One of the fantastic perks of friends with an actual house in the city is the opportunity to grill food outside without leaving town. My friends' have a beautiful, long chef's kitchen and, just past the kitchen, an enclosed back yard. More like a lush garden of trees, plants and plenty of growing edibles, there is a summery patio with a traditional kettle barrel charcoal grill.
Though our gathering consisted of six hearty men, I'm quite sure the ladies would find this meal just as satisfying. In keeping with summer, the menu was nearly absent carbohydrates and was full of protein and vegetables.
Unfortunately, I was having too much fun cooking, tasting and socializing to remember to take pictures of every thing. But next time.
Grilling Menu for Six:
Rubbed and Grilled Ribeye Steak
Michael Symon's Lola Restaurant Steak Sauce, modified
Grilled Onion Salad
Green Bean, Watercress and Bleu Salad
Buttermilk-Lime Ice Cream with Chocolate Mint Leaves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp white or brown sugar
1 tbsp ancho or mixed hot dried chilis, ground
3 lbs ribeye steaks
First, buy the best ribeye you can afford. I prefer (well, love) the ribeye at Whole Foods. It is trimmed but well marbled and is pasture-raised, grass fed, free of hormones, and raised on one farm its entire life. The taste is pure and delicious with a rich buttery kick. Meat is definitely a product where the adage holds true: you get what you pay for.
The use of meat also raises ethical questions, not only about the rightness of eating animals, but about the amount of the Earth's resources required to produce meat. We now know livestock have a truly large impact on the environment. The amount of methane alone produced by cows is cause for concern due to its damage to the ozone layer. Waste and runoff from factory farming is also having alarming effects. Nonetheless, to occasionally eat high quality meat not factory produced but raised and slaughtered in a humane fashion can be a rewarding and delicious experience.
Make the rub: using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the coriander. You do not want a powder here but just to break open the seeds and release all that rich citrus flavor. You can also roughly chop them with a knife or crush them with a bench scraper. In a small or medium bowl combine the coriander, salt, sugar and chili powder.
Place the steaks in a glass baking dish large enough to hold them all in one layer. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat and avoid contamination by using different utensils and dishes before and after cooking. Sprinkle on the rub to coat one side then flip the steaks and coat the other side. Put in the fridge for 4-12 hours before grilling. In the meantime, go ahead and make the Lola steak sauce (see below).
To grill on a charcoal kettle grill: with the grill cleaned, old briquettes and ash removed, make a pyramid with new briquettes and follow the instructions for lighting them. When the briquettes are all burning well and the corners beginning to gray, scatter the briquettes some in order to create an even cooking temperature throughout the grill. Replace the cooking grid or grate to get hot. A very hot grate will prevent the meat from sticking and give the traditional grill marks. Once the charcoal has come to its hottest temp - the briquettes will be halfway gray but burning a deep orange with some flames - place the steaks on the grill. Do not move them. Grill for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip and grill for 2-4 minutes more on the other side. The steak will be deeply browned on the outside and pink in the center (medium rare). If you want your steak well done, cook longer and put your steak on the grill when the briquettes are not as hot. The heat will be able to penetrate the meat without burning the outside. Just remember that with grilling the longer the beef cooks the less tender it will be. When your steak has finished grilling, remove to a clean platter and allow to rest for 8 minutes uncovered without touching it. The meat will continue to cook during this time and become even more tender and juicy.
Once the meat has rested, take a sharp knife and fork and begin slicing the beef into 1/2" strips. While you could easily do individual steaks, I like this method for more informal entertaining. The meat can be passed or served buffet style and folks can take exactly as much as they like. Also, the beef is so good and tender any further cutting can be done with just a fork.
For the modified Lola Steak Sauce:
2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp whole cloves
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp celery salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture has reduced by one third to one half. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer once or twice, until you have a nice smooth sauce; discard the solids. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. If you wish to thicken it more but have already strained it, you can put it back in the saucepan and continue reducing for a few minutes. You can also stir in a couple teaspoons of butter and as the sauce cools, it will thicken. Once cool, cover and reserve until serving.
