunks, not chips. I get my chunks online, from The Charcoal Store (

Chimichurri is an incredible sauce from Argentina. The word "chimichurri" originated when British soldiers were captured after the British invasion of Rio de la Plata. The captured soldiers asked their Argentine keepers for condiments. Mixing English, aboriginal and Spanish words, "che mi curry" stands for "che me salsa" (give me condiment), or "give me curry". The word then corrupted to chimichurri.

Chimichurri sauce is a gift from the gods. It is so incredibly flavorful, made from only the freshest ingredients...and it is so magnificently rich and luxurious on the tongue. You will be absolutely amazed how well this sauce complements the mesquite grilled flank steak. And to finish our Argentine feast, make sure you serve this meal with a bottle of exquisite Argentine Malbec. Spend a little extra to make sure you get a really good one (Malbec is not very expensive). The guy behind the counter at your wine store will be glad to show you their best Malbecs. This recipe serves 4-6 people.


Chimichurri Sauce
1/4 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dried Mexican broken leaf oregano*
6 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 1/3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 flank steak (about 2 pounds)
2 large chunks of mesquite
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. An hour before cooking, remove flank steak from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Make the sauce: Combine hot water, oregano, and salt in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften oregano. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic, and red pepper flakes in food processor until coarsely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses. Add water mixture and vinegar and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour.
  3. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, about 100 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Arrange coals in single layer over entire surface of grill and, using tongs, place wood chunks directly on top of coals. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush. Grill is ready when coals are hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for just 2 seconds). 
  4. Season steak with salt and pepper. Place steak on grill, cover, and cook for 6 minutes. Uncover grill, flip steak, and cook on second side for another 6 minutes. Transfer to large plate and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Slice meat and divide among serving plates. Pour chimichurri sauce over slices (see photo) and serve.

Wine pairing: An Argentine Malbec

*There are two types of oregano, Turkish and Mexican. Turkish oregano is used in Mediterranean dishes like Italian sauces, Greek salads and Turkish kebobs. It has a sweet, strong flavor. What you want for this recipe is Mexican oregano. It is stronger and less sweet and goes perfect with spicy, hot, cumin-flavored dishes of Mexico. Any cook worth their weight will have both types of broken leaf oregano in their pantry. If you don't have both, you can buy them here: .

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quinoa, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad

OK, I'll come clean. What you see at the top of the blog is not the real name of the salad. It's real name is "Quinoa, Red Pepper and Cucumber Salad with Avocado and Lime". As a lover of brevity, that's too much for me. So I shortened it. Just shoot me.

This recipe sat on my desk for a week until I was off to go shopping at Whole Foods. I wanted only the freshest ingredients for this salad....and boy, did that pay off in spades. This is one of the tastiest, freshest salads I have had in a long time. Great flavors...lime, shallot, red pepper, jalapeño and fresh garlic along with an amazing contrast in textures...avocado, cucumbers and quinoa.

The recipe calls for the vast majority of the veggies to be diced. To save time, I hauled out my food processor and pulsed the shallot/jalapeño together and followed by the red pepper/cilantro. If you have one, it saves a lot of time. This recipe serves 4-6 people.


For the Dressing
1 large clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 medium red pepper, halved, seeded and finely diced
1 medium English cucumber, cut into 1/4" dice (dice by hand, do not use food processor for this)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
2-3 ripe avocados, sliced


  1. Make the dressing: Put the garlic, shallot, jalapeño and lime juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. Make the quinoa: Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add quinoa. Return water to a boil, the cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes. Drain quinoa and spread out on a baking sheet to cool to room temperature. (NOTE: To save time, I actually slid the pot of the drained quinoa into the freezer for 10 minutes, stirring half-way through.This was a lot easier and less to clean up.)
  3. Arrange the sliced avocados on individual serving plates. Season avocado with salt and drizzle a little dressing over each slice.
  4. Make the salad: Put quinoa, red pepper, cucumber and cilantro in a medium bowl. Drizzle half the dressing into the bowl and mix well. Taste and add more dressing or salt as needed.
  5. Spoon the quinoa salad on and around the avocado slices. Serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad)

It's the time of year when our gardens start yielding that bountiful harvest of homegrown tomatoes. It starts with just a few, then it turns into a veritable the point that your kitchen is awash in those beautiful tomatoes. What to do? If you've got luscious, ripe tomatoes, here's the salad for you. It's fast, it's simple and it serves four.

