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Steak Night

How do you tell a good steak from a regular steak?

There are a few things to look for when buying a steak:

First, there is the grade. The grade speaks about the quality of the meat based on marbling and age.

The second factor is the cut. Different cuts have different qualities. Finding the right cut for what you want to cook is probably the most important part of an excellent steak.

The third factor is the diet of the steer and how it was raised.

Grade: The age of the animal and the marbling of the meat determine the grade of the meat. In the United States grades are prime, choice and select, with prime being at the top and select being the bottom. Prime grade beef makes up about 2% of all the beef produced in the United States and typically ends up exported or sold to fine restaurants. What you will normally find on the shelves at the store is choice and select. Since prime is difficult to find, your best option is to purchase a choice cut.

Marbling is an important factor in steak selection. To visually determine the marbling of a steak take a good look at the texture of the meat. If the meat is free of all fat then the cut has little or no marbling. Though, this is leaner and often more tender, it is not as flavorful. Small streaks of fat through the meat will produce a more flavorful steak. Marbling should be thin streaks of fat. Thick lines of fat means the steak contains a lot of connective tissue that will make it tough. The meat should be bright red and the fat, a creamy white, evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Cuts of steak can be broken down into three sections. Starting on the upper back and moving down to the mid-back you have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin.

The rib contains cuts, such as the Rib Roast, the Rib-eye Steak and the back ribs. This is the least tender section of the three.

The short loin produces the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin and the Porterhouse steaks.

The sirloin produces the Sirloin Steak and the Top Sirloin.

Strips steaks, like the New York Steak, is cut from the T-bone portion. The most tender cut of beef is the tenderloin. From this area you will also get cuts like Chateaubriand, filet mignon and tournedos. Though these cuts are tender they are less flavorful. Rib-eye or rib steaks are less tender but far more flavorful. The same holds true for the sirloin cuts.

Grass-Fed: There are lots of good reasons to choose grass-fed beef over conventionally raised beef – environmental, nutritional and concerns about the animals being treated well and eating what is natural to them. On all of these fronts, grass-fed beef beats feedlot beef hands down. However, over 95% of the beef sold in the U.S. is from feedlots. This means that beef from cattle which are entirely raised on pasture is more expensive and it also tastes a little different from the beef people in the U.S. are accustomed to. Additionally, the optimal cooking times, particularly for steaks, is a little different as well.

How to Prepare Steak for Cooking:

ALWAYS let your meat come to room temperature before doing anything to it.

Then, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and let it stand 60 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per side for a steak up to one inch thick. After sitting for an hour, wash the salt off the steak, dry it well with paper towels and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper. Cook immediately. TRUST ME. This method really works. I have tried any number of ways to prepare steak and always come back to this method. Any type of steak, including grass-fed steak and sirloin, prepared this way is flavorful and tender. Forget marinades and rubs – you can add the seasoning after the meat is grilled.

How to Grill Steak:

If you’re using charcoal you’ll want very hot coals. Use the 2 second rule to test them; you should be able to hold your hand a few inches over the grill for only about 2 seconds before it’s too hot. Once they are hot, move them to one side of the grill so you can have both direct and indirect heat. If you’re using a gas grill, turn all the burners to high and let it heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil.

Use tongs, extra long ones, to move your meat around, not a big fork. Puncturing your steak will only let the juices run out and cause them to be dry and tough.
Place the steaks on the hot grill to sear. Don’t move them for 2-3 minutes. If you want diagonal hatch marks, you can rotate your steak 45 degrees after a couple of minutes and then finish searing. Use the tongs again to turn the steaks and sear the other side.

If you cook the steaks at the super high heat level the entire time, the outside will be burnt by the time the center cooks. So after searing, turn the gas off on one of the burners. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of your charcoal/gas grill to finish cooking.

When it comes to steak, you can’t follow exact times because it will vary with every cut and every grill. Temperature is the most reliable guide. Remove the steaks when they are a few degrees from your desired degree of doneness and let the steaks rest for five minutes before slicing.

