There are few things more primal than food cooked over fire outdoors. Across time and culture cooking this way has been with us all from the very start. Every culture has their own technique, their own traditions and history with fire cooking. Even here by modern standards in America it varies from region to region, state to state, town to town. But at its burning heart it’s all the same meeting of flame and food, and almost always tribal. It might be a family dinner, or a back yard BBQ, a block party or a festival but food cooked over flame brings people together, as a tribe, as a community, large or small. I think there is an inherent beauty in that.
Grilled Dinner & Chimichurri
One of the most unexpected joys I have discovered in the past few years after becoming a homeowner is seasonal grilling on my backyard deck. It’s become my summer kitchen. I had a grill when I was living in an apartment from my late teens through my twenties, but it’s not really the same as having such a space and set up at your own home. I have a large deck on the side of my city home right off the kitchen that overlooks and opens to the back gardens. The usual patio furniture, umbrellas and a hammock can be found, but it’s the grill that is the real center of what makes it special. I grill almost every nice night from late spring to early fall, more or less abandoning my stove and oven in those months.
This meal can be made with any combination of meat and vegetable, tied together with the chimichurri. I firmly believe chimichurri will shortly become absorbed into the mainstream American culinary language. It will become synonymous with grilling and the flavor of our summers in time. Chimichurri has its origins in Argentina but has increasingly made its way to the global food pallet, not unlike Mexican salsa did years ago. As any google search can tell you, there are many different incarnations of Chimichurri, but this version is something I have spent a few months working on. It’s basic, easy and goes with just about anything you want to cook on the grill. Its best made using a food processor, but you can make it using a stone mortar and pestle.
The Chimichurri –
You will need:
One large bunch of fresh Italian flat parsley
One half bunch of fresh cilantro
One half onion (red is best)
One half cup olive oil (more to taste)
One third cup red wine vinegar (more to taste)
5-6 cloves peeled garlic
Cayenne pepper (powder)
Salt & Pepper
Start by thoroughly cleaning the parsley and cilantro, remove the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Remove the base of the garlic and roughly chop. Peel, remove the base and roughly chop the onion half. Place the chopped ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a paste begins to form. Add in the oil and vinegar and process until you have the desired texture, ideally not too thick and not too thin, adding more oil or vinegar as needed.
Empty the food processor into a mixing bowl and mix in the salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne pepper to taste. You want a bold garlic and herb flavor with a little heat, but not overpowering. Allow finished sauce to rest at room temperature at least one hour before serving so the flavors can marry. Keeps well several days in the fridge, but always use at room temperature.
The Meat and Veg –
You will need:
Steak (pictured is an Angus strip)
Portabella Mushroom (cleaned, stem removed)
Salt & Pepper
Remove the steak from any packaging, pat dry with paper towel, lightly tenderize, cover both sides with a light dusting of kosher or sea salt and place on a wire rack in your refrigerator uncovered to dry overnight. Allow steak to return to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat grill to high. Rub all the sides of the streak with a light amount of olive oil and black pepper. Cut tomato in half, lightly oil the cut side and season with salt and pepper. Put a drop of oil in the center of the mushroom, season with salt and pepper. Cut off the ends of the Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then cut three strips 3/4th though each half, lightly oil the cut side and season with salt and pepper.
Place the vegetables on one side of the grill in the order of cooking time they require, in this case it would be Zucchini first, mushroom second, tomato last. When the vegetables are nearly ready, place the steak on the other half of the grill and sear both sides, reduce grill heat to medium (if using gas) and cook to desired temperature. Allow steak to rest 5 min before serving.
Plate the meat and vegetables and generously spoon the chimichurri over the steak.
Pairs well with grilled bread.
Between Now and Then sharpen your blades and chew the fat:
J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician, artist, art director and gallery curator from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” (which he heads and produces) and is a veteran artist who’s paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He is on the board of directors for Flower City Comic Con (FC3) serving as art director and appearing as a guest artist. He is a resident curator for the art gallery at Bread & Water Theatre, lives in the Park Ave area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.