Grilled Onion Salad
3 large organic Vidalia onions
2 organic yellow onions
1 large organic white onion
2 medium organic red onions
up to 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley
zest and juice of one lemon
Because onions are the primary ingredient in this salad, it's important to use good ones. I use organic onions because they taste better and do not leave an oniony aftertaste. They are also crisper, juicier and more mellow. Cut the ends off all the onions and peel them. Slice the Vidalia, white and yellow onions into 3/4" - 1" slices. Put in a large bowl. Slice the red onion into 1/4" -1/2" slices. Add to bowl. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 cup of olive oil or until the onions are very well coated with the oil. Place a grilling tray (a metal sheet punched with 1/2" or 3/4" holes) on the grill until very hot. In this situation, I grilled the onions before the steak and before the coals were at their hottest point. Dump about half the onions on the tray. They can be somewhat piled. They will shrink some from grilling and the moisture released will help cook the others. Use tongs to turn the onions every few minutes until they are done. The onions will mostly be soft but not limp or wet or sloppy and a few will remain crisp. Place in a large bowl and cook the second half of the onions. Remove to the bowl. While they are cooling you can separate the parsley from the stems. Once you have enough, give the parley a very quick chop, just a few passes with a large knife. Grate the lemon zest over the bowl of onions, toss, then slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl being careful to remove any seeds that may fall. Toss. Add the parsley and toss again. Taste for salt and adjust. This is ready to serve.
Green Bean, Watercress and Blue Salad
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 bunch watercress, trimmed
4 ounces Roth-Kaas Blue Cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
Juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 shallot very thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Prepare the vegetables: bring a pot of well seasoned water to a boil. For well seasoned water (for most vegetables or for pasta) the water should taste like sea water. Adding a pinch of salt to a couple gallons of water is not effective. When I see people do this I often chuckle and wonder why they bother. You should add a tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon (16 cups) of water. Blanche the beans in the boiling water for about three minutes until the beans are cooked but still very crisp. Drain and run under cold water for one minute. Alternatively, you can drain the beans and add to a bowl of water and ice cubes. Regardless, the beans should only be subjected to the cold for a minute. This sets the bright green color and stops the cooking. Failing to cool the beans down or cooling them down for too long will result in limp beans without a bright color. Once they are cool and drained, wrap them in a dry absorbent kitchen towel and put them in the fridge until you need them.
Pull the tarragon leaves from the stem until you have enough. Pass over the leaves with a knife for a few chops.
Make the dressing: in a medium bowl add the orange juice and lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Add the salt and whisk until dissolved. Add the shallot and whisk again. Add the olive oil in a thin stream while whisking. Finish with the pepper.
Toss the salad: in a large salad or kitchen prep bowl add the green beans from the fridge, the watercress, blue cheese and tarragon. Give this a gentle toss with salad tongs. Pour over the dressing and toss well. Serve alongside the steak, sauce and grilled onions.
Buttermilk-Lime Ice Cream with Chocolate Mint
Another blessing within my friends' fabulous kitchen is their sturdy Italian ice cream maker. It's really a super, if mildly noisy, device. It seems Steve, the owner, just tosses in a few ingredients and an hour later we're eating fresh ice cream. This ice cream has a wonderful texture; it is creamy but the buttermilk and lime provide a nice hit of summery acidity. Another friend had just given me chocolate mint from her garden in the morning. I knew it would be the perfect thing with which to finish this dish. Mint grounds this ice cream and gives it a clean, fresh, balanced finish.
3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest of 2 limes
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon corn syrup
pinch of kosher or fine sea salt
bunch of chocolate mint
To make the ice cream: combine the water and sugar in a medium, heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves. Do not allow the mixture to color. Remove from the heat and cool in the fridge.
Once the syrup is room temperature to cold, stir in the buttermilk, cream, zest, juice, corn syrup and salt. Pour into the freezer container of your ice cream machine and follow the manufacturers' instructions.
In the meantime, cut the chocolate mint into a chiffonade. A "chiffonade" is achieved with leafy plants by stacking the leaves, rolling them tightly, and cutting crosswise to produce fine ribbons.
When the ice cream is finished, scoop into ice cream dishes and finish with a garnish of the mint.