leave your inhibitions at the door
My favorite season is summer, partly because it’s the best season for eating. Stunningly fresh vegetables and herbs, and the ultimate cooking tool—the grill—which makes almost everything taste better. Just last night, we were with friends enjoying everything from tiny peppers stuffed with goat cheese to fresh peaches, all made magic by the grill.
And you can turn out great food in summer with very little effort. Summer is the time you’ll least likely find me measuring anything. I want to be enjoying the weather and my company, not be stuck in the kitchen.
The other night I prepared what I would consider, in many ways, the perfect summer meal. It didn’t take much effort, and my dinner guests kept raving about how delicious everything was. Getting these happy groans from guests is often just a matter of changing things up a bit, and adding little surprises to the summer usuals. In this case, I made little twists to three summer favorites—grilled steak, caprese (sliced tomato, mozzarella, and basil), and sautéed green beans. My arsenal for these surprises were three things: Anaheim peppers, toasted garlic, and lemon oil. Here was the menu:
– Grilled Top Sirloin and Anaheim peppers with Parsley Caper Vinaigrette
– Caprese with Fried Garlic
– Blistered Green Beans with Lemon and Basil
– Grilled Pugliese Bread with Garlic Butter
Let’s start with the Anaheim—we have fallen in love with these peppers grilled. Seeded and laid flat on the grill, they develop a nice char, and go wonderfully with grilled meat and hardier fish, such as tuna. The combo of the peppers, the vinaigrette, and juices from the marinade steak were just phenomenal. Once the steak was polished off, we were soaking up those incredible juices with the pugliese bread.
Fried garlic, meanwhile, lifts the ordinary caprese salad to new heights with a great, smoky garlicky punch and crunch. And I use lemon oil as a finishing touch for cooked green vegetables—add just a little to green beans, snap peas, or snow peas for bright, interesting touch.
I made this meal for 8 people. Below is a halved version of what I made, for about 4 people. Marinate the top sirloin earlier in day if you can. (Shopping List at bottom of this post)
1 – Purchase a large top sirloin steak, about 2.5 lbs. (Make sure it is good quality top sirloin, not a cheaper cut labeled sirloin, or it’ll be tough. Flank steak would also work, but I like butteryness of a good sirloin for this dish.)
2 – Mix a marinade of about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, with two cloves of chopped garlic, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a teaspoon of dried rosemary. Score the meat crosswise with a knife on both sides. Rub the marinade on both sides of the meat, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Put in covered container and refrigerate all afternoon.
3 – Rinse the greenbeans, tomatoes, and basil, and set aside to dry in colanders. Now go to the pool and enjoy yourself for a few hours.
4 – When you come back, remove the steak one hour before cooking and let return to room temperature. Snap off ends of green beans and set aside. Cut tops off peppers and slide your knife tip down one side but not all the way through. Remove seeds and pith. Open them up like a book so they lie flat.
5 – Finely chop two cloves of garlic. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-medium high heat, and add garlic. As soon as it starts to brown, remove from heat as it will continue to brown. Do not burn. Set aside and let cool.
6 – Make the vinaigrette for the meat. Mix together three tablespoons of lemon juice, three tablespoons of chopped capers, ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Season with fresh ground pepper. Whisk in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil and four tablespoons or so of chopped parsley. Set aside.
7 – Slice about five tomatoes and two large balls of mozzarella and layer on a platter. Stack about 10 basil leaves, roll up and slice (chiffonade). Sprinkle basil on tomatoes and mozzarella. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the cooled fried garlic, mix, and drizzle over tomatoes and cheese. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzle on more olive oil if needed.
8 – Heat the grill to medium high. While it’s heating, cut your pugliese bread down the middle and set aside. Melt ¼ stick of butter in microwave. Add two cloves of chopped garlic and set aside.
9 – Grill peppers on both sides, about five minutes or so. Set aside. Remove meat from container and blot well with paper towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook meat on grill until medium rare, about 10 minutes. While you’re doing that, add bread open faced to cooler part of grill until you get nice toasty grill marks. Once steak is cooked, lightly tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes.
10 – Heat about one tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, add green beans and keep tossing them around hot pan until they start to get a few small dark blisters. Add three tablespoons of water, cover, and turn heat to medium. Check every few minutes for doneness; remove from heat when they are crisp done. Immediately add a handful of chiffonaded basil, and season with coarse salt and pepper. Drizzle on about a teaspoon of lemon oil, to taste, and toss again.
11 – Slice steak lengthwise and place on large platter. Drizzle with caper vinaigrette. Adorn with grilled Anaheim peppers.
12 – Brush garlic butter on bread and cut into serving pieces.
13 – Serve with the green beans and caprese salad.
There you have it, the absolutely perfect summer meal.
– top sirloin steak
– balsamic vinegar
– olive oil
– dried thyme
– dried rosemary
– salt and pepper
– green beans
– fresh basil
– Anaheim peppers
– lemon juice
– Dijon mustard
– fresh parsley
– fresh mozzarella
– loaf of Puglianese bread
– lemon oil