Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grilled Vietnamese Flank Steak with Cucumber Salad

Nuoc cham is a much beloved Vietnamese dipping sauce. In this Melissa Clark recipe, the sauce is used as both a marinade for the steak and a dressing for the salad. In Vietnam, this dish is often accompanied by rice, but you can keep it paleo by just omitting it.

Now a word about the salad. I prefer using English cucumbers as they are firmer and more dense than regular cucumbers. And always buy fresh radishes that have the greens on them. That means they are newly picked and they will have more heat and crispness than the radishes you buy in a bag.

½ cup fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
1 tablespoon packed lime zest
cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, minced
1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 small seedless English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 large bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Sesame seeds (optional)
Fresh mint leaves and cilantro, for serving (optional)


  1. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic and jalapeño. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the flank steak and let marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Let meat come to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Combine the cucumber, radishes and scallions. Pour in just enough of the marinade sauce to coat.
  3. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  4. Pat steak dry with paper towels. Grill steak for 5 minutes, then flip and grill for 5 minutes more. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes covered in foil.
  5. Thinly slice steak and serve with the cucumber salad. Garnish with sesame seeds and plenty of mint and cilantro  and serve with remaining marinade as a sauce.  

Wine pairing: Zinfandel (Rombauer, if you are lucky)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Grilled Skirt Steak with Romesco and Zucchini Salad

I feel the need to pause and reflect on what a monumental achievement happened this last week. It was the "last first" as it pertains to our solar system.We had our first close-up look at the last planet in our solar system.

On July 20, 1969, Randy Nordquist and I had taken his mom's fire-engine red Buick Electric 225 convertible to the A & W Root Beer Drive-In just off of 66th and Penn in Richfield. Led Zeppelin was blaring from the 8-track tape player and we were two, soon-to-be high school seniors oblivious to the rest of the world. All we wanted was a burger, fries and a cold root beer.

We got out of the car and walked up to the window to order. The employee was watching TV on a diminutive black and white Sony TV. Look at this she said: "We're walking on the moon". That moment will always be burned into my mind. A man from earth walking on the moon.

And so, too, will the first image of Pluto be burned into my mind. We launched the New Horizon in 2006 and it traveled 3 billion miles to initiate it's flyby of Pluto....a planet that was only discovered in  1930. We had no idea what secrets it held, as even the all-powerful Hubble Telescope could only offer blurry, long distance photos.

Fast forward 85 years and what a myriad of surprises there were. Incredible mountains of solid ice. A surface completely void of craters. Is the surface erosion caused by wind? Is some of the geological activity caused by geysers? Is the surface of Pluto bleeding off into space? What an incredible week....and one which just may answer the biggest question of all: How was our solar system formed?

So now I turn my attention from Pluto to more earthly matters. Grilled steak is by far and away my very favorite meal. But you can't just have grilled steak for every meal. So I am constantly on the hunt for new grilled steak recipes that let me change up my favorite meal.

Today's recipe is from Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske. They are two chefs that run the Contra and Wildair restaurants in New York City. To the grilled steak, they add Romesco sauce and a salad made of zucchini ribbons. Their spectacular recipe serves four.

1½ pounds skirt steak
Kosher salt
½ of a Roma tomato
¾ cup plus 1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 (½-inch-thick) slices country bread
⅓ cup roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic
½ cup toasted walnuts
½ teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1 small zucchini
2 tablespoons torn mint
Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over high heat. Season steak on both sides with salt, cover and let rest at room temperature until ready to grill, 15-20 minutes.
  2. Set a medium skillet over high heat. Once hot, add tomato, skin-side down, and cook until skin chars, 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Wipe pan clean. Pour in ½ cup oil, or enough to fill to ½ inch. Once oil is hot but not smoking, gently fry bread on both sides until golden and crisp all the way through, about 4 minutes total. Remove pan from heat and place bread on paper towels.
  4. Make romesco: In a food processor, purée peppers, charred tomato and garlic to a paste. Add bread and walnuts, and process until combined but still chunky. Transfer romesco to a bowl and stir in vinegar and ¼ cup olive oil. Season with salt. 
  5. Make zucchini salad: Use a vegetable peeler or mandoline to shave zucchini into thin ribbons. In a medium bowl, toss shaved zucchini with mint, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and 1½ tablespoons olive oil.
  6. Meanwhile, place steaks on grill over high heat and sear until charred, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer meat to medium heat and grill, flipping every minute, to desired doneness, 1-2 minutes more for medium-rare. Let steaks rest 5 minutes before serving.
  7. To serve, slice steak across the grain. Divide among 4 plates along with zucchini salad. Spoon romesco over steak and serve.

Wine pairing: Rioja

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Grilled Thai Chicken

We're headed for a bunch of days that will be above 90º. When weather like that hits, I shift all of my cooking to the grill. No need to fire up the oven or stove-top and raise the temperature inside the house.

For this recipe, you're going to stack the coals up on only half of the grill. You'll heat the chicken legs over the coals for only 10 minutes and then move them to the other side of the grill for indirect cooking. This Jamie Purveyance recipe serves six.


For the Marinade
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup finely sliced scallions (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 whole chicken legs, each 10 to 12 ounces
Vegetable oil


  1. In a medium bowl combine the marinade ingredients.
  2. Place the chicken legs in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press out the air and seal the bag tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place the bag in a shallow dish, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
  3. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
  4. Remove the legs from the bag and discard the marinade. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the legs, skin side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Then move the chicken over indirect medium heat, close the lid, and continue cooking until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm. 

Pairing: If you want to wash this down with wine, I'd recommend a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But with 90º temperatures, I'd opt for an ice cold Thai Singha beer!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Shrimp Salad with Cucumber and Fennel

Yesterday was the 4th of July. It was 85º and the dew point was 64º. As a refresher, any dew point above 60º is stinkin' uncomfortable. Your sweat will not evaporate. I had a bunch of people over and I grilled up 50 brats and 50 hot dogs. I think I lost 5 pounds of water weight in that grilling session.

The temp is going to hit 91º today and the dew point is slated to reach 68º.....which is essentially equatorial, tropical rain forest territory. My advice: do not grill. Stay inside. With the air conditioning on high. And make this incredibly easy salad that tastes just like summer.

You won't need your oven. Just a quick cooking of shrimp in water for 3 minutes. Stove top stuff that will not raise the ambient temperature in your house. You're going to pair that shrimp with fennel (gosh, that tastes like licorice!) and cucumber and top it with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil.

This recipe will serve four if it is to be served as an entree salad. It will serve eight as a small side salad. The recipe was created by Alison Roman. And it really, really tastes like summer.

2 pounds small shell-on shrimp
Kosher salt
2 fennel bulbs, sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick, fronds reserved
1 English hothouse cucumber, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced into rings
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup (or more) fresh lemon juice
Coarsely ground black pepper
cup olive oil
½ cup small dill sprigs


  1. Cook shrimp in a large pot of simmering salted water until bright pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  2. Peel and devein shrimp and place in a large bowl. Add fennel, fennel fronds, cucumber, onion, and lemon juice and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Add dill and lemon zest and toss again; season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Top with more pepper just before serving.

Wine pairing: An oaky Chardonnay