With the unexpected arrival of spring like temperatures here in NC as well as well as turning our clocks forward signals it is time to fire up those backyard grills y’all!
I rarely eat beef, but I have to confess that the first thing that it comes to mind is grilling a juicy seared Argentinian churrasco style steak topped with a zesty Chimicurri Verde sauce! This is a vibrant pairing of South America flavors that you can recreate in your very own
Chimichurri’s origins are cloudy, but the ingredients point to influences from Italian immigrants that settled in Argentina in the early 19th century after Argentina’s independence from Spain. These early Italian settlers established large estancias,(estates/ ranches) and began raising grass fed cattle. Argentinian beef gradually earned worldwide notoriety and became a major source of wealth and national pride for the country. Churrasco grilled beef paired with Argentinian Chimicurri verde garnered international popularity for its exceptional flavor when served with grilled cuts of Argentinian beef. Argentinian beef is now exported and is considered to be the best beef in the world.
Here in the US I would recommend using skirt steak which is an Argentinian like cut of beef for grilling. Marinated skirt steak cook relatively quickly with an evenly seared surface and a moist and juicy interior with loads of flavor. A grilled skirt steak napped with Chimicurri Verde sauce is a sensational pairing that is always a big hit when it arrives at the table.
Chimichurri Verde is one of those sauces that will pair well with all sorts of grilled meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables as well, so keep that in mind when grilling this summer!
Argentinian Chimichurri Verde
I should mention that Chimichurri is sauce and not a marinade. A recipe for beef marinade follows below.
Makes about one cup
- 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- ½ cup finely chopped Italian (broad leaf) parsley
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 small red chile, seeds removed and finely chopped
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon capers, well drained
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
Using a nonreactive bowl, combine the garlic, shallots, parsley, cilantro, chiles, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss the ingredients together using a silicone spatula, pressing the ingredients together to extract juices which will enhance flavors once the liquid ingredients when they are added.
Add the olive oil, vinegar, and the anchovy paste and stir vigorously until well combined. Then add the capers and lemon or lime juice and fold them into the Chimichurri.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Transfer the chimichurri to a sterilized jar and cover with lid.
Serve the chimichurri at room temperature spooned over grilled meats, poultry, or fish.
It is best to refrigerate Chimichurri for long term storage. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature before serving.
Churasco Beef Marinade:
- 1 ½ pounds skirt steak, cut into several pieces
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic (2 to 3 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon anchovy paste
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup olive or avocado oil
Combine the garlic, salt, pepper, and anchovy paste in a small nonreactive bowl and mash together using a silicone spatula to form a paste.
Stir in the lime and orange juice and mix until well combined.
Using a whisk slowly begin adding the oil in a slow steady stream until the mixture has emulsified.
Marinate the skirt steaks for several hours before grilling. Be sure to return the steaks to room temperature before grilling them.
Preheat the grill until it is very hot.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off excess marinade before placing them on the preheated grill.
Grill for about 1 minute or until the steaks are nicely seared. Then flip the steaks and continue grilling until seared. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the steaks.
The best way to test the meat as you grill is too push the steak with your finger in the thickest area. Ideally the flesh should have some resistance for a medium rare finish. Continue grilling and turning the steaks every minute or so until done to your liking.
Remove the steaks from the grill and set them aside to rest for five minutes before serving. Top the steaks generously with chimichurri verde and serve.
This may sound like an unlikely combination, but believe me this is a vinaigrette that is going to reinvigorate your seasonal salad combinations. I have been tinkering with this recipe for a couple of months and I am finally happy with the resulting recipe that follows.
Blood oranges are native to Spain and Sicily and grown here in the US in Florid and California. The flesh is of course blood red. The juice is sweet with a slight sharpness. Blood oranges are in season and generally available in supermarkets from December through May.
Miso is a Japanese fermented soy bean paste available in most supermarkets in the international section. It is the miso’s subtle umami note, found in many Japanese dishes, that brings this unique vinaigrette to life. The fermented sweet saltiness of the miso bonds seamlessly with the zesty bitter sweet blood orange juice. This unlikely combination will brighten up all sorts of seasonal salad combinations.
As we are in the depths of winter try to gather together an assortment of hearty wintry leafy greens for your salad. To those add some Belgian endive, radicchio, mustard greens, baby arugula, some thinly sliced radishes, and julienne of carrots. Toss everything together along with the vinaigrette. Serve with a final flourish of flaked sea salt and you have a crisp dazzling winter salad to serve along with your winter meals!
For warmer weather this is a vinaigrette shines when tossed together with freshly picked garden fresh greens, cucumbers, vine ripened cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, seasonal fruits, and edible flowers.
Blood Orange Miso Sherry Vinaigrette
makes 1 ¼ cup
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 2 teaspoons julienne of blood orange zest
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice
- ½ cup Jerez sherry vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup light olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- flaked sea salt for finishing (Maldon salt)
Combine the shallots, blood orange zest, miso, blood orange juice, Jerez sherry vinegar, and the black pepper in a medium size nonreactive bowl and whisk until well combined.
While whisking vigorously begin adding the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Continue whisking until the vinaigrette has emulsified and thickened.
Taste and add sea salt if needed to your liking and whisk to combine.
Set the vinaigrette aside until you are ready to serve the salad. Vigorously whisk the vinaigrette once again just before dressing the salad for serving.
Store the dressing in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerate. Be sure to remember to remove the vinaigrette from the refrigerator well before you are ready to serve as the oil will have coagulated once refrigerated. Shake vigorously and serve.
