Monday: Beet and Walnut Hummus, Left-over chicken
Tuesday: Bucatini with Swiss Chard and Breadcrumbs, Green Salad
Wednesday: Chilled Potato and Fennel Soup with Goat Cheese
Thursday: Tomatoes in White Sauce
Friday: Hanna Riley’s 18th Birthday Party at Kelly and Patrick’s, with great food by Danny including ribs
Saturday: Guacamole with Chips
Sunday: Flank Steak with Zucchini Salsa / Char-Grilled Sweet Potato
There is, surely, no accounting for tastes. But I am very glad that Beez and I, in spite of our differences, political, sartorial, alcoholic and gastronomic, never decided to call the whole thing off. [If you don’t get this reference to the title of this post, you were born too late. You can remedy that lacuna by disciplined watching, during Fred Astaire week, of Turner Classic Movies. Click here to see Fred and Ginger perform the song in question: You say tomato
And yet, there are moments . . . Just last night, Beez eschewed the zucchini salsa that, I thought, made the flank steak sing. The problem was the fresh oregano and the red wine vinegar – too strong to her taste. And last Monday, the beet and walnut hummus put her off because of its color which, I will admit, was more appropriate for fingernail polish than food. On the other hand, she loved the bucatini on Tuesday, the soup on Wednesday, and the grilled sweet potato last night.
Our differences are manageable largely because we are both willing, like any sane spouse or cook, to adapt: Next time we have the flank steak (which was absurdly good for so simple a dish), I’ll substitute basil for oregano and use a milder vinegar, and the beet hummus will, alas, never grace our table again. But if you invite us over, please put it on the menu.
Together, last week, we managed to come up with too many good dishes not to share some with you. The sweet potato and the flank steak are the simplest and some of the best things we’ve cooked this summer. Pittsburgh is dry, for the time being, and we are back to grilling, and this is a dinner which you can prepare even after 3 martinis (though I’d soften the steak prior to the second martini, or you might lose a finger).
The key to the steak is pounding the hell out of it and the key to the sweet potato is just letting it cook. Minimal effort leads to maximal taste in this particular instance.
Grilled Flank Steak with Zucchini Salsa or Parsley Sauce
(adapted from bon apétit, August, 2017)
Timing: About 15 minutes, plus resting time
Ingredients: Serves 4
1 ½ lb. Flank Steak
1 ½ lb. zucchini cut in ¼” dice (5 cups)
½ cup rice wine vinegar (the original recipe called for red wine vinegar – Beez thought it too strong)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon roughly chopped oregano, plus leaves for service (Beez though this way too strong, recommends basil or parsley – or, better yet, a simple sauce of chopped parsley, olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar)
Prep and Cook:
Light your charcoal – well, lot’s of folks forget.
Dice the zucchini and mix with oil and vinegar, then season with salt and pepper, or, make the parsley sauce
Cover a cutting board with plastic wrap and place the steak on it.
Then cover the steak with plastic wrap and, using the flat head of a meat mallet, give the steak a good beating, until you’ve got it down to ½” thick.
You’re going to need to do so serious wailing on this tough piece of meat to get it down to that thickness.
Season the steak aggressively with salt and pepper on both sides.
When the grill grates are hot (and oiled), place the steak directly over the coals. If you’ve got a very hot fire, you’ll only need 2-3 minutes per side. If you’ve got just a medium, you might need up to 5 minutes per side. (We trust you – you’ll figure it out. But, whatever you do, don’t overcook that steak if SWMBO or her pal, Hilda, are dining with you.)
Remove the steak to a cutting board and let rest for at least 6 minutes and up to 10.
Cut the steak in half, with the grain, and then make thin slices against the grain from each half.
To serve, fan out slices of the steak on a plate and top with the zucchini salsa or the parsley sauce.
A perfect addition to that plate would be . . . .
Ember-Cooked Sweet Potatoes
(Stephen Raichlen taught me, long ago, that you could cook a steak directly on the coals. There is no reason not to do that with potatoes, and, in the case of sweet potatoes, there is every reason to do so.)
Timing: About 2-5 minutes per side – there are 4 sides, Gomer.
One small sweet potato is a great side for one person – the Large ones you get in most supermarkets will serve 2.
Place the potatoes directly on the charcoal. Rotate them 90 every 2-5 minutes until all 4 sides are charred. The giant sweet potatoes from Giant Eagle might take 5 minutes per side. The smaller, pointy ones available at Whole Foods take 2-3 minutes per side.
Brush off any ash you see, split the potato in half, sprinkle a little flaky sea salt on the cut side and enjoy. Note: I like butter with mine, while SWMBO eschews butter like a run-way model. You can also hit them with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. I EAT THE SKIN, EVEN THOUGH IT’S CHARRED BLACK – it is wonderfully caramelized. If you do this, don’t smile afterward, until you have brushed your teeth.