flank steak 
At my home, grilling doesn’t get more perfect than a medium-rare charred piece of meat and tender, flavorfull roasted veggies.  This meal is a great way to feed a hungry crowd on the cheap (and the quick!)  Remember your flank steak science, though: never cook past medium rare, let the meat rest at least 15 minutes, and always slice on a steep bias. 

Makes: 4 people long for margaritas
Total kitchen time: 1 hr, plus marinating time

Shopping list:

  • 1 2-2.5 lb. flank steak
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup mint, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small red or yellow peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. ancho chile powder (or fajita seasoning)
  • 1/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (diced day-old bread is best)
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup shredded jack cheese
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine half the smashed garlic, half the cilantro, half the mint and all the peppers in a small food processor and pulse until the mixture is pretty fine, but not a paste.  If necessary, add a tbsp. of olive oil to help things out.
  2. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the flank steak, and season with cayenne pepper and chile powder.  Rub with olive oil and 2/3 of the garlic mixture you just made.  Reserve the rest for after the meat has cooked.  Let the meat marinate in the fridge for up to 12 hours.  Let the meat rest at room temperature for 45 minutes before cooking.
  3. Preheat your grill on high heat and make sure your grates are nice and clean.
  4. Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant.  Slice the eggplant into 4 wedges, lengthwise.  Then, score the flesh of the eggplant deeply (but not going through) with your knife at 1/4” spacing.  Turn the eggplant 90° and score it again to form a crosshatch.  Toss the eggplant with olive oil until lightly coated, then salt and pepper.
  5. In your mini food processor, pulse together the remaining garlic, cilantro, and mint along with the bread crumbs, lemon zest and 1 tsp. of olive oil.  Rub the mixture into the scored flesh of the eggplant, pushing it down into the cracks. 
  6. Grill the eggplant, flesh side down, just long enough to develop char marks, about 1 minute per side.  Set the eggplant on a rack above the grilling surface, or on a cooler side of the grill.
  7. Grill the flank steak until medium rare, about 6 minutes per side.  Let the meat rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.  Slice the flank steak on a steep bias with a sharp knife.
  8. Arrange the sliced meat, eggplant, and whatever other good stuff you’ve got going on a large platter.  Sprinkle the shredded jack cheese over the eggplant and serve to adoring fans.

If you can get comfortable grilling flank steak, you will always have a date for dinner.  Throw in a cool red wine or a pitcher of sangria and it’s a party!

Reading time: 2 min

May is a strange month for weather, and correspondingly for food.  When the temperature swings fifty degrees  in a week, it’s hard to know what to cook.  During a cold, rainy snap we had a few weeks ago, I decided to make one of my favorite winter dishes as sort of a farewell salute to gray skies.  This is more of a personal interpretation than a traditional ossobuco, but these flavors are so kick-ass that you won’t want to quibble over technicalities.

Makes: 2 people feel the warmth of winter, year round
Total kitchen time: 3 hours

Shopping list:

  • 2 lamb shanks, bone-in
  • 1 medium union, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 8 oz. shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste (tomato sauce or puree will work in a pinch)
  • 2 cups wine (white for a sweeter dish, red for a more savory dish)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the polenta:

  • 2 cups polenta, prepared
  • if using firm polenta, you’ll need 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock
  • 4 oz. dried wild mushrooms (porcini, shitake, morel, woodear)
  • 2 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese (Rogue River is best, try Whole Foods)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F and place the top rack in the lower part of the oven.  Preheat a dutch oven or the heaviest large, ovenproof stockpot with a lid that you own.  Either way, get the pot rocket hot.
  2. Season the lamb shanks on all sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Rub lightly with olive oil to coat and to promote browning.  Working one at a time, sear the lamb shanks on both sides on very high heat in your dutch oven.  Place the meat in the middle of the pot and don’t touch it for 3 minutes.  Flip it over and don’t touch it for another 2.  Place the seared meat on a platter to rest.
  3. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the empty pot and reduce the heat to medium.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the veggies have slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic (whole cloves) and mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.  You should have a nice collection of brown bits at the bottom of your pot now. 
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook another minute or so.  Then, add the wine and turn the heat up to high.  Scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce the wine until it has thickened a little, about 8 minutes.  Add the beef stock, rosemary sprig and bay leaf and bring to a boil. 
  5. Put the meat back in the pot and submerge it under the liquid and veggies.  Put the lid on your dutch oven and transfer it to the oven to cook at least 2 hours. 
  6. When you’re about 45 minutes out from eatin’ time, place the dried wild mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water and let them soak for 30 minutes.  Then, drain and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
  7. Warm the cooked polenta in a medium saucepan over low heat.  If you’re starting with firm polenta, add a bit of hot chicken stock to thin it out.  Season the polenta with salt and pepper and add the chopped wild mushrooms.  When you’re almost ready to serve, crumble in the blue cheese and stir to combine.
  8. When the lamb is done braising, remove the pot from the oven and place it back on the stove.  Let the meat rest on a plate, tented with foil.  Bring the pot to a vigorous boil and reduce the liquid until you have only 1 cup or so left, 10-15 minutes. 
  9. Spoon a serving of polenta into the bottom  of a large dinner bowl and top with a lamb shank.  Cover the lamb shank with a generous helping of the reduced liquid and veggies.  If you like (and I’m sure you do) add a thin slice of blue cheese on top.

Well, that’s officially the season finale for winter cooking this year.  This dish is one of the heartiest, most soul satisfying meals I know, so the next time you find yourself out in the cold rain, you’ll know what to make.

Reading time: 3 min

shrimp salad
It has come to my attention that, since I started food blogging, I have gained ten pounds.  Although I believe that gravity has only gotten stronger during that time, it still doesn’t hurt to avoid beurre blanc and deep fried cream cheese for at least one meal per week.  This recipe is quick and light, but surprisingly filling – perfect for a warm spring evening.

Makes: 2 sensible salads
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

Shopping List:

  • 1 head Boston Bibb or Butter lettuce, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 dz. medium uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili oil (or more, if you like it extra hot)
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 tangerines
  • 1/4 cup guava nectar
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. slivered almonds
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse and thoroughly dry the shrimp.  In a medium bowl, mix together the shrimp, garlic, red chili oil and 1 tbsp. of olive oil, plus a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Suprême the tangerines.  Suprêming, in this case, means removing the meat of the tangerine from any pith, rind or connecting membranes.  All of that stuff is stringy and bitter we’re only after the best parts.  To suprême a tangerine, use a pairing knife to cut off the rind.  Don’t peel it off like you were going to eat the tangerine as a snack, actually carve it off with the knife.  You’ll end up taking off a little meat with the rind – this is fine.  Once the rind is totally removed you’ll clearly be able to see each section of fruit divided by a membrane.  Slice into the fruit on either side of each membrane to remove just the good parts.  Discard the rest.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine about 1/3 of the tangerine slices with the guava nectar on medium heat.  Cook just until it begins to reduce, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add the shrimp and sear on both sides, about 1 minute per side.
  5. Plate up your salads with the shrimp, avocado, remaining tangerines, slivered almonds and sesame seeds.  Dress with the tangerine-guava dressing and salt and pepper the whole thing to taste.

If you aren’t in a shrimp mood, you can substitute in just about anything you’d like: seared tuna, grilled chicken, tofu, swordfish… you name it.  Open up a nice, fruity white wine and enjoy your evening of healthy living at its best!

Reading time: 2 min