Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa | Image: Laura Messersmith

It’s been a bit of an odd summer. We rang in Memorial Day with a non-traditional trip to Alaska where the weather was more like March than May. Then came the excitement of meeting the newest member of our family when my brother and sister-in-law welcomed their first baby, an adorable boy named James. He’s precious and already dearly loved by his aunties and uncle Mike.

In the meantime, I actually have been cooking a ton and making deep dives into the amazing produce that summer brings; I’ve just been incredibly neglectful of this space! I’ve become a bit obsessed with certain ingredients lately and I’m afraid to even begin sharing all the rhubarb related baked goods and tomato-laden salads that have come out of my kitchen in the last few weeks.

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa | Image: Laura Messersmith

As a slow start I’ll share this one – spicy pan-seared flank steak thinly sliced and served with a bracingly fresh cilantro, lime, and jalapeno spiked salsa. It rocks that strange place where a cool temperature meets a heated flavor profile and it’s dead easy to throw together last minute and have dinner on the table in 30.

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa | Image: Laura Messersmith

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa (serves 4)

Ingredients:

Salsa:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ears of corn, shucked
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2-3 teaspoons (1 small) finely minced jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Dry Rub & Steak:
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

Instructions:
Shuck the ears of corn and cut kernels from cobs. Heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté the corn for 4-5 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Place in a medium bowl and allow to cool. Add the onion, jalapeño, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice to corn and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Set salsa aside to allow the flavors to develop. Note: Salsa can be made 1 day ahead if covered and chilled.

Prepare the dry rub. Combine brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. Just before searing, coat both sides of the steak with all of dry rub mixture pressing lightly to help the rub adhere.

Heat a small drizzle of olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the oil coats the pan and just starts to smoke. Sear the steak 3-4 minutes on each side. Don’t fuss with the steak while it’s cooking, set a timer if need be to resist the temptation to move it around in the pan.

When an instant read thermometer reads 130 degrees in the thickest part, remove to a cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve with the salsa.

Rewritten and adapted from Dry Rubbed Flank Steak with Grilled Corn Salsa by Brian Luscher of Luscher's Red Hots, Dallas, TX via Bon Appetit Magazine.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I used a 10” stainless steel sauté pan, medium cutting board, large mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, chef’s knife, spatula, tongs, and measuring spoons.

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Fresh Tomato Corn Salsa | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

It probably sounds elementary, but once upon a time I used to think of Salad – capital S – as something that strictly consisted of lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and possibly a cucumber slice. Essentially, the Olive Garden version of a side dish. Sad.

Once my eyes were opened to the possibilities of adding cheese, nuts, grains, even fruit to the veggies and greens (or not!) a whole new world emerged. Mike started a new job a few weeks ago and the dining options near his office are pretty limited. To keep him sustained through the day I’ve been packing him lunches and thinking of new salad combinations.

Given my recent obsession with grilling basically everything, especially fruit, it was only a matter of time before I started putting grilled fruit IN SALAD. Crazy, I know, but it works! This one layers peppery arugula with slightly smokey grilled watermelon and shavings of salty parmesan. A sprinkle of toasted pine nuts for good measure and you have a salad that’s actually fresh and healthy but doesn’t taste like homework*.

*Not in the notebook paper sense, more in the I’m-only-eating-this-because-I’m-supposed-to sense.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts (serves 4)

Ingredients:
4 cups or 1/8 large seedless watermelon
4 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 ounces parmesan, shaved
1/3 cup balsamic or yogurt mint dressing (recipe below)

Instructions:
Pre-heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Remove the rind, and slice the watermelon into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Grill in batches for 2-3 minutes per side allowing the watermelon to sear. While the watermelon cooks, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutesover low heat until lightly golden.

Allow the watermelon to cool to room temperature before layering with the arugula leaves, shaved parmesan, and toasted pine nuts. Serve dressed with balsamic vinaigrette or for a lighter option, Yogurt Mint Dressing.

Yogurt Mint Dressing (yield: 2 cups)

Ingredients:
6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 ounces plain or lemon Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Place the scallions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until it forms a coarse paste.

Add the Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined. Transfer to a jar or food storage container and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Recipe for Yogurt Mint Dressing very lightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Yogurt Mint Sauce.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a cast iron grill pan (surprise!), a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, y-shaped vegetable peeler, tongs, small skillet, and a small food processor. Measuring spoons and cups, a rubber spatula and a clean jar with a lid round out the tools.

The Verdict:
If you couldn't tell, I've been on a bit of a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern-ish kick lately, so when I served this salad for the first time it was along side the Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce we had the other night. Which is when I discovered that while balsamic dressing is perhaps the more traditional addition, that I actually really like the combination with the cool yogurt and mint. Fresh, delicious, low effort, and an excellent way to cling on to the waning days of summer. 

