Monday, October 26, 2009


I love marinated foods!

Asparagus and potatoes rubbed with olive oil and rosemary, chicken covered in lemon pepper, lamb in tamarind sauce or steak in delicious!

Marinades are a great way to add flavor and tenderness to any cut of meat. There are infinite varieties one could purchase at any megamart but why? These imitations of the real thing are normally over-prices at around $2.50 a bottle and are loaded with copious amounts of unnecessary sugar and sodium! Making a marinade from scratch takes nothing more than ingredients one already has at home. Salt, pepper, oil, and some sort of acidic like lemon juice or vinegar are the foundations for any good marinade.

Anyways, I got onto this tangent because tonight my sister and I craved salad and what goes great with a salad?

Marinated chili-lime steak!

Before you begin, a few tips on how to buy steak:

The best kind of steak for this recipe is sirloin. Other cuts used could be round or filet. Make sure whichever you pick is free from sour odors. It should either smell like nothing, or faintly like blood.

Also, the meat should be a deep red color with no brown or grey throughout it. Choose packages that are free from tears, warping, and dirt. If you are unsure of what sirloin looks like, you can choose what some stores will label it as “fajita meat” or “meat for stir-fry”. These packages will be already sliced into thin strips and are more convenient for people who are afraid of knives!

And of course, if all else fails, walk up to your butcher counter and ask your local meat man for help (tehe, meat man!). No butcher= no dice. I don’t shop in stores that don’t have their own meat department and neither should you!

Okay, onto the salad!

Chili-Lime Steak Salad

Serves 2

10 ounces sirloin or round steak
2 tsp oil(any variety is fine, I prefer vegetable for its mild flavor)
1/4 cup lime juice (fresh is always best but those little lime-shaped juice containers are O.K. too)
black pepper
chili powder

Cayenne pepper (can be omitted if you don’t like heat)
garlic salt
onion powder

In a shallow baking dish(non-metal) lay the steak(or steak strips) fat and cover with oil. Gently massage the oil into either side of the meat to form a sticky coating. Top with lime juice and repeat. Sprinkle on spices from above to taste. For example, I love pepper, so I tend to use a lot more pepper than salt. Also, go very gingerly on the cayenne pepper—a sprinkle will do you just fine!

After you rub all the spices in and the meat is thoroughly seasoned, cover and allow absorption at room temperature for 20 minutes. Do not worry about your meat spoiling—this is not chicken or pork and steak cooks much better when at room temperature.

Pre-heat your grill, grill-pan or sauté pan to 350 degrees F. Spray with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil to prevent sticking. Add meat to the pan and be careful to avoid touching or overlaps. You may need to do this in two batches if you are using a grill/sauté pan.

Okay, now here’s where it may get dicey. I LOVE my meat medium-rare to medium. My sister and roommate (the same person btw) will only eat steak if it’s super well done, no pink at ALL. If your new to steak, or new to cooking, you’re probably like her.

So, a simple guide to temperatures of steak:

Invest in a meat thermometer. You can find an analog for less than 5 dollars at Wal-Mart and a good Taylor digital one runs about 15 or 20. Go in sideways and take the temperature from the middle:

Rare 125º

Medium-Rare 130º

Medium 140º

Medium Well 155º

Well 160º

Remove the meat from the grill and cover with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. This will allow the meat to rest and the juices to redistribute. If using whole steak or steaks, slice into strips.


Combine romaine lettuce, chopped cherry tomatoes, canned corn, canned beans, and any other fresh veggies in a bowl and toss with your favorite dressing. I used ranch and my sister used Italian. If you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own lime vinaigrette by combining olive oil, salt, pepper, honey and lime juice in a bowl. Then, portion salad out onto two plates. Top with 4 ounces or a half a cup of steak, and any toppings you desire. Some ideas are cheddar or chunks of queso fresco cheese, mini-quesadillas, scallions, cilantro, or strips of of baked tortillas. I used olives but only because I think they are the world’s most perfect food!



College Gastronome, Q&A session!

1) Man, I'm a dirty hippie who hates red meat, does that mean this recipe is out for me?

No. Some good substitutions for this recipe would be pork, or chicken, or even a mild fish like tilapia. Shrimp also works really well, especially if you leave the tails on! Keep in mind that though you still want to marinade for at least 20 minutes, you will want to out your baking dish in the fridge to prevent rapid spoilage/bacteria goblins.

2) Why can't I use metal to marinade my meat?

Coated non-stick metal pans work fine for this but I would really avoid any metal pan that could rust. Acid on a rusty pan equals nasty tasting meat. Plus metal tends to hold old flavors for longer than neutral hardware like porcelain and plastic. Don't ask me why...

3) Shauna, don't you know that we're in an economic crisis and I can't afford to buy $10 worth of spices for one meal!?

Spices like garlic salt, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder are staples in my home. I use these things everyday on pasta, tuna salad, pizza and more! I strongly recommend making the investment now because these ingredients basically last until the Apocalypse. If you don't want to make the leap, or simply can't then there are a few options.

  • Dollar stores or discount shops often have these seasonings for 1/3 the cost of the regular megamart. The problem is the texture or the flavor of the spices are not great quality and you will notice a difference.
  • You could buy fresh garlic and fresh chili peppers or jalepenos for this recipe. These items tend to be even cheaper than the knock-off dollar store brand (a head of garlic usually costs less than 60 cents a bulb and fresh peppers are even cheaper if you only buy a few). This will however create more work for yourself in the end because you will have to dice and chop these items pretty fine before incorporating them into the marinade. If you do go this route (and it is a good one, fresh is always a wonderful place to start) please wear gloves. Garlic tends to make fingers smelly for weeks and pepper juice will burn like hell if you get it in your pores, or worse, eyes.
  • My last option for this recipe is to purchase a 99 cent packet of taco seasoning. You can use one or two teaspoons of this powdered mix and it will taste nearly the same. There is a lot of sodium still but it is way better than using store-bought marinades and if you're careful you can stretch it over a few recipes.
4. Why shouldn't I buy meat from places where there's no butcher? It's cheaper there!

The reason those meats that don't come from a butcher's counter are cheaper is because they are pre-packed and most likely frozen then thawed out. The flavor is not fresh, and could be likened to something like cardboard or gym socks. Besides, there's a certain magic in learning new things from your butcher. Sometimes you can get special recommendations from them about how to cook a certain cut of meat, and they will break packages for you and also trim the fat off most cuts if you ask real nice. It's a nice person-to-person relationship that you just miss out on if do it the other way!

Questions? Send me a comment!