Medium rare steak should be warm through the middle and most of the center of the steak should be reddish pink. The sides should be well browned, the top and bottom charred to a dark brown color. This steak should have a firm surface but soft in the middle.
Internal Temperature 125 to 135 degrees F. This is the recommended level of doneness for a good steak.

Medium Rare

Medium Rare

Medium steak should have a thick band of light pink through the middle but more brown than pink. The sides should be a rich brown color and the top and bottom charred darkly (but not black). This steak should have some play through the middle but feel firm to the touch.
Internal Temperature 140 to 150 degrees F. If you are grilling for a large group of people, this is the best level of doneness that pleases the most people.

Medium

Medium

Medium well steak should have a hint of pink in the very middle of the steak. The surface should be a dark brown with good charring on the top and bottom. This steak will be very stiff but still have a little squish in the center. Internal Temperature 155 to 165 degrees F.

Medium Well

Medium Well

Well Done steak is the most difficult to cook. This steak should NOT be burnt on the outside. While there is not the faintest hint of pink in the middle, it should be browned through, not burnt through. This steak should feel solid to the touch.
Internal Temperature 170 or higher degrees F. The secret is to do it low and slow. It’s the only way to prevent burning while fully cooking it through the middle.

Well Done

Well Done

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef Steaks:

I usually use a gas grill and heat the grill to the hottest setting. Sear the steaks for about two minutes per side. Reduce one or two burners (depending on whether you have a 2 or 3 burner grill) to medium and turn off the second or third burner. Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of the grill and close the cover. Finish the cooking over indirect heat and use a thermometer to determine how long to leave the steak on the grill. For charcoal, move the steaks to the side of the grill without the coals underneath. For a pan on the stove, just lower the heat.

Grass-fed steaks are best cooked rare or medium rare. Even if you usually like your steaks cooked longer, do give less cooking a try – or cook them in a sauce at a lower temperature. Cooking at a high temperature for a long time will definitely produce a tough steak. I find the best way to tell when a steak is done is to use a good instant-read thermometer (inserted from the side) and the best setting for grass-fed beef steaks is 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F.

Recipes for the Grill

Steak Night 3

Ribeye Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter and Mushrooms

Makes 4-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 beef Ribeye Steaks, boneless, cut 1 inch thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 medium Portobello mushrooms, stems removed (about 1-3/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Blue Cheese Butter:

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Combine garlic, thyme and pepper. Set aside.

Place steaks on the grill and cook according to the directions above. When you move the steaks to the indirect heat, sprinkle with the garlic mixture.

Brush mushrooms with oil and after you move the steaks to indirect heat, place the mushrooms on the grill over the direct heat side. Grill about 10 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine Blue Cheese Butter ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Slice the grilled mushrooms. Arrange the steaks on a serving platter. Top each steak with a tablespoon of Blue Cheese Butter and slices of mushroom.

Steak Night 4

Strip Steak with Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce boneless beef top loin (strip) steak, cut about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cracked or coarsely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 thin asparagus spears, trimmed (6 oz.)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ cup low salt beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Directions

Prepare steak as described above.

Place the asparagus in a shallow dish and drizzle with the oil.

For the sauce:

In a medium skillet stir together the broth, wine, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in mustard; keep warm.

Preheat the grill. Place steak on the grill rack and cook according to directions above. Grill until steak iscooked to your desired temperature.

Place the asparagus on the grill (gas – close the cover) for the last 2 to 3 minutes or for an uncovered grill (charcoal) the last 4 to 5 minutes of grilling. Cook asparagus until crisp-tender.

Spoon sauce on a serving plate. Cut steak in half crosswise. Serve steak halves atop sauce with asparagus on top. Makes 2 servings.

steak night 5

Grilled Grass-Fed T-Bone Steaks Florentine

2-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (3/4 to 1 inch) thick T-bone grass-fed beef steaks

Directions

Blend the first 6 ingredients in a large mixing cup and set aside. Prepare steaks according to directions above and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Heat barbecue and cook steaks according to directions above.

When the steaks reach the desired temperature, remove them to a large plate with a rim.

Pour the reserved sauce over the steaks and let them rest for five minutes before slicing.