Guacamole, ahu ctl in the Aztec language, is unequivocally Mexico’s most loved contribution to an ever evolving international cuisine that embraces diversity as a commonality of taste.
Guacamole making has been practiced for thousands of years in central Mexico where avocados originate from. The simple traditional guacamole recipe is essentially unchanged. Avocados, onions, chiles, lime juice, cilantro and salt are tossed into a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar, and pounded with a stone pestle into a rich and flavorful guacamole much like the guacamole we are making today.
I use a mixing bowl and a wooden Mexican bean masher instead of a molcajete for this process which works perfectly. The bean mashers are sometimes available online or in markets in Mexico. Otherwise use a wooden mallet or pestle. Doing the mashing by hand is an essential part of the process that melds the flavors together while preserving their charter. Please, do not even think of using a food processor!
I have probably made guacamole over a thousand times in my lifetime, yet every time I make it, it feels fresh and new. Repeating time tested rituals is what I love about being a cook. There is always a shared history in everything that one does in the kitchen.
I highly recommend using Hass avocados for guacamole or any other application for that matter. They are plentiful here in the US. Most are imported from Mexico and consistently top quality. Hass avocados are smaller than the smooth skinned Fuerte avocados. They have a darker textured skin and a higher oil content that imparts a richer flavor and creamier texture for your guacamole.
The recipe I have provided is only an approximation. Every time you make a guacamole involves orchestrating a delicate balance of flavors so quantities of ingredients will vary somewhat! The key here is to taste and trust tour instincts as you go until the balance of flavors tastes just right. Keep in mind the assertive flavors of a margarita. Balancing the creamy fresh green taste and texture of the oil rich avocados with the tang of onions, the heat of chiles, the tartness of fresh lime juice, and the zest of the cilantro requires an assertive saltiness to bring all those flavors harmoniously together. Practice will have you making a truly authentic guacamole in no time!
Keep in mind that guacamole is best when served fresh so prepare batches accordingly.
- 2 or 3 Hass avocados
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 1 or2 serrano chiles, seeds removed and finely diced
- 2 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil f using Fuerte avocados.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits, reserving one to use when serving if you like.
Spoon out the flesh of the avocados and place in a non reactive mixing bowl.
Add the diced onions, diced chiles, sliced cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt to the bowl.
Using a wooden bean masher, wooden mallet or wooden pestle, mash the contents of the bowl together until the mixture has a relatively uniform textured consistency and a thick overall creaminess without overworking it if that makes sense.
Taste the guacamole and add additional lime juice and salt as needed. Keep in mind that the lime juice and salt is what is going to bring the guacamole to life!
Serve the guacamole in a non reactive bowl. Tradition has it that placing an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole will retard any discoloration due to exposure to the air. Whether this is true or not is questionable, but it does make an alluring presentation so why not if you like.
Serve guacamole with crisp corn tostada chips, as an accompaniment for tacos, or my favorite, with huevos rancheros for breakfast.
If you refrigerate the guacamole for any lengthen of time before serving press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole, seal tightly and refrigerate.
I used to make some stellar Thai basil pesto variations when I was living in in Thailand. But Thai basil is hard to find here in the US unless you’re lucky enough to have an Asian grocery store near by.
By all means use Thai basil if it is available for the recipe that follows. There are two varieties to look for. Thai sweet basil has pointed bright green aromatic leaves with a hint of anise and an after note e of cinnamon. Thai holly basil leaves are a deep green or sometimes reddish purple leaves with an earthy peppery flavor. Both variegates are distinctly more assertive in flavor than broad leaf Italian basil.
If Thai basil is not available, just adapt and diversify, which is how this recipe evolved. The secret to Thai food’s popularity is a cleaver one. Most Thai dishes include all five elements of taste, those being salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (savory) flavors in one dish which is pure genius. It’s no wonder why Thai food is so loved. With that concept in mind I used readily available broad leaf Italian basil along with some hot jalapenos from south of the border, some Thai fish sauce, lime juice, cashews (abundant in Thailand) and you end up with a Thai- americano pesto!
This is a pesto you will want to add to your repertoire. A dollop added to almost any savory dish will have it bursting with all the flavors of a Thai- americano mash up.
Pictured is Thai..americano Peato served on toasted bread strips atop a salad of baby arugula, pickled beets and hard cooked eggs, and shaved aged provolone cheese.
Thai…americano Pesto Makes about 1 ½ cups
- 3 cups fresh torn broad leaf Italian basil leaves, or Thai basil if available
- 2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced
- ½ cup chopped cashews
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce +more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- cold water as needed for thinning
Place the basil leaves, garlic, 3 tablespoons lime juice, jalapeno chiles, cashews, ¾ teaspoon of salt, fish sauce, and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are broken down into a coarse paste.
Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Turn the machine on and pour the olive oil into the feed tube and continue to run the machine until all the oil is incorporated.
Stop the machine and taste the pesto and add additional salt and fish sauce to taste. If the pesto needs thinning, turn the machine on and add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the pesto to a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate.
The pesto can be served chilled or at room temperature with endless applications.
Listed are additional pesto recipes that I have posted over the years to to expand your pesto repertoire for freezing for later use during the winter months.
Fresh Sweet Italian Basil Pesto (see here)
Pesto alla Siciliana & Pesto Trapanese (see here)
Spinach Pesto with Pancetta (see here)
Pomegranate Glazed Pork Loin with Pistachio Pesto (see here)
Pesto Diverso (see here)