Labor Day weekend was gorgeous – sunny, warm and beautiful. Then on Tuesday, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees, just in time for the first day of school. Add to that the cold, steady rain and it felt like we’d skipped straight over fall and landed in those dark days of early winter.
Thankfully the cold weather was just a blip. We're back up into the 70s today, with the sun bright in the sky.
Maybe the brief cold spell wasn’t such a bad thing. I'd started taking grilling weather for granted, entertaining thoughts of roast chicken and warm soup instead of grilled burgers and hot dogs.
This week’s weather was my little wake up call. I know the days of grilling and hanging out in the backyard will soon be over for the season. (We don’t officially retire our grill for the season until it's covered with too much snow to open.) But it’s just not the same when you have to throw on a jacket and hat for the two minutes it takes to run outside and flip the chicken.
So the question now is what to grill. Should we revisit old favorites? Grill up another juicy burger or tuna steak? Or should we attempt to try those recipes we intended to make but never quite got to?
I can certainly understand the temptation to enjoy the old classics one more time. I fully intend to fire up the grill and cook up some hot Italian sausage and shrimp wrapped in bacon.
But if you’re looking for something new, try these hoisin beef skewers. These are sweet and spicy cubes of beef, served on top of a green salad drizzled in a lime vinaigrette with a satay-like peanut dipping sauce served alongside. It looks fantastic and tastes even better.
This is a long recipe, but you don't have to make it all at once. The peanut sauce and lime vinaigrette can sit overnight, so you can make those ahead.
For the vinaigrette, grate your lime.
Combine the lime zest with rice wine vinegar, lime juice, salt, pepper and vegetable oil. (I also added a little honey to take the edge off the vinegar and lime juice.) You can either whisk the ingredients together in a bowl. Or, as I did, put them in a glass jar with a secure top.
Shake the jar vigorously for a minute until the dressing emulsifies.
Now on to the peanut dipping sauce. Start with peanut butter, water, sesame oil, mayonnaise and Sriracha. I know, the mayo seems like an odd addition, but I think it helps the other ingredients to play nice with each other.
Whisk together until smooth.
Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice and salt.
Again, stir well until the ingredients are combined.
Now for the steak. I used skirt steak, which is a little chewy, but very flavorful and inexpensive.
Cut the steak into strips. You want to cut the steak across the grain. That means cut perpendicular, not parallel, to the vertical lines in the meat. Combine the steak with the soy sauce and pepper and let it marinate in the fridge for an hour.
Put the meat on skewers and brush them with hoisin sauce. If you put two skewers through each cube of meat, as I did, it won't somersault on your grill.
Grill the meat for about 5 minutes on each side, or more, until it’s cooked the way you like it.
Pull the skewers off the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. Then brush a little more hoisin sauce on the meat.
In the meantime, combine your lettuce and cucumbers and toss them with the lime vinaigrette. Sprinkle with scallions and chopped peanuts.
Lay the skewers over the salad and serve with the peanut dipping sauce. This meal is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!
Hoisin Beef Skewers on Salad with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Adapted from a recipe in the Boston Globe
3 Tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1. Put the vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, honey and salt and pepper in a glass jar. Securely close lid and shake to combine.
2. Add the vegetable oil to the jar. Shake vigorously for about 1 minute until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsp water
½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil
½ Tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp Sriracha
¾ Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
½ clove garlic, minced
1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lime
1. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, water, sesame oil, mayonnaise, and Sriracha. Stir until smooth.
2. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice and salt. Stir well.
Steak and salad:
1 ½ pounds skirt steak
2 Tbsp soy sauce
½ cup hoisin sauce, divided in half in separate bowls
1 package salad mix
¼ seedless English cucumber, sliced
¼ bunch scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp peanuts, chopped
1. Cut the steak across the grain into 1-inch thick strips. In a bowl, toss the steak with othe soy sauce and black pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Preheat grill.
3. Thread the steak onto skewers and brunch with ¼ cup hoisin sauce. Grill for 5 minutes. Turn and grill for 5 minutes more for medium rare, or longer. Remove the meat from the grill.
4. With a clean brush, brunsh the remaining hoisin sauce on the cooked meat.
5. In a bowl, toss the lettuce with vinaigrette. Garnish with cucumber, scallions and peanuts. Arrange the beef skewers on the salad. Serve the peanut dipping sauce alongside.