Recipes for the Stovetop

Steak Night 1

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

You may use mixed bell peppers as a substitute for the mushrooms to change theflavor ot the recipe the next time you make it.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound beef sirloin steak
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 scallions
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry using paper towels. When oil is shimmering in the pan, add steak. Cook to desired degree of doneness (4 minutes per side for medium, more or less, depending on the thickness of steak is recommended). Remove steak from the skillet and keep warm on a serving platter.

Return skillet to heat. Add tomatoes, scallions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes (if skillet begins to look too dry, add a few tablespoons of water). Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in basil and pour mixture over the steaks.

Steak Night 2

Round Steak with Lemon, Capers and Green Onions

Cuts of beef from the round or hind leg section are less tender than the loin, sirloin or rib. They can, however, offer the best combination of texture and flavor for many steak lovers. The top round comes from the inside thigh portion of the round. Because these muscles are used less than the outer ones, they are more tender than other cuts from the round.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound top round steak cut into 4 slices
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Chopped parsley and lemon zest for garnish

Directions

Mix flour, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Pound steaks thin between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Dredge each steak in the  flour mixture, shaking off excess.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Brown steaks on each side 2 to 3 minutes, depending on desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from the pan, place on a serving platter and keep warm.

Without cleaning the pan, add green onions to the pan and cook briefly. Deglaze the  pan with the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and allow stock to reduce, about 5 minutes. Stir in capers and lemon juice and remove from heat.

Pour sauce over steaks and garnish with parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

 

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Best Beef Steaks For The Grill

Choosing the correct cut of meat is very important when grilling. Some of the best steaks for grilling are the premium cuts. Thickness of the steak is very important. Each cut should be between 1 inch and 1 1/2 inches thick. The strip steaks and top sirloin should be a little less expensive than the filet mignon, t-bone, porterhouse and rib eye.

Filet Mignon is a cut taken from the center of the beef tenderloin that has outstanding taste as well as texture. They’re the most tender steaks you can buy, though not the most beef flavor.

Also known as:

Tenderloin

Tournedos

Chateaubriand

Beef Medallion

New York Strip is an excellent cut for grilling. This is the steak that many grilling experts prefer.

Also know as:

Strip Loin

Shell Steak

Kansas City Strip

New York Strip Steak

Rib Eye is another classic cut that has marbling throughout the meat – making it one of the juiciest cuts as well as very tender.

Also know as:

Scotch Fillet

Delmonico Steak

Porterhouse is a very large steak that is actually a combination of two steaks: the New York strip on one side and a tender filet on the other. Many believe these to be the best of all steaks.

Also know as:

T-Bone

Short Loin

 

T-Bone is named for its distinguishing T-shaped bone. This choice cut is almost identical to a Porterhouse steak, only it doesn’t have as much of the tenderloin muscle in it. It is both a strip sirloin (with the bone) and a tender filet mignon.

Also known as:

Short Loin

Porterhouse

Club Steak

 

Top Sirloin is near the rump, so the meat’s a bit tougher than cuts from the loin or the rib. The top sirloin is a juicy cut taken from the center of the sirloin – the most tender part and is a great cut for grilling.

 

Flank steak has great beef flavor at a low price. However, it can be a little tricky to grill, because it is easy to overcook. Due to its low fat content and pronounced grain, it becomes tough and nearly inedible, if cooked past medium rare. First of all, make sure the meat is at room temperature. Placing cold meat on a hot grill will make it seize up, toughening it. Also, it will be more difficult to get the steak to cook evenly if the meat is cold in the center. Also, make sure the grill is hot – very hot. The key to keeping flank steak tender is to sear it quickly over high heat.

Rub flank steaks with a little olive oil, then salt and pepper both sides heavily. The salt will bring some of the meat’s juices to the surface and help to form the brown crust that is the hallmark of good grilling. You can also use a marinade.

Place the meat on the grill and do not move it for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes are up, turn the meat over and cook for an additional 3 minutes on the second side, again without moving the meat. Provided that your grill was hot enough, this should give you medium rare on the ends and rare in the middle. If you prefer it a little more done, increase the cooking time on each side to 4 minutes. Do not cook past medium rare, or the steak will be tough.

