Posts tagged peppers

Blogworthy or Not: Skirt Steak Fajitas

One of the more stressful aspects about maintaining a food blog is determining whether or not a dish is “blogworthy.” Every time I consider writing about a meal I’ve cooked at home, I ask myself if it’s fascinating enough to blog about or if it’s a dish everyone has seen before. For example, a meal as novel as Goan shrimp curry is absolutely blogworthy and posted about immediately. But weeknight staples like spaghetti with garlic, parmesan, and olive oil, or turkey burgers? They don’t usually make the cut. To be honest, sometimes I experiment with a new recipe just so I have something—anything—to blog about.

openfajita

But often the most familiar dish in the world is all I want to cook. And in rare instances, an ordinary, almost banal meal is even worth writing about. That’s how I feel about the skirt steak fajitas I made this week. After a weekend of eating out, I was anxious to cook, and to create something simple and full of flavor. I turned to skirt steak, a tough cut of meat that tenderizes wonderfully when marinated while also taking on the flavors of the marinade’s ingredients. I rely on three staples for my marinade: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lime juice. Because I had made this recipe a million times before (ok, maybe 10 times), I knew I could rely on this powerful mix of flavors.

fajitaclosed

Let’s get one thing straight here: This is Tex-Mex via my Brooklyn kitchen. As you can tell, my skirt steak fajitas are not exotic or elegant, and I make no claims to fajita authenticity. But wrapped in a soft corn tortilla with fresh guacamole, crisp cilantro, charred onions, and smoky peppers, the lime-infused steak more than satisfied my need for a fresh, simple dinner. For me, that was enough to make my fajitas blogworthy.

Recipe for Christina’s Skirt Steak Fajitas

  • 1 2-lb skirt steak
  • juice squeezed from 1/2 of a lime
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 red pepper, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 onion, sliced lengthwise
  • fresh guacamole
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 6-8 large corn tortillas

In a shallow baking dish, mix together 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and the fresh lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add skirt steak, turning once to coat. If you need to, you can cut the skirt steak into smaller pieces to make it fit in the baking dish. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator, turning the meat after 30 minutes.

When the meat is almost finished marinating, take it out of the refrigerator. Preheat the broiler. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions have caramelized and peppers start to soften, about 10 -15 minutes, stirring once in a while. Set aside when done.

While the peppers and onions are cooking, remove the meat from the marinade and cook it under the broiler. Cook for about 5 minutes per side. (The meat will be about medium to medium-well done at this point. Adjust cooking time to your preference.) Remove from the broiler and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the meat into thin strips, at an angle.

Wrap your tortillas in aluminum foil and warm them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove and assemble the fajitas to your liking: Place a few spoonfuls of peppers and onions with 3-5 slices of skirt steak in the center of the tortilla. Top with fresh guacamole and chopped cilantro. Wrap. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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Quinoa, Whole Grain of the Incas

Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa and Goat Cheese

Remember last summer, when I wrote about my fondness for farro, that ancient, nutty grain of Etruscan origins? Well, a few months ago I decided to spread that love to a whole grain from the opposite side of the globe: quinoa.

Quinoa originated in South America’s Andes Mountains and has been around for thousands of years. It was a sacred crop of the Incas, and for good reason: Quinoa is full of healthy stuff like protein, essential amino acids, and fiber.

After reading about this revered grain, I bought a small box and quickly whipped up Gourmet’s Lemon-Scented Quinoa. Light, nutty, and lemony, the bead-like quinoa was an intriguing new side dish at our dinner table. But something about the texture made me pause; it seemed too spongy, too airy. I couldn’t decide how I felt about it.  

That was around Thanksgiving. Since then, the half-full box of quinoa stared out at me from the kitchen cupboard every time I reached inside for sea salt or honey for my tea. I felt stressed; how would I use it again? I thought of making a quinoa salad, perhaps with some arugula, tomatoes, and walnuts, and bringing it to work for lunch, but I never got around to it.

So this week I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and found a recipe for red peppers stuffed with quinoa and goat cheese. I mixed the quinoa with less of the creamy cheese than was recommended in the recipe, so the end result was lighter than I expected. And while the charred red peppers added vibrant flavor to the soft quinoa mixture, the dish would have benefited from some minced garlic. I threw in two scallions because I was out of garlic, but I’ve suggested some in the recipe below. 

Just to warn you, you may want to serve something more substantial than a salad with your stuffed peppers. An hour after dinner Jim was still hungry, and made himself a cheese and crackers plate. I can’t say I’m a quinoa convert, but I am hoping I will like it more in time, maybe in something like the salad I mentioned earlier.

So, now that I’ve tried whole grains from both Italy and South America, where should I turn to next? I’m always looking for a new grain, so let me know!

Recipe for Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa and Goat Cheese (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

  • 4 red peppers, halved and cored (The peppers we bought were too long and narrow to stand on their own, so I wound up cutting them lengthwise)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 4 ounces of soft goat cheese
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Rinse quinoa in a sieve under running water. Put the quinoa in a pot with at least 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil under high heat, then lower heat to a simmer. The quinoa will expand in size and will be ready after about 20 minutes. Drain.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl combine the quinoa with the goat cheese, scallions, garlic, chopped parsley, and some salt and pepper. Sprinkle the red peppers with salt, and then fill each pepper half with the mixture. Lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil and place the peppers in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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