It’s SUMMER, baby! After a long, but relatively mild winter, a super-busy spring, a difficult month, a vexing week, and a hard hard morning for Clayton and I (those of you in the know, know to what I am alluding…), we can finally say we got our first real summer evening in Chez Fontaine. After taking a stress-reducing bike ride through downtown Boston, to the Seaport for lunch, to the North End for meat, to Haymarket for veggies, and back home again (14 miles, more or less), we settled on our lovely little deck, dusted off Little Red, and had ourselves some supper in the fading sunshine.
ChimmiChurri Strip Steaks and Asparagus
2 8oz hand-trimmed NY Strip Steaks
1 lb fresh, thin asparagus
1 bunch fresh cilantro
zest of 1 lemon
6-8 cloves garlic
2 small foccaccia
1 medium sized tomato
EVOO, white balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, dried parsley flakes, sea salt, cracked black pepper
I start by trimming the woody ends off my slender asparagus spears and peeling 1/2″ or so of some of the outer green off the ends of the stalks.
Into a large zipper bag they go, along with several glugs of EVOO, a glug of white balsamic vinegar, some dried oregano, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a healthy dose of garlic powder, and salt and pepper. I let these marinate for about 20 minutes while I prep my chimmichurri.
Traditional chimmichurri sauce, of Argentinean fame, is made from parsley – but I like mine predominantly made of cilantro. The peppery snap of the sauce pairs really well with grilled meats — from land, air, and sea. I pull the leaves off a small bunch, wash and dry them well, and then chop the crap out of them.
I smash my garlic cloves, reserve two of them for later, and then finely mince the rest.
The chopped cilantro and minced garlic go into a bowl, along with a few dashes of dried oregano, a couple tablespoons of dried parsley, the zest of one lemon and the juice from one lime, along with salt and pepper.
Finally, I add just enough of my best EVOO to the bowl to cover the herbs, and I mix this very well. Letting it sit so it can get to know itself better for a little while is a good idea.
The handsome fella at Sulmonia Meat Market in Boston’s North End ….
… trimmed these babies off a huge hunk of so-fresh-it-was-still-mooing meat – and I was happy. I sprinkled them liberally with salt and pepper to prep them for the grill.
Here are some cute foccacias I got at Trader Joe’s, of all places.
I slice them into 1/2″ thick wedges, then spread them on a cookie sheet doused with EVOO, swishing them around a bit so they can soak up its olivey goodness. And here is one of Lolita’s jerry-rigs: I then set my cookie sheet onto a slightly larger sheet before setting them both – one on top of the other – across both my stove-top’s back burners.
By raising the heat on both eyes to medium, I’m sort of making myself a little flat-grill. Once I get a nice tan sear on the 1st side, I flip all the slices over, push them around in the EVOO so they get nice and greased up, and then drop the heat to low so they can continue to toast leisurely. This makes perfectly crunchy, crispy bread – ideal for Pa amb tomàquet, one of my favorite Barcelona foods.
Quite literally “bread with tomato,” Pa amb tomàquet was served to us in Spain many different ways, but for my home use I like to keep it super simple: for two people, all I do is slice one medium tomato in half, salt it liberally (especially if it’s a hot-house tomato like this one, which lacks native flavor), and set it face down on top of a crushed clove of garlic and a couple tablespoons of high-quality EVOO in a ramekin with just the right circumference.
Using a couple of tiny forks (designed for picking crabmeat out of claws and legs), I stab through the center of each tomato half. When the time comes, we’ll each rub the oiled and garlicky face of our tomatoes across the toasted surface of our slices of bread, depositing pulp and deliciousness on each bite. The more I squish my tomato, the more juicy redness I get to enjoy on my bread – and if I want a more garlicky snap I scrape the crushed clove across the scratchy toast. Who needs butter? Along with my S&P and my chimmichurri, I bring this out to my deck to start the steaks.
The asparagus goes on first – because we like the heads to get nice and crispy. Clayton lays them carefully across Little Red’s grate and starts them roasting for about 10 minutes.
While my spears roast, I sit back and enjoy the best thing about our tiny little apartment among the treetops: our view. I know it might not look like much to many of you, dear readers, but it’s MINE – and the exorbitant amount of money we spent on our 592 sq ft apartment in Cambridge, MA, was paid to secure this piece of sky.
In a few months, our tomato bushes will start bearing fruit; until then I love the trees and Easter egg colored buildings that surround us.
Our southern view. When the Red Sox are playing, we can hear the game from here, and watch it on the DirectTV blimp that floats overhead.
After my 10 minutes have passed, it’s time to throw the steaks on the grill.
After 5 minutes on this side, Clayton starts the delicate task of rolling the asparagus spears over, pulling them to the front of the grill …
… so he can flip the steaks over and onto the back of the grill, where the electric heating coil can be raised slightly to sear the meat even more effectively. We close the lid and let this sizzle for about 8 minutes, or until the steaks are a perfect medium rare.
My bed of crispy, seared asparagus spears serves as the base for my tender, grilled steaks and a healthy slopping of tangy, sharp, savory chimmichurri sauce. The crunchy, garlicky, tomato bread pairs perfectly with the juicy beef and snappy flavors. A light, simple meal with a complex set of flavors — just what our first night of summer demanded. And this is one kind of directive I never mind obeying — the “eat something good” kind.