The last step is actually the most critical. When the meat is done, remove it from the grill and place it on a cutting board. Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. When the meat has rested, determine the direction of the grain – in flank steak, the fibers run along the length of the steak, and you will want to cut across the grain, in thin slices. Cutting thinly across the grain gives you short fibers in each slice, resulting in more tender meat.

Cooking Perfect Steak: on the stove, in the oven or on the grill.

Pan-Searing Steaks:

In a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Sear the steaks, moving them with tongs a little so they don’t stick to the bottom, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Using this Pan-Searing technique, proceed to cook your steak to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness:

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During this time the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and the juices redistribute (add juices that accumulate from resting steaks to any sauce you are making).

Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto individual serving plates.

Sear-Roasting Steaks:

Preheat oven to 500°F (a very hot oven produces a juicy interior). Place a 10- to 12-inch ovenproof skillet or cast-iron skillet and place on range over high heat (the pan and the handle will be extremely hot – be careful).

Immediately place steaks in the middle of a hot, dry pan (if cooking more than one piece of meat, add the pieces carefully, so that they are not touching each other). Cook 1 to 2 minutes without moving; turn with tongs and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and put the cast iron skillet with the steaks in it into the oven. Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of steaks and degree of doneness you like. Using the Sear-Roasting technique, proceed to cook your steak to your desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness:

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During this time the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and the juices redistribute (add juices that accumulate from resting steaks to your wine sauce). Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto individual serving plates.

Grilling Steaks: 

Using dry heat from a grill is another great way to cook quality steaks. Remove steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and wipe any excess marinade (if used) off the steaks.

When you are ready to grill, preheat the grill and coat the grates with oil or non-stick kitchen spray to keep the steaks from sticking to the grill. Place steaks on a hot grill. Only turn the steak once. Let it cook on one side, then let it finish on the other side.

Grill to the desired degree of doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness.

Rare – 120 degrees F

Medium Rare – 125 degrees F

Medium – 130 degrees F

When the steaks are done to your liking, remove from the grill and let sit 15 minutes before serving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven).

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Fennel Sauce

A great way of presenting the meat to be served is to cut out the bone, slice both sides of the steak and then reassemble the steak on the plate in its original form.

3 to 4 servings

Fennel Sauce

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 (1/4-inch-thick) slice of lemon
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Grilled Vegetables

  • 3 bell peppers, red, orange, yellow or a mix, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large head radicchio, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges, keeping root ends intact
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 3/4-inch-thick wedges, keeping root ends intact
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Fine sea salt

Steak

  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) Porterhouse steak (2 inches thick), at room temperature.

Directions:

FOR SAUCE: Cook fennel and lemon in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes, then drain, reserving some of the cooking water; discard lemon. Transfer fennel to the bowl of a food processor; add 5 tablespoons of the cooking water, oil, chives, mustard and generous pinch salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer sauce to a serving bowl.

FOR VEGETABLES AND STEAK: Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium-high heat for gas. Grill vegetables, turning as needed, until slightly charred and tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a large platter and season with salt.

Grill steak, shifting meat every 30 seconds or so to avoid flare-ups and brown evenly, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and repeat procedure on second side. Using tongs, prop steak up and grill edges until browned. Grill sides of steak again, until meat is cooked to rare (about 120° on an instant-read thermometer inserted 1 1/2 inches into steak; meat will be cooler near the bone). Total cooking time will be 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice steak; serve with vegetables and sauce.

Steak with Herb Sauce

Sauce:

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
  • 2 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons. packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon. packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh tarragon leaves

Steak:

  • Four (6- to 8-ounce) New York strip, porterhouse or T-bone steaks (about 1-inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Prepare Herb Sauce: Place garlic and next 7 ingredients (garlic through lemon juice) in a blender and pulse until emulsified. Add herbs a little at a time and blend until they are incorporated. Scrape down sides of blender jar as needed. The sauce should be thick and very green with the texture of pesto.

Prepare the grill and heat to medium high.