1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread*, cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded and cut into 1inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

*about 6 cups


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400º. Toss bread pieces with 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon salt; arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast bread pieces until just starting to turn light golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Gently toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander and set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  3. Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon pepper into reserved tomato juices. Add bread pieces, toss to coat, and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  4. Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, and basil to bowl with bread pieces and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Pinot Gris

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Truffle Salt

Salt brightens the flavor of food. Truffle salt takes that flavor enhancement to the power of 10. You will be absolutely dumbfounded by how truffle salt transforms the flavor of your favorite foods. Popcorn, corn on the cob, french fries, omelets....all are taken to brand new heights with the addition of a little truffle salt.

It's expensive, but it is so worth every single penny. It's one of life's little luxuries that can't be missed. Casina Rosa Truffle & Salt is made in Italy and has the absolute perfect balance of truffle and sea salt (many brands skimp on the expensive truffles). Get yours here:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mussels Steamed in Chardonnay

I love this meal. I love it because it tastes great. I love it because it is insanely easy to make. With prep and cooking time, this delectable meal will clock in under 15 minutes. And this meal will always remind me of Paris.

In 2007 we took a family vacation to Europe. We explored London and Paris and had a great time. On the last day of our vacation, we were all burned out from the museums and points of interest. We found a little outdoor cafe on the Champs-Elysees, just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe. For two hours we sat and watched the people of Paris walk by. We ate a lunch of mussels steamed in white wine and washed it down with multiple glasses of a fantastic French Chardonnay. It was such a perfect way to spend a sunny, August afternoon and that day will always be burned in my memory.

The key to making this dish impeccable (because, truth be told, it is almost impossible to screw this up) is to get really fresh mussels. My favorite place to buy mussels is Costco. They stock up on them each weekend. The mussels are big, fresh and Costco sells them for an insanely low price of $1.98 a pound. They sell them in packages that typically range from four to six pounds, which is the perfect amount for four to six people.

There is one mandatory part of this recipe that you absolutely cannot leave out. You must serve this dish with slices of freshly baked French bread. If you do pick up your mussels at Costco, slide over to the bakery, where you will find a two-pack of French baguettes for just $4.99. These turn over so fast at Costco, that I always find the package is warm, having come straight from their in-store ovens. The broth from this recipe is so rich, so incredibly delicious, that you must dip your French bread repeatedly in order not to waste a single, solitary drop of it.

2 cups of Chardonnay
1/2 cup minced shallots
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
1 bay leaf
4 pounds mussels
4 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 loaves of French bread


  1. Bring wine, shallots, garlic, parsley, and bay leaf to simmer in large pot; continue to simmer to blend flavors, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high. Add mussels; cover and cook, stirring twice, until mussels open, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Remove mussels from liquid and place in individual serving bowls (roughly 12 per person). Discard any mussels that did not open. Swirl butter into pan liquid to make emulsified broth. When butter is melted, pour broth over mussels and serve immediately with French bread.,

Wine pairing: A nice, oaky French Chardonnay

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Seafood Tacos

After 10 days of oppressive heat, the windows are open again in the Gruggen household. We're going to celebrate the cool weather by having dinner on the deck this evening. And this will be no ordinary dinner as I 'm making seafood tacos with lobster, Alaskan king crab and shrimp.

The nice part about these tacos is that you can use whatever seafood strikes your fancy. Shellfish tend to hold up best in the bath of lime juice. Your choice is certainly not limited to the three that I have picked. Choose scallops, squid, langostinos or any firm white fish. Mix and match to your heart's content. This Emeril Lagasse recipe is easy to scale. While it yields 6 to 8 tacos, simply double everything for a larger crowd.

1 pound of assorted, cooked seafood (chilled)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
12 fresh flour tortillas

  1. Combine first nine ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2.  Mix well, then season with salt and pepper. Mix again.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Spoon seafood mixture into tortillas and serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (try Kim Crawford)