Monday, September 17, 2012

Chimichurri Skirt Steak and Twice Fried Plantains with Pineapple-Mango Salsa

After enjoying these dishes at Havana (Cuban cuisine restaurant) many times, I finally decided it was time to learn how to make them. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that both were quite easy to make and could be prepared relatively quickly! One of my resolutions this year was to learn how to cook red meat better, so this dish was a perfect opportunity. These dishes are colorful and packed with flavor, and will surely impress your friends and family.

For the Chimichurri Sauce, you'll need:
1 cup packed fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley (I used cilantro this time, but have used parsley in the past...both are equally delicious)
4-5 garlic cloves
1-1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼-½ cup olive oil (depending on how much steak you have)
red onion to taste (optional)

2 lbs skirt steak, excess fat trimmed
salt and pepper

For the twice fried plantains with pineapple-mango salsa, you'll need:

2-3 green plantains
Vegetable oil
1 ripe mango
1 small can of sliced pineapple 
half of a red onion
1 small tomato
1 serrano, jalepeno, or any other type of hot pepper
palmful of cilantro
juice of half a lime
1 clove of garlic

Since the plantains take a little longer to make, you'll want to start cooking those first. But I'd suggest making the chimichurri sauce before getting started on those. I have perfected the art of multi-tasking by color-coding steps to their corresponding dish. Chimichurri Skirt Steak will be in Green, and Plantains with Pineapple-Mango Salsa will be in Orange.

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Pour into small bowl and set aside.

Once you have cleaned out your food processor, move onto the pineapple-mango salsa.
Put the mango, pineapple, red onion, tomato, a few slices of the hot pepper (more if you remove the seeds), cilantro, lime juice and garlic in the food processor. Pulse a few times until all ingredients are well combined, but mixture is still a bit chunky.

Next, move onto the plantains. Peel the plantains and cut slices about ½" thick.
If you're like me and would rather be running around multi-tasking than have to spend more than a few more minutes being hangry, then this is the time where you turn on your grill and bring it to high heat.Salt and pepper each side of your steak.
Bring the vegetable oil to medium heat in large skillet and cook plantain slices for about a minute or until both sides of the slices are a darker yellow. See photos below:

While these are cooking, put your steak on the grill and cover with some of the chimichurri sauce. Be sure to reserve some for when you serve the dish. Cook each side 2-3 minutes.

Move slices from skillet onto a paper towel covered cutting board. Now, here comes the fun another paper towel over the slices, then take the flat side of your mallet and smash each slice. They should look like this:
Return the smashed slices to the skillet and cook until both sides are lightly browned.

Back to the grill...lower to medium heat, cover and cook for an additional 2 minutes for medium rare. (If your skirt steak is less than ½" thick, skip this step)

When your meat is done cooking, slice across the grain and serve with chimichurri sauce as well as your plantains and pineapple-mango salsa.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chilled Cucumber Dill Soup

This cold soup is great for the warm summer weather (aside from today's cooling trend in northern California...)
I personally love dill, and think it isn't nearly as popular as it deserves to be. Try chopping up some of the extra dill you have from this recipe and sprinkle it in a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.

This soup is soup-er (ha ha ha) simple and only requires a few ingredients:

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 English cucumbers, 2 ½ peeled, seeded and chopped (reserve the remaining half for garnish)
3 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
3 cups chicken stock

½ cup Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper

Hot Sauce

In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic on medium heat for a few minutes.

To seed the cucumbers, peel them then cut them in half. Take a small spoon and run it down the middle of the cucumber to carve out the seeds.

Chop the cucumber into pieces about ½" thick. Don't worry too much about making sure things are evenly cut..this all ends up in a blender.
Add the chopped cucumber, 2 Tablespoons of dill, and chicken stock to the onions and garlic. Lightly salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the cucumber is soft. Feel free to add more dill than the recipe calls for if you want the taste to be stronger.
Spoon the cooked veggies into a blender, and blend until completely the mixture is smooth. (If you like your soup to have more texture, you can blend it less and leave it a little lumpy.) Unless you have an industrial sized blender or food processor, you'll probably need to do this in two batches. No photo of this part of the process because after purchasing a new, super cute pink blender off of someone on Craigslist, I realized part of the plastic is cracked, causing the liquid to leak out of the bottom of the pitcher and I'm going to need to buy a replacement part. FAIL. (Thank god the replacement part is only like $5 or I'd have a Regretsy-eque tale for this Craigslist purchase.)
Pour the soup into a large bowl and cool in the fridge. 

Add the Greek yogurt and add a few drops of hot sauce. I promise this tastes delicious, despite how gross the combination sounds. It gives the flavor a nice dynamic, and in my opinion, keeps you from having to further salt it. Garnish with fresh dill and chopped cucumber, and voila! 
I have no idea how many servings this makes, but there is definitely enough for 6 good sized bowls. 
***Note:This soup also makes for great leftovers, which can be easily made by increasing each of the ingredients a little. Happy Cooking!