¼ cup cilantro, chopped plus some extra for serving
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 large white onion, sliced crosswise into ¾"-thick rings, plus 1/2 cup roughly chopped, for serving
Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
1 lbs. skirt steak, cut crosswise into 4 steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 jalapeño, stemmed
Warm tortillas, for serving
Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl. Add steak and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, flipping over after 15 minutes. If you are not in a rush, you can allow steak to marinate (turning over a few times) for up to 3 hours.
Heat a grill pan over high heat and grill, 5 minutes on each side (for medium/rare.)
Remove meat from pan, add salt and pepper, and let rest for 5 more minutes.
Meanwhile, place remaining onion and jalapeño on grill, and cook, turning as needed, until charred and softened, about 10 minutes.
Slice steaks into 1” strips and serve with grilled vegetables and warm tortillas.
Add fresh lime juice, chopped onion and cilantro. If you like, you can serve pico de gallo or salsa verde on the side.
The weather dipped the other day in South Florida.
It did, real quick, but, it did.
In fact, if you are a late riser, if you’re not privy to dark, pre-dawn alarms piercing into peaceful slumber so you may assemble prosciutto and tapenade sandwiches for school lunches while simultaneously flipping gruyere and wild porcini omelets for breakfast (because culinary requests are very high in this household) you may have just missed it.
The chipper weather forecaster on the morning news was as ecstatic as when she was crowned Miss Florida years ago. She eagerly urged her viewers to “dress in layers,” which, even I, who am perpetually cold, thought was a bit much. She continued to inform us that the temperature was a chilly 66 degrees and would only climb up to a mild 85. That would explain the goose bumps on her tight-fighting atomic tangerine dress.
Chilly 66. Mild 85.
I’m not big on tattoos, but that is one I’d consider getting.
You know, as a reminder.
We may have a lot of crazy things going for us in South Florida, a lot of nut jobs seem to hatch from the glorious Sunshine State, but Chilly 66, Mild 85 is something I can deal with.
With breakfast for the children already plated, I opened the front door to grab the morning paper, and instead of being greeted by the familiar frizz-your-hair humidity, I got a crisp, cool caress that left me pleasantly chilly. To experience cold is so unusual in South Florida that it made me wonder if I was dreaming.
Or somehow transported to Ithaca.
I realize folks in Ithaca don’t get caressed by the weather. I’ve seen their winters on television. It’s the no-nonsense type of winter. The type that makes national news. The type that most definitely doesn’t breed chipper weather forecasters in candy-colored dresses. You’re more likely to get a weather person akin to a stern officer in the army: Gimme one hundred pushups and grab a shovel to dig yourself out of your house! Now, do it again!
We’re softies here in South Florida when it comes to cold weather. It’s still cute. Celebrated. Fun!
Watch and see.
We have about seven days when things get cold. People will pull out their Ugg boots and designer fleece. Die-hards may sport that winter coat as well. The friendly weather gal will tell us all about it: warn us about frost and frostbite, about wrapping our children thoroughly in scarves and mittens and hats. Keeping body heat starts with a warm head, she’ll say. She’s trained hard for this moment, for this week.
Oh and it is such fun! Who cares if by 11:00am, once that South Florida sunshine is beaming down on us, the thermostat is climbing to 70, then 80, then…you stop looking because you are so damn hot in all your brand new winter gear. You wonder why the svelte weather chick didn’t educate you on how feet regulate your body heat- yours are shvitzing up a storm in those sheepskin boots, the ones you refuse to take off no matter how many beads of sweat are falling down your back or how dizzy and dehydrated you may feel. You now remember (and understand) her sexy, strappy sandals.
It’s South Florida in winter! Glorious! Fun!
It also gives me an excuse to make heartier food: saucy, rich, meat-laden, pasta-slapped, oozing cheese type stuff one needs to survive a cold winter night. I’m thinking specifically of pasticcio, which is like lasagna, only, if you can believe it, better. It’s like some kooky person took a look at lasagna and thought, “yeah, I can improve upon this,” and then did! Crazy right? Impossible? No. They got it down on the pasticcio.
