Weekly Winner:  Seriously Spiced Steak and One Crazy Korean Pasta Salad

You can’t go wrong putting a marinated flank steak on the grill, right?  I mean, you can pretty much marinate it in anything, throw it on a hot grill and you’re going to have a great meal (and hopefully leftovers afterward).  And pasta salad is a very common accompaniment to anything on the grill.  It’s a barbecue staple.  This pasta salad, however is the craziest version I’ve ever put together. There were things in this salad that I never could have imagined putting together in any kind of dish.  I mean, squash, pineapple, and …. peas???  With mayonnaise?  But you know what?  It worked!

Gochujang Flank Steak and Korean Pasta Salad is not for people with timid taste buds.  The steak has some nice subtle heat, but the pasta salad is very spicy. That’s where the pineapple and mayonnaise really works their magic to help cool down the fire in your mouth. But its an addictive heat and can be mitigated by using less gochujang (which I actually might do next time).

The recipe comes from Food & Wine, and if you really want to shake up your next cookout and spice things up a bit, this is your recipe. The recipe calls for cooking the flank steak in a skillet on the stove. That seems sacrilegious to me.  Fire up the grill and let that thing rip!

Gochujang Flank Steak and Korean Pasta Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

STEAK:

6 Tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

3 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

4 garlic cloves

1 Tbsp chopped peeled fresh ginger

1 2-lb flank steak

1 Tbsp canola oil

PASTA SALAD:

1 lb fusilli

1 cup mayonnaise

3 Tbsp gochujang

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

1 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise

1 8-inch long slice of pineapple (from 1 peeled, quartered and cored whole pineapple)

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 cup thawed frozen peas

3 scallions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt

Procedure:

  1. Make the Steak – In a blender, puree the gochujang with the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger until smooth.  Put the flank steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.  Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, make the Pasta Salad –In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the fusilli until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.  In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the gochujang and lime juice until smooth.  Fold in the fusilli.
  3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet.  Lightly brush the zucchini, squash and pineapple with 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until charred and tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool.  Cut the vegetables and fruit into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the pasta.  Fold in the peas and scallions and season with salt.
  4. Grill the Steak – Remove the steak from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and grill over a moderately high heat, turning once until desired degree of doneness
  5. Transfer the steak to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with the pasta salad.

Weekly Winner:  Move over Miso — it’s Tahini’s turn

I always think its funny how certain ingredients are suddenly hip.  You can’t flip through a food magazine or watch a cooking show without seeing four or five references to them.  Turmeric, Sumac, Pomegranate Molasses, and most recently miso have been everywhere and in everything.  It’s not that these ingredients are new or novel, but for some reason, all of a sudden they’ll be rediscovered and flaunted on and in everything.  Now, the latest ingredient to get a new manager and hit the road in shameless self-promotion is….tahini.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Tomato Salad is an excellent use of tahini.  It really doesn’t make the chicken taste like sesame, but ensures that it remains incredibly moist. Also, much like yogurt, it helps make really nice, impressive char marks on the chicken when grilled.  While the recipe calls for the leftover marinade to be used as a sauce for the chicken (and is quite tasty as such) I think next time I might mix it into the rice to make it a bit creamier and more interesting.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and is also a nice introduction to the warmer weather we’re finally having in Chicago.  The chicken gets grilled outside and a tomato and cucumber salad just always screams “summer” to me. Hurry up and make this recipe before tahini become “so last month”!!

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

CHICKEN:

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well stirred

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 small shallot, finely grated

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb.)

Cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

SALAD:

1 1/2 cups chopped cucumber

1 1/2 cups chopped tomato

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups hot cooked brown rice

Procedure:

To prepare chicken, combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Place 1/4 cup tahini mixture in a small bowl; reserve. Place remaining tahini mixture and chicken in a large ziplock plastic bag; seal, turning to coat chicken. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat grill to medium (350°F to 450°F). Coat grill grate with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt. Arrange chicken on grill grate; cover and cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Arrange chicken on a platter; drizzle with reserved 1/4 cup tahini mixture.

To prepare the salad, combine cucumber and next 6 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt) in a bowl; toss gently to combine. Serve cucumber salad with chicken and rice.

Weekly Winner:  Conquering Coconut Curry Chicken

Here’s a weird thing about me:  I despise coconut. Flaked, shredded, right out the shell… can’t stand it.  Nothing makes me more upset than biting into a luscious piece of chocolate only to find coconut.  I also don’t understand why anyone would want perfectly lovely shrimp coated in that stuff! Nope, not a fan of coconut at all …. unless its coconut milk. That stuff, I love!!  Go figure! I know, I’m a conundrum.  I also can’t stand green beans, but that’s another post!

So back to coconut and this post.  This chicken rocked!  The recipe actually comes from my Vitamix “Simply Natural” cookbook that accompanied my all-time favorite kitchen toy, my Vitamix 7500 (red, of course!).  Rest assured you do not need a Vitamix to put this meal together — any blender or food processor will do.  And while this recipe does take quite a bit of time, its super easy, and almost all of the time is unattended in the oven. Basically you mix the sauce up in your blending-machine of choice, pour it over the chicken and bake away! But it’s so much more fun, when said blending machine of choice is a stylish red Vitamix…just sayin’!

Coconut Curry Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 (14oz) can light coconut milk

1/3 cup chicken stock

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp red curry paste

1 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups cooked brown rice – (to which I added peas)

Procedure:

  1. Place peanut butter, coconut milk, chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, red curry paste, ginger, garlic and cayenne in blender.  Blend mixture until smooth, scraping down sides if necessary.
  2. Preheat oven to 300F
  3. In a plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and black pepper. Add chicken pieces to flour mixture, shaking to coat.
  4. In a large skillet, cook chicken in hot oil until browned.  Transfer to an ungreased rectangular baking dish.  Pour sauce over chicken, cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is very tender.
  5. Transfer to a serving platter.  Spoon sauce over chicken and serve over cooked rice.