Prepare steak: Remove steak from refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 1 hour). Pat dry with paper towels. Just before grilling, brush both sides of steaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place meat directly on the grill grate and cook over medium-high direct heat about 5 minutes. Turn and continue cooking 5 minutes for medium rare. Cook longer for medium. Remove from grill to a clean platter and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Herb Sauce.

Grilled Mediterranean Steak

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb boneless beef top sirloin or rib eye, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed, chopped, fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (1 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Grease grill grates.

Rub both sides of each piece of beef with garlic; sprinkle with lemon-pepper seasoning.

Place beef on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 9 to 11 minutes, turning once, until beef is medium rare.

In small bowl, mix together spinach, feta and olives. Spoon over beef. Serve with sliced tomatoes on the side.

Sirloin Steaks with Barbaresco Glaze

You defrosted the steak and it is raining! Make this dish instead.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups Barbaresco wine
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 sage sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • Four 1/2-pound sirloin steaks
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

In a 1-quart pot, bring Barbaresco wine to a boil with shallots, sage and rosemary. Reduce by half, about 15 minutes over medium heat; strain and discard the shallots, sage and rosemary.

Dredge sirloin steaks in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a 14″ skillet. Cook the steaks 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes. Add the Barbaresco reduction. Cook 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Remove the steaks to a platter; keep warm. Reduce the cooking juices until thickened to a glaze, about 4 minutes. Pour the glaze over the steaks and serve immediately.

Grilled Flank Steak with Zucchini and Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients:

Steak

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak (3/4 inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Zucchini Tortini

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2/3 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

FOR THE STEAK: Combine fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt in a mortar and pestle or small processor. Grind to a fine powder. Place steak in a baking dish; rub on all sides with ground spices and oil. Marinate, chilled, 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

FOR THE SAUCE: In a large saucepan combine bell pepper, tomato, onion, oil and pinch salt. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer, covered, until vegetables are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, uncovered, 1 minute more. Process sauce with an immersion blender or in a processor, then transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Prepare a charcoal grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal or medium-high heat for gas. Remove marinated steak from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while you prepare zucchini.

FOR THE TORTINI: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 375  degrees F. and set rack in middle of the oven.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, garlic, parsley and a pinch salt; toss together to combine. Cook until zucchini is tender, about 3 minutes; remove from heat.

On prepared baking sheet, overlap enough of the zucchini to form 4 single-layered, 3-inch rounds. Sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon cheese. Repeat with remaining zucchini and cheese to form 4 (4-layered) tortini.

Grill steak 4 1/2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to a cutting board to rest. While steak is resting, bake tortini until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Transfer tortini to serving plates. Slice steak. Serve with tortini and sauce.



The keys to good Italian grilling are the use of olive oil and fresh herbs.  The fresh herbs play a large role because they help bring out the full flavor of the dish.  The Italian grill also uses a lot of skewered meatsl, which is great for parties. So, if you’re looking for something a little different when planning your next cookout, you might want to try it Italian-style. Spiedini, which means “skewers”—are one of the many ways Italians enjoy grilled food. Basically, spiedini are the equivalent of “shish kebab.”  The skewers can be made of metal or wood—though, sometimes, simply rosemary sprigs are used. (If using wooden skewers, first soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes to prevent them from burning.)

The preparation for spiedini is simple: Small chunks of meat or fish are placed on skewers (each one an individual serving)—sometimes including vegetables—which are then cooked over a grill. In addition to being versatile—really any combination of meat, vegetable or fruit that can be cut and skewered may be used—spiedini are a great time saver. They may be served as an appetizer, accompaniment (contorno), entrée, or dessert. In fact, using the suggestions here, you can prepare an entire meal outside on the grill—from start to finish—without the need for any indoor cooking at all.
As appetizers, vegetables work well. First, brush the grill with vegetable oil and then grill long slices of eggplant and/or zucchini—cut the vegetables on a diagonal or longitudinally so the slices will be long enough not to fall through the grill grate.. Before serving, drizzle the grilled vegetables with olive oil and garnish with herbs, such as parsley and thyme, and chopped (or roasted) garlic.
If you like anchovies, another great antipasto idea is “Spiedini di alici pomodoro e olive”—grilled fresh anchovies (which are then rolled) and sliced zucchini, with raw tomato wedges and pitted black olives. These spiedini can be served on a bed of lettuce-heart leaves, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with basil.

