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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Fresh Oysters with Dill Vinaigrette and Pecorino

I remember exactly where I was standing when I saw my book mentioned in the New York Times. We were just heading out of Ferry Building after enjoying one of the best breakfast sandwiches of my life. I’ll never forget that moment and that sandwich. Heading across the street to the park to appease the three children traveling with us on book tour, I stopped on the side walk as the kids and Gabe continued on. I called out to Gabe, handed him my phone then ran back into the Ferry Building to buy several copies of the paper. It was momentous, surreal and the kids thought nothing of it. Which is honestly one of my favorite parts of parenting; their ability (without knowing they are doing it) to put everything into a beautiful perspective.

The one criticism in the NY Times review of Date Night In was that I didn’t include enough seafood recipes. Of course seafood, oysters in particular, are an obvious inclusion in a book about dating and romance around food as they are thought to be a natural aphrodisiac but the thing is – I don’t like it.

More accurately I should say, I didn’t like it. Even just a few short years ago while writing the book I was merely tolerating seafood. Now, finally, I’ve begun to crave it. I understand the allure of the soft pink flesh of fresh caught salmon. Mussels cooked in a white wine spiked cream sauce are now a go-to dish and oysters, oh oysters, I can’t get enough.

Fresh oysters, just shucked with nothing but the sea water held perfectly in its shell, served alongside a bubbling glass of Rosé is my ideal meal.

My journey into enjoying seafood was fueled by my determination. I felt like I was missing out on something. As someone who loved food I too wanted to wax poetic about eating sea creatures and of course living in the Pacific Northwest it felt practically sinful to stay away from the stuff. So I ate it until I tolerated it, then I started to enjoy it and now I’ll walk up to our local fish market scouting the case looking for what is fresh and eagerly turn that into dinner.

For our second episode of Kitchen Unnecessary we visited Shina Wysocki of Chelsea Farms to get our fill of oysters, clams and geoduck. We filmed the episode back in late February when the cold waters and natural reproduction cycles of the oysters leave them at their peak. Shellfish are often harvested at low tide and in the winter that meant we had to head out in the middle of the night. A small sacrifice to make for a fresh seafood feast on the beach.

Chelsea Farms also runs a stunning oyster bar in Olympia, Washington so preparing shellfish recipes for them was, as you can imagine, quite intimidating. For this show I don’t like to plan my recipes exactly before we start shooting. I bring plenty of ingredients and wait for the fire to light before I make my final menu. This fresh oyster dish was an experiment in flavors and while being filmed and preparing oysters for Shina, who has been eating shellfish since she was a toddler, I began to question my sanity. My relief came the moment that briny oyster punctuated with lemon and a bright dill scented oil hit my mouth. The peppery shower of Pecorino added a richness that delighted.

Photos for Kitchen Unnecessary Episode Two by Gabe Rodriguez.

Very special thanks to Stanley and Barebones for partnering with us on episode two. We are so honored to be able to do this work with some of the brands we love and having been using for years.

 

Fresh Oysters with Dill Vinaigrette and Pecorino

It’s a bit intimidating preparing shellfish dishes for the people who have dedicated their lives to raising some of the best shellfish around. But I could not have been more pleased (and perhaps even a bit surprised) with how delicious this combination is.

The stunning emerald oil pools in the oyster shell creating a sea of green along with the salty brine. A flurry of Pecorino adds a creamy richness that cuts through the acidity and brineyness beautifully.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 small bunch Dill, stemmed removed, torn

1 small garlic clove

Zest of one lemon

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pecorino, finely grated

1 dozen oysters, raw, on the half shell.

Instructions

Add dill, garlic and lemon zest to a mortar and pestle or small food processor.  Crush or process until finely chopped. Stir in the lemon juice then stream in olive oil.

This oil can be made ahead and brought to the fire.

Top each oyster with a teaspoon of the dill oil and grate pecorino over.

 

 

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