There are several versions of pasticcio, from Greek, to Italian, to Egyptian, but they all rely on four main ingredients: meat, pasta, cheese, and some sort of a béchamel sauce. I favor the Italian version, which my mother used to purchase from our local Italian market on those nights we were rushing around and she’d have no time to cook dinner herself. I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, which witnessed a heavy influx of Italian immigrants in the 1940’s, resulting in, amongst other things, a bountiful access to homemade pastas, salume, and Nona-style pasticcio. The principle of layering meat, cheese and noodles is the same, only tucked away for added flavor are slices of ham, and then, just because, the entire thing is coated in a creamy béchamel. Oh, and sprinkled with more cheese. Why not? It’s cold outside, remember? On some survivalist level you need this.
And if you have any leftovers, you can always send them to some shivering, shoveling soul in Ithaca.
Which begs the question, ‘What other weird celebratory days are out there?’
I found this nifty little site that will tell you what you should be celebrating 24/7. It’s called daysoftheyear.com. Simple enough, right? And funny.
I checked what I missed out on yesterday: Constitution Day. It’s a logical choice because yesterday marked the anniversary of the signing of our constitution way back in 1787. I actually felt gypped out on that one, like there should have been more hoopla about it. I know Obama is busy right now, but come on, someone should have scheduled in a little tribute, a flag salute, some type of cake? Something.
Tomorrow is Talk Like A Pirate Day, which, of course, makes me doubt the legitimacy of this site altogether. If my daughter were looking over my shoulder right now, I’d be in big trouble. She’d remind me of the zillions of times I’ve reprimanded her for the tidbits of outrageous statements she regularly spews while navigating the Internet autobahn:
Cosmic rays from outer space often cause glitches in your electronics.
You replace every single particle in your body every seven years, which means that you are literally not the same person you were seven years ago.
If you could drive straight up, you’d be in outer space in one hour.
“I read about it online!” she asserts, feverishly tapping away at her iPhone.
“Check your sources, always check your sources,” I reply in my best Walter Cronkite voice.
I just won’t tell her why I’ll be calling everyone matey tomorrow, or why I may be sporting an eye patch. I’ll redirect things with National Cheeseburger Day. That’s like shinning a gold coin in front of any teenager.
I love learning about National Cheeseburger Day. It’s one allotted day to bypass salads or wraps and go for the kill. It does seem primordial, biting down on a huge, juicy, dripping patty of meat and oozing cheese nestled between two fluffy, grill-toasted buns. There’s some sort of hormone released chomping on that, I’m sure. If you did a brain scan at that precise moment, I guarantee your brain would light up like a Christmas tree, all in a good way. Something associated with cavemen and survival. I’ll have to Google that later. And even if I find the answer on some shady site, say ilovecheeseburgers.com, I’m going to own that truth, if only, at least, for today.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until transparent, 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Place in a bowl and add all the other ingredients. Combine well. (Take off the rings and dive in there!)
Form patties (this should equal out to 4-6 patties, depending on how hefty you like 'em) and place on a grill or preheated grill pan. Grill over moderately high heat until well-browned on the bottom, 5 minutes. Flip and add cheese. Grill another 4 minutes, max!
Throw buns (I like brioche buns!) on the grill until warmed through (20 seconds or so) and assemble your burger with all your favorite fixings.
The real reason I slow-cook a spicy, hearty beef brisket in the thick of a scorching, humid South Florida summer and not save it for a more weather-appropriate chilly day is because I’m time-pressed for love.
And we don’t have chilly days in South Florida, anyhow.
Even if you can fry an egg on the pavement outside and the weatherman is begging you to please stay cool, keep yourself hydrated, spend the day in the pool, I pull out my slow-cooker and my fieriest spices.
My husband stopped by for a visit a few days ago. Most spouses live in the same country but mine doesn’t, so, it was a rare treat to share time with him at home without the children.
That investment in summer camp is all the worthwhile when you can spend time together running errands, joking around, gazing dreamily at each other, sharing great wine, and eat amazing food without having to care for anybody else.
Yes, we still gaze dreamily at each other. Go figure.
Three days is not nearly enough time for all the meals I’d love to share with him, but, this one, a spicy, slow-cooked, chipotle, BBQ brisket, came to mind. After all, my husband has a bit of Texas in him, having lived in the Lone Star State for part of his childhood. And once that state gets in you, it’s hard-pressed to come out. I have tripped over many a pair of his misplaced cowboy boots over the years to know this is true.
I’m not even sure if this BBQ hails from Texas, actually. It is brisket, which is favored there, but, truth be told, it doesn’t really matter. Barbeque is code for telling my husband that I love him; his heart melts a bit and his eyes light up when I serve him this dish, even if we are in the middle of another scorching South Florida summer where most culinary folks are suggesting we eat salad and chilled soups. That’s when ice-cold beer comes in handy.