As a main course, meat spiedini are the most popular in Italy. For these, it’s important to choose tender cuts of meat—such as chicken breast, lamb, pork, and sausages—evenly cut into approximately one-inch pieces. If you want to use beef, select tender cuts, but they don’t have to be particularly lean. To make Spiedini misti di carne (mixed meats), alternate onions, peppers slices, and cubes of various meats, and then grill. A leaf of fresh sage and/or a bay leaf between the pieces of meat will add flavor. To enhance the taste, try marinating the meat—already cut and ready to be skewered—for a few hours prior to grilling, mixing now and then. To make the marinade, simply coat the pieces of meat with olive oil (not too much), and add rosemary leaves (finely chopped), sage, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Fish spiedini (spiedini di mare) are also popular in Italy. For these, the most commonly used seafood are shrimp, scallops, tuna, swordfish, cuttlefish or calamari. The fish is usually lightly marinated or else brushed before grilling with olive oil, herbs (parsley or thyme), sometimes garlic, and salt and pepper. Spiedini di mare are usually served with lemon and a fresh green salad.

Grilled fruit can provide a sweet, healthy finale to your outdoor feast. The grilling process caramelizes the fruits’ natural sugars and concentrates the flavors. Peaches, pears, and apples—simply cut in half and pitted—are great for grilling. Adding just a little lemon juice will preserve the fruit’s color and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon will enhance the natural flavors. Be sure to brush the grill with vegetable oil so the fruit doesn’t stick. You can then serve the fruit alone or with scoop of ice cream. It’s delicious with yogurt too. Or, try a fresh fruit spiedini using cubes of fresh pecorino and raw pears; or you can serve spiedini di frutta (mixed fresh fruits)—using slices of uncooked peaches, apples, pears, and whole strawberries. Squeeze lemon juice over the fruit to prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.

The following is a list of essential ingredients for the Italian Grill pantry:

  • Anchovies (cured): Salted anchovies are a key ingredient in Italian grilling, any recipe that calls for them.
  • Bread Crumbs: A strange ingredient for the grill, but a lot of meats have a light coating of breadcrumbs..
  • Bread  Cubes: The bread cubes are used in a lot of skewered recipes in Italy, generally they are cut up in 1-inch cubes.
  • Caciocavallo: A cheese made from cow’s milk and is a firm cheese.  The cheese is usually in the shape of a spindle and can  be found in Italian stores or very well stocked grocery stores.  If you are unable to find it, you may substitute with provolone cheese
  • Lemons: The juice of lemons are used a lot in grilling, and only fresh lemon juice should be used.
  • Pancetta: An Italian-style that is cured, but not smoked like American bacon.
  • Flat-leaf parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Fennel or Sage are the most common types of herbs used.
  • Pecorino: A hard cheese made in Italy that is made from sheep’s milk.   This cheese can be found at most grocery stores,
  • Prosciutto: Domestic prosciutto is good for cooking with, but imported from Italy is far superior.
  • Olive Oil: Use inexpensive extra-virgin olive oil, unless a recipe calls for something else.

Appetizers

Grilled Summer Squash with Pesto and Balsamic Syrup

Ingredients                                                                        

  • 1-1/2 lb. assorted summer squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a high gas or charcoal grill fire. In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and let drain in a colander for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, put the  the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 8 to 10 minutes.
Toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons. extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, flipping once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Arrange on a platter, dot with the pesto, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and the balsamic syrup to taste. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Grilled Bread Salad With Basil and Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf (about 1/2 pound) rustic Italian bread (like ciabatta), cut lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (both white and green parts)
  • 12 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 8 oz bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls), halved or substitute a large fresh mozzarella cut into 1-inch pieces.