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken & Apricot Kebabs

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Summer, especially days when it’s too hot to move are made for recipes like this one. The chicken is tender and flavorful, the apricots are fresh and the whole shebang is lightly lacquered with honey and bright herbs. Assembly takes just a few minutes, minimal effort and very little planning, but the results are phenomenal.

I realize that this is the second recipe I’ve posted from Food + Wine that features apricots – I might be just a little obsessed – but I think it has more to do with Justin Chapple’s inventive way of combining classic ingredient pairings. Apricots and honey given a modern twist with fresh thyme. Perfect.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken & Apricot Kebabs (serves 4)

Ingredients:
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
8 small apricots
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon water
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Special Equipment:
Cast iron grill pan
8 long bamboo skewers

Instructions:
Put the bamboo skewers in water to soak for 30 minutes.

Mince the thyme leaves and whisk together with the honey and water. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Halve and pit the apricots length-wise, divide the chicken thighs into 1 inch pieces. Thread the 3-4 pieces of chicken and apricot onto each skewer (I recommend keeping them separate for ease of cooking.) Brush the kebabs with olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 10-12 minutes total, the apricots will need about 5 minutes total.

Brush the hot kebabs with the honey and thyme mixture and serve.

Lightly adapted from Food + Wine’s Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs by Justin Chapple.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I needed a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, a cast iron grill pan, tongs, and a pastry brush. You'll also need bamboo skewers, and a plastic wrap-lined sheet pan will also be helpful during assembly.

The Verdict:
Chicken thighs and kebabs are a match made in grill heaven only improved by the addition of the sweet herbal glaze of the honey and thyme. And, as we’ve established already, stone fruit is amazing when it has a hint of char and smoke from the grill. I served the kebabs for a dinner party over a bed of fluffy couscous with a little green salad on the side. Light, easy, perfect for a summer evening.

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Thyme Chicken and Apricot Kebabs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Every once in a while I’ll be paging through a cooking magazine and a recipe will reach out; grabbing me by the lapels, just begging to be made (proverbially of course.) That was the case with this Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak. I found it in a compilation issue of Fine Cooking’s best summer recipes and the name alone summoned mental images of spicy sweet steak consumed on a summer evening somewhere in Kentucky blue grass country.

Wheels were set in motion and a few days later we were channeling a back porch pace up here on the twelfth floor complete thanks to a little urban grilling and some fragrant, ripe peaches. Because what goes better with bourbon than stone fruit?

The humidity has loosened its grip on New York giving way to blessedly fresh mornings and warm afternoons when laying on your back in a lawn of clover while the bumblebees buzz seems like the best possible way to spend an hour or two. This recipe perfectly captures that vibe – gingery warmth, minimal effort.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak (serves 4) 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger root
1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak, or 1 1/2-inch-thick New York strip steaks 

Instructions:
Use a paring knife to peel the ginger and then a microplane to finely grate into a medium liquid measuring cup. Add the soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard to the cup. Whisk together to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar.

Place the steak in a large zip top bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Seal the bag and massage to cover the steaks with marinade, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Flip the bag occasionally and if refrigerating bring the steaks back to room temperature before grilling.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high flame for 3-4 minutes. When the pan is hot, remove the steak from the marinade and shake off any excess, but don’t pat it dry. Reserve the marinade.

Grill the steak until good sear marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes. With tongs, rotate the steak 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the edges are a little crisp, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Flip the steak and grill the other side in the same way until the exterior is nicely seared and the steak is cooked to your liking, 10 to 12 minutes total cooking time for medium rare. Let the steaks rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch carefully to prevent burning.

When the sauce is thickened and the meat has rested, slice the flank steak thinly across the grain. For strip steaks, slice thickly or serve in chunks. Serve with a drizzle of the sauce

Re-written and slightly adapted from Molly Steven’s Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak in Fine Cooking magazine.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used a two-burner cast iron grill pan, tongs, microplane grater, paring knife, and medium cutting board. I also needed a large liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups/spoons, and a dinner fork, a large zip top bag (1 gallon size) and aluminum foil.

The Verdict:
We loved the Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak preparation – savory soy sauce, the alcoholic sharpness of the bourbon, all balanced against smoky sticky caramelized sugar. I served the flank steak along with a fresh salad of baby spinach topped with blueberries and a few slivered almonds – special shout out from Mike for the accompanying grilled peaches as a way to bridge the gap. This recipe is incredibly easy and the results are excellent.

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak | Image: Laura Messersmith