We march to our own drumbeat together, always have. Ours is a long and winding tale of breaking rules for the sake of love. I’ll save those stories for another day and stick to offering up this meal, which is hassle-free and outrageously delicious, leaving plenty of time for eye-gazing and holding hands.
When I was a little girl growing up in Venezuela, I was infected with the fútbol craze. I know most Americans don’t get too nutty around soccer once it graduates from shuffling fifth-graders to after school practice in minivans and turns into proper fútbol (although that is slowly changing) but when the World Cup comes around every four years, the rest of the world stops to watch. Not that Venezuelans have any claim on fútbol; their sport is baseball and they master it well. But in the summer of 1978 all eyes, at least a tiny set of Abbady eyes, were on that final World Cup match between the Netherlands and Argentina. I remember rooting aggressively for the Netherlands. I was seven, so, I’m not sure how such a strong loyalty had formed at such a young age.
I had no affiliation of any kind with the Netherlands.
If anything, I should have been cheering Argentina, whom I knew invented those succulent blood sausages I’d enjoy regularly at my family’s favorite steakhouse in Caracas.
Maybe one of my sisters was set on Argentina winning and so the Netherlands became my pick.
We had a small, sunny room off the side of our one-story house that was crowded by the bulky Zenith television and a worn buckskin leather couch where I’d sit, along with my mother and my two sisters, and jump and cheer and feel hope and despair and hope again as the sportscasters howled their timeless chant: “Gooooooooooooooooool!”
It’s intoxicating to remember your first bout with futbolmanía.
By the way, the Netherlands lost.
So I should remember that feeling, which, nobody likes.
But I don’t.
I remember feeling elated, joyful, entranced!
I remember shouting at that Zenith as if it were an irresponsible younger sibling crossing the road without holding my hand.
“No! Stop! Don’t do that! You’re not going to …wait!”
And then directing the players as if I were the coach on the sidelines.
“Pass it to him! Go! Go! Go! Run!”
At least I think that’s what I said. It’s hard to remember accurately when there’s a room of girls shouting.
Fútbol returned to my life this month with the 2014 World Cup Brazil and I’m still shouting at the television.
This year my son is watching with me.
Not because he is particularly a fan of the sport, but, because he gets front row seats to watching his mother unravel into a crazy, screaming, lunatic. He’s hoping I may throw something at the television. He’s also grateful for the World Cup because it means all Social Norms of Proper Behavior in the Martinez household are temporarily on pause.
This includes eating at the table.
The dinner table is way too far from the television and thus guilty of committing an egregious infraction worthy of its own red card. Plus, eating at the table feels too orderly and civilized and we’ll have none of that during matches of fútbol.
Meals have become quick and easy to transport- preferably one-stop dishes that work in bowls or are okay to eat with fingers. Nothing too distracting or requiring too much eye-hand coordination as the eyes must be on the television screen. Trout is out.
The next match’s meal will showcase Chili.
Perhaps in tribute to team USA, which is still a contender in the World Cup even after yesterday’s loss to Germany. Considering they were nowhere to be found when I became a hard core fútbol fan in ’78, I figure I’ve got a lot of cheering to catch up on for them. Chili also offers up the best of World Cup chow because it is a tasty, quick, and fire-hot dish I can make in between games and have ready to scoop up into bowls when that first whistle is blown.
It goes great with tortilla chips too.
Some crumble them into the bowl first, maybe add steaming white rice, then scoop on the chili and all the other fixings. Some use those little scoop chips and do Martha Stewart-Style Chili Bites, complete with toppings (this is great for the more restless, un-interested family member forced to watch the game.) Others (and I won’t name any names) occasionally toss them at the television and reprimand, like one would to an irresponsible, younger sibling: “No! No! Why did you do that?! No!”
Heat olive oil in large skillet or small soup pot, add onions and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add meat and cook over medium-high head until brown.
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, mustard and salt. Saute until fragrant, 3 minutes.
Add wine and canned tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, correct seasoning, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
To make Martha Stewart-Style Chili Bites: Pick your most bored family member to assemble- a scoop of chili, then some fixings (see below), then neatly arrange these on a plate to be thoughtlessly gobbled in seconds by the fútbol obsessed members of your clan.
Fixings may include: sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, jalapeños, and avocado.