Chimichurri Skirt Steak

Chimichurri Skirt Steak
I am not a regular at the meat counter. Instead I prefer to shop at my own pace slowly winding around the produce section. Usually our weeknight dinners at home are veggie-centric, and we save steak for a rare occasion at a restaurant. The other day with no line in front of the meat case, I splurged thinking I couldn’t pass up something special for the grill on these last remaining warm days.

After debating for a few minutes, I decided on skirt steak. Knowing this cut needed time to soak up a bold marinade, I used a Fresno chili, garlic, parsley, white wine vinegar and olive oil to make chimichurri. The steak sat in half the marinade overnight leaving the rest to be used for sauce. The chimichurri skirt steak had the perfect balance of grilled flavor with a wonderfully herby, pungent bite.

Chimichurri Skirt Steak
Chimichurri Skirt Steak

Serves 4

1 Fresno chili, halved and deseeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup parsley leaves
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1 to 1-1/4 pounds skirt steak, trimmed

Pulse the chili and garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade until they are minced. Add the parsley, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper and chop. While the food processor is running, drizzle the olive oil through the feeder tube until the chimichurri is fully combined.

Marinate the skirt steak overnight in half the chimichurri.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Grill the skirt steak 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Tent the steak with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain before serving with the remaining chimichurri.

Garlic Knots

Garlic Knots
When dining out, saying no to a breadbasket is a serious act of restraint for me. As soon as I sit down, I can’t help myself from subtly peering around to see if fresh-baked rolls will be delivered to the table. I admit I have ruined countless meals by mindlessly carb-loading before the entrees even arrive.

Bread is a dinner accompaniment I usual skip at home even though a little time is all it takes to bake from scratch. Instead of rolling out homemade dough for a pizza, I made a batch of garlic knots. Hot from the oven, I tossed them a mixture of butter, olive oil, parsley, minced garlic and Parmesan.

Garlic Knots
Garlic Knots

Makes about 28

1-1/4 cups warm water
1 packet dry active yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for oiling bowl
3 cups bread flour plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the dough, combine the water, yeast, sugar and 1 tablespoon olive oil and let stand for 5 minutes until foamy. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until it forms a shaggy dough.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, the dough can be mixed in the bowl of a stand mixer using a dough hook.)

Gather the dough into a ball, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover. Place the bowl in a warm spot to allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 – 2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 1-ounce balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Roll each ball into a 6-inch log and tie in a knot. Place the knots on a parchment lined sheet pan 2 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the knots for 12-15 minutes until they turn light brown.

While the knots are baking, melt the butter with the remaining olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Stir in the parsley. When the knots are finished baking but still warm, toss them in the butter mixture and Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite veggies, but I never paid much attention the variety until they became my go-to baby food puree. Now I even know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. Usually I play it safe and stick to the plump, copper-skinned, orange-fleshed standard tubers, but then I discovered Japanese sweet potatoes.

With their slender shape, purple skin and white flesh, Japanese sweet potatoes are much starchier than their cousins, which makes them ideal for oven fries. I tossed the potatoes in a blend of seasonings including paprika and cayenne pepper, adding a dose of heat. These spicy sweet potato fries were far more flavorful than the usual fried version.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4

2 pounds Japanese sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick batons
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl filled with cold water. Soak for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with aluminum foil and grease them with 2 tablespoons canola oil.

To make the spice mix, combine the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.

Pat the sweet potatoes dry with a paper towel before tossing them in the remaining canola oil and the spice mix. Divide the sweet potatoes between the sheet pans arranging them in a single layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, switching the pans halfway through, until the sweet potatoes are deep golden brown. Serve immediately.

Crispy M&M Cookies

Crispy M&M Cookies
One of my earliest mall memories was when a store opened selling massive 6-inch diameter cookies and others nearly twice that size meant to be shared. It was obvious that nothing was being baked from scratch in the tiny store. The cookies were just OK, but they were sold warm straight from the oven making them irresistible.

My first choice was always a buttery sugar cookie dotted with colorful M&Ms. Craving a better version of that mall treat, I baked a batch of crispy M&M cookies. Their thin and delicate bite was a perfect match for the crunchy candy shells of the M&Ms. The cookies didn’t last long. After eating a single cookie, I had to have another.

Crispy M&M Cookies
Crispy M&M Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1-1/2 cup M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract and egg until fully incorporated. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in 1 cup M&Ms.

Drop the dough by the scant 1/4-cup spacing 3-inches apart on the sheet pans. Press the remaining M&Ms into the tops of the cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on the cookies on the sheet pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

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