The Joy (and frustration) of Cooking

Grilled Chicken

Monday:              Family Cook Out – Charred Bread with Ricotta and fixings and Cherry Salsa / Grilled Chicken / Boiled Corn / Caesar Salad /Chocolate Semifreddo

And here is Peter Slavish’s (my godson’s) risotto:


Shrimp on the barbie

Tuesday:              Grilled Shrimp with Wine-Bottle Sauce, Green Salad

goat cheese salad

Wednesday:      Pepperonata Salad with Chèvre and Country Ham

fried chicken

Thursday:            Japanese Fried Chicken with Boiled Corn and Green Salad


Friday:                  Baked Salmon / Boiled Potatoes / Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

chicken salad

Saturday:             Chicken Salad Over Arugula

Hilda and Tim

Sunday:                Brunch with Hilda and Tim

skirt steak

Dinner with Billy and Emily:  Toasted Baguette with Curried, Pickled Chicken Salad, Ricotta and Crudités / Grilled Skirt Steak / Boiled Corn / Figs with Blue Cheese, Honey, Walnuts, and Raisins

“What are you serving for dinner tonight?”  “Hey, are you ready to serve, I’m hungry?”   “Oh, would you give me a smaller portion / cut that piece in two and just give me half / give me a little more sauce?”

If you cook for anybody (one person or a crowd) regularly, you are bound to be frustrated by at least 3 three things:

  1. Being taking for granted. “Could we eat a bit early, I’ve got a soft-ball game later?”
  2. Being criticized: “Ugh, this is too salty, how much salt did you put into this thing?”
  3. Watching the food grow cold as the guests who have been enjoying themselves and, for all you know, talking about you behind your back, show no disposition to get off their behinds and head to the table.

These feelings are natural, these frustrations are real, these guests and these family members need to learn some respect but, most of all, you need to get over yourself.

Cooking can be a chore or it can be a joy and, truth be told, most of the time, it’s a mixed bag.  But if you’ve chosen to do it, then prepare to face the same kind of roadblocks, detours, disappointments, and disruptions that you do at work, on vacation, while traveling or writing the great American novel.  And keep plugging away.  The joy of cooking a well-appreciated meal will not necessarily repay you for the thousand and one insults or the typical indifference of your diners, but it will bring you back to the task with a renewed sense of purpose and a firm resolve to put that boning-knife with which you were planning to cut out the tongue of your chief critique, back into the drawer.

I am reminded of Hilda’s telling us, at brunch on the Slavish’s patio last Sunday, of her first par.  This event was years in the making, but the joy and delight in her voice explained why most of us golfers suffer the ignominy of playing the game – every once in a while, as in this case, a long putt drops and the whole point of the exercise becomes clear.  Well cooking is a lot easier than golf, so relax and get back in the kitchen.

There were a lot of crowd-pleasers last week and I was feeling at the top of my game .  We’re going to share the skirt steak recipe – it works best with an overnight marinade, but 90 minutes will do.  The roasted tomato salsa makes the meal and is good by itself.  And the meal requires little time away from those guests who are still talking about you behind your back.

Note:  Those of you who noted the nod to Irma Rombauer in the title (she wrote The Joy of Cooking, a standard volume in the kitchens of many cooks from the 1930s to the 1970s) give yourself a star and consider getting out a bit more.

skirt steak again


(Adapted from Marc Murphy)


40 minutes for the salsa – Overnight or at least 90 minute marinade for the steak –

20 minutes to cook, rest, slice and serve


For the Salsa

1 lb. of tomatoes, cut into thick wedges (about 2 full-sized tomatoes – I found some yellow tomatoes at Whole Foods that were nearly ripe.  Red would have made a prettier salsa, but there were none)
½ large red onion, cut into wedgesSmall jalapeño (or ½ large one) – I would use a whole large one to give a little heat to the dish
Small clove of garlic (unpeeled)
½ Cup packed cilantro leaves
½ tablespoon chopped canned chipotles in adobo with some of the sauce – NOTE:  I used a tablespoon and there was still not much heat in the dish.  Might go for 2 tablespoons next time.
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (we used ½ teaspoon)
¼ cup canola or neutral oil (i.e., vegetable, not olive or nut oil – grapeseed oil would be fine)

For the skirt steak

1 ½ lbs of Skirt Steak

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the Grilled Romaine

3 heads romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise and cores left intact (in other words, don’t cut off the stock of the romaine – it’s what holds the leaves together)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
Kosher salt and Cracked Black Pepper


First, make the roasted tomato salsa:

Preheat the oven to 450 F with a rack in the middle.  (You can also do this over a grill with high heat)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and garlic on the parchment.  Roast for about 15 minutes, then remove the garlic and onions and roast the tomatoes and jalapeño for another 15 minutes until charred and soft.

Peel the garlic and place it and the other vegetables in a blender or food processor.  Add the cilantro, chipotles and sauce and the salt.  Blend on medium, or pulse the processor, until you get a smooth puree.  Then, with the motor running, add the oil slowly and blend or process until emulsified.  You want some body to this puree, but if it is too thick, loosen it with some water.  Taste and adjust seasonings or add chipotle (as I did).

Marinate the Steak

Season the steak on both sides fairly aggressively with salt and pepper.  Smear it with some of the roasted salsa and refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, but, ideally, overnight.  Cover and refrigerate the rest of the salsa (it will keep for up to 1 week).

Cooking the Steak and Finishing the Meal 

Take the steak from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature – about 90 minutes – if possible.

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat.

Prepare the romaine halves by tossing with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and taking out to the grill.

Remove the steak from the marinade and hold it for 10 seconds to let excess drip off.

Steak on the grill

Grill for about 6 minutes per side for medium rare on the rare side.  (This is a cut of meat that should be served rare.)  Remove to a platter (make sure you like how it’s done or return to grill) and let rest while you finish the meal.

Place the romaine halves on the grill cut-side down and grill for about 2 minutes.  Remove to a cutting board and chop into 1 or 2 inch pieces for serving.

Slice the steak and arrange on a serving platter – sprinkle some sea salt flakes and pour some salsa across the middles of the steak slices.

Arranges the romaine around the steak on the platter and drizzle some salsa over it.

Serve with extra salsa on the side.

Ricotta with crudites

Spiced up Ricotta with Toasted Baguette and Crudites

One thought on “The Joy (and frustration) of Cooking

  1. The salmon from last week was my favorite meal this summer.

    I’m certainly guilty of the taking your cooking for granted at times but at least I never complain about it! Haha. Btw, no sports tonight so I could unpredictably show up at any time (or not at all) 😉

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