Directions

Prepare a medium-high fire on a gas or charcoal grill. Clean and oil the grates to prevent sticking. Using a pastry brush, dab both sides of the bread slices with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Grill the bread until it browns and gets good grill marks, about 2 minutes. Grill the other side until browned, about 2 minutes, and transfer to a large cutting board to cool. Rub the cut sides of the garlic over the bread and discard the garlic. Put the cherry tomatoes and scallions in a large serving bowl with the basil. Cut the bread into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining oil with the red-wine vinegar, pour over the bread mixture, and toss well. Let the salad sit for up to 2 hours before serving. Just before serving, fold in the bocconcini and season with salt to taste.

Main Dishes

Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken  

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                          

  • 4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1. lb.)
  • Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/4 lb. Italian fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto (preferably imported)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Prepare a medium charcoal fire or light a gas grill to medium high.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken breasts. Cut through each one horizontally almost all the way through and open it like a book. Sprinkle the chicken all over with 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt and pepper. Layer the basil leaves and fontina evenly on half of each breast and then fold it closed. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each breast to hold it closed and then brush lightly on both sides with the olive oil.
Reduce the heat on the gas grill to medium. Grill the chicken breasts, covered, until they are well marked, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook, turning every few minutes, until the chicken is just firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the breast registers 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes more. Let cool for a couple of minutes and then serve.

Grilled Rosemary-Salmon Skewers

Ingredients             

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Red Onion, cut into 1 inch squares and/or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skinned or tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Combine rosemary, oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add salmon; toss to coat. Alternating the salmon and tomatoes/red onion squares, divide them among eight 12-inch skewers.  Oil the grill rack. Grill the skewers, carefully turning once, until the salmon is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. 

Grilled Sicilian-style Sirloin Steak

In this recipe the steaks are marinated for about 12 hours before breading and grilling.  

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and more for drizzling
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 sirloin steaks (about 3 3/4 pounds total)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste

Directions

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of the olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, basil, and pepper to taste in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan.  Dip both sides of the steaks in this mixture and then leave to marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 12 hours, turning several times.  Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard the marinade.
Spread the bread crumbs on a large plate and mix in the cheese and oregano.  Salt the steaks to taste and dredge in the bread crumbs, patting the steaks to coat them thoroughly.
Place the steaks on the grill and cook, turning only once, to desired doneness, 12 to 15 minutes in all for rare.

Grilled Skewered Meatballs

This Sicilian recipe is an example of cucina arabo-sicula, Sicilian cuisine influenced by the medieval Arab era. The Arab influence is evident in the molding of the ground meat around the skewer.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1/2 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into eighteen 1-inch cubes or you can substitute vegetables, such as sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
  • Twelve 8- to 10-inch wooden skewers
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for basting or drizzling

Serve with the Grilled Pepper Recipe, below.

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, mix the ground beef, egg substitute, pecorino, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Form the meat with wet hands to prevent sticking into 18 walnut-sized balls.  Leave the meat to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on medium.
Double skewer all the ingredients: place a meatball on a cutting board and skewer the meat balls alternately with the  bread cubes, keeping the 2 skewers parallel to each other about 1/2 inch apart.
Place the skewers on the grill and cook, turning occasionally and basting with olive oil, until the meat and bread are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Grilled Red, Yellow and Green Peppers

Grilling bell peppers of different colors is common in Sicily and Sardinia and makes a very attractive presentation.  Their flavor is a natural accompaniment to grilled meats.  The charred skin of the peppers is peeled off before serving, leaving the smoky flavor.  You don’t have to core or halve the peppers before grilling.
Yield:  4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Place the peppers on the grill and cook, turning, until they have blackened on all sides.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove the core and seeds.  Cut into strips and arrange attractively on a platter.
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the peppers at the last moment and serve.

Dessert

Grilled Fruit Skewers

Spiedini alla frutta

Ingredients

  • 2 golden delicious or gala apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into 8 pieces
  • 2 ripe but fairly firm peaches, pitted and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 24 fresh mint leaves
  • Sugar

Directions

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas).

Arrange apple, banana, peach and pineapple on a platter.  Squeeze lemon over apple and banana.  Alternately thread fruit and mint leaves onto 8 skewers.

Sprinkle fruit with sugar.  Let stand until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Lightly brush grill rack with oil.  Grill fruit, turning once, until lightly browned and softened, about 5 minutes.



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