Easy Summer Assembling

*This post was created in partnership with DeLallo Foods. Over 60 years ago it was a small Italian market in Pennsylvania now it’s incredible online marketplace with great products that inspired this Summer cheese and meat board. As always thank you so much for supporting my passion for bringing beautiful food to the world and the companies who get behind that message.

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Welcome to the season of assembling. Summer’s near perfect weather and plentiful produce leave little time or necessity for cooking. Instead we piece together stunning meals by gathering some sweet and snappy peas, peppery radishes, a handful of cherries that pop in your mouth, and a few cheeses, pickled things, sliced meats and whatever else may be lingering in the fridge.

Does this sort of thing actually constitute a meal? Absolutely. In fact, this particular board, assembled on a large wooden chopping block is a fitted feast for a crowd. And the hardest part was pulling myself out of the sun-drenched hammock chair to get to the grocery store. More often than not I’ll skip that step entirely and use this platter meal as a fridge cleaning in disguise.

When creating a cheese (and so much more) board such as this one, it’s important to think about variety, color and to throw in a few extra things here and there to keep it exciting. Depending on the time of year your board could look drastically different than the one I created. Slowly wander the farmer’s market or produce aisles and grab the things that jump at you. In the summertime I often let my nose do the shopping as I follow the intoxicating scent of stone fruit or the sweet dust-like smell of a ripe summer tomato.

To that I add a variety of cheeses that differ in both texture and strength. A soft, creamy and mellow goat cheese is a lovely compliment to a smoky Gouda. A few slices of cured meats like a peppery salumi or prosciutto and you are well on your way.

I mentioned that I like to add a few surprising elements. These are the things that take that bite of bread and cheese over-the-top. Pickled things; onions, raisins, cherries and peaches (seriously, pickled fruit is amazing). Savory or sweet jams or spreads, roasted vegetables, honey (have you tried smoked honey?!). Of course a few little dishes of olives and nuts strategically placed are always welcomed.

Remember to have plenty of crackers and bread on hand for serving.

With a well stocked pantry with some essential items a simple and stunning summer meal is close at hand.

 

What I keep in the pantry or fridge:

 

Hard/medium cheeses like Parmesan, Pecorino, Gouda – smoked or not.

 

Soft cheese such as Chevre, blue cheese, triple creme, or camembert

 

Salumi and/or other cured meats

 

Things in jars or things that last a good bit in the fridge (olives, artichoke hearts, jams, etc.):

 

Pickled Onions, cornichons, nuts, Fig jam, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts

 

Recipes to try to take your cheese board over the top:

 

Smoked Honey

 

Quick Pickled Raisins

 

Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crackers

 

Quick Pickled Red Onions

 

Fig and Taleggio Toasts

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Pickled Beef Tacos with Charred Avocado Salsa

 

*This post is in partnership with Oregon Country Beef  (OCB) and PCC Community Markets. I’m honored to be working with these two companies that value relationship, community and real food. For those of you new to Seattle, PCC is the nation’s largest community-owned food co-op, and has been a Seattle stand by for 65 years. I’ve been a proud shopper at PCC for nearly two decades, becoming a card-carrying member just after Gabe and I got married. I trust them to stock locally sourced and extremely high-quality products such as OCB , which make it easy to cook a fresh, delicious meal from scratch any day of the week.

 

When Gabe and I were dating we used to share our dinners at restaurants. Every Friday night we would go out to a new restaurant and order a few things off the menu so we could maximize what we were able to taste while not blowing what little budget we had as a young married couple. I thought this was a mutually enjoyed exchange until we got married but after that Gabe slowly revealed to me that he didn’t want to share plates any more. You see, our taste buds are completely different. I’m sweet and savory and he’s one or the other. I’m punch-you-in-the-face flavors he’s cautious and easily overwhelmed with bold combinations. He’s a light sprinkle of soy on his sushi while I’m a heaping pile of wasabi and a deep bath of soy sauce. 

So this recipe today is all me; big bold flavors like citrus and char, fish sauce and heat – or so I thought. I’m just looking over at his plate while I’m writing this and there is no food left behind. Maybe we aren’t so different after all.

Pickled beef is an odd sounding description, I’ll admit, but it’s often the odd ones that intrigue me the most. These tacos were inspired by this recipe on Bon Appetit. Which the writer encourages us to think of it more like ceviche and less like a pickle. It all starts with quality beef – I prefer natural beef like OCB which is free from antibiotics and added hormones, and is
Non-GMO Project Verified – but the cut you choose is really up to you. The  steak is grilled over a hot fire, then rested and cubed before marinating in a pungent broth of jalapeño, lime, and fish sauce. After a little dip the meat becomes tender, punchy and gently warming. It’s a brilliant technique that can extend far beyond the taco.

While the grill is hot we char a couple of avocados and jalapeños for a smoky salsa that offsets the bright meat beautifully. This recipe is equally fitting for a weeknight dinner or feeding a crowd (it doubles or even triples quite nicely).

 

 

Pickled Beef Tacos with Charred Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

1 pound Oregon Country Beef (choose either flank, skirt or bottom sirloin steak)

Salt

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 jalapeño, deseeded and diced

Zest and juice from 3 large limes (about 1/2 cup juice)

4 to 6 tortillas

Charred Avocado Salsa (recipe below)

1 cup sliced cabbage

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Instructions

Season the steak with sea salt.

In a small bowl stir together the fish sauce, jalapeño, and lime zest and juice. Set aside.

Preheat your grill to high heat or set a grill grate directly over hot coals.

Grill the steak for 2 minutes before flipping and cooking an additional minute or two. The cook time will depend on the cut and thickness of the meat you choose. For the OCB bottom sirloin my total grill time was under 4 minutes.

Remove the meat from the grill then let rest while you prepare the salsa and warm the tortillas.

After the steak has rested for about 10 minutes cut it into rough 1/4 - 1/2 inch cubes.

Add the steak to the marinade and let sit for 15 minutes.

Warm the tortillas over the grill then slather with a couple of tablespoons of salsa. Top with pickled beef then cabbage and cilantro. Enjoy straight away.

Charred Avocado Salsa

2 avocados, halved and pitted

2 jalapeños

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon cumin seed

Salt

Over a hot grill char the avocados until blackened, about 2 minutes. Char the jalapeños until the skin crisps and blackens and softens.

Remove the avocados and jalapeños from the grill then let cool for a few minutes.

Scoop out the avocado into a large bowl then deseed and dice the jalapeño. Add that to the bowl as well along with cilantro, lime zest and juice, cumin seed and salt. Mash with a fork then taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Use salsa straight away or cover the surface with plastic wrap if not serving immediately.

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