Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

It is no secret that we love Latin food in this house.

It is also no secret that tortillas are our favorite way to deliver the goods. I have heaps of corn and flour tortillas in my kitchen at all times.

I was perusing the internet the other day, looking for recipe inspiration, and came across a “vinaigrette” that reminded me a lot of salsa, or pico de gallo…chunky bits of tomato and onion, but instead of cilantro, they used basil, and instead of lime, they used vinegar.

Aha! I have basil and vinegar in the fridge right this very moment!

Basil salsa…could a Mediterranean-style taco be in our future?

I thought I’d make this thing work. Rub a big shoulder steak with herbs, let it marinate, and grill to medium-rare perfection.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: please get yourself a good meat tenderizer (I have this one, and it’s not a mallet). They make such a difference in the tenderness of the meat. I mean, they’re called meat tenderizers for that reason, right?

So go get one. Or have the UPS man deliver one to you.

A meat thermometer is also indispensable in my opinion – it makes perfect meat a no-brainer. No poking or prodding, no cutting into the meat while it’s still in the pan, seeing if it’s done enough…or overdone.

The UPS man can bring you one of those too. I use mine whenever I cook steaks, pork tenderloin, or anything that needs to reach a specific temperature to be perfect.

Make the salsa while the steak rests; no need to refrigerate it. The basil loses its pungency if made too far ahead. You could, I suppose, mix up the other ingredients ahead of time and throw the basil in at the last minute, if you really wanted to.

Ibérico cheese is from Spain, a mix of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk. I love it for its stronger flavor – it stands up to the vinegared salsa nicely. You could also try Parmesan or maybe feta if Ibérico isn’t available.

Corn tortillas will work if you need gluten free! Or stuff a pita with the mix!

What a surprise these flavors were, it was like taco identity crisis! So good, and a nice change from cilantro/cumin/lime. Did I really just say that?

Closeup Herbed Steak Tacos

Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

Salsa adapted from finecooking.com’s Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette   

makes 8 tacos.

for the meat:

  • 1 1/4 pound beef cut of your choice (I use 1 inch thick shoulder/London Broil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

for the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup diced Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

you will also need:

  • canola oil, for grilling
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 flour tortillas, taco or fajita size
  • shaved Ibérico cheese (available in most grocery delis, El Cortijo brand seems to be widely available)

On a piece of plastic wrap, drizzle steak with oil, and rub in spices and garlic with your hands. Wrap tightly and marinate 1-2 hours, taking the meat out of the refrigerator the last 30 minutes.

When meat is ready, preheat a dry, heavy skillet or cast iron grill pan over high heat.

One at a time, grill the tortillas on one side. Keep warm in a towel.

Reduce heat to medium, and give the pan time to cool off a bit (5-10 minutes). Scrape garlic and herbs off steak (garlic is more important to remove, it will burn) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Oil pan lightly and add steak.

Let cook, undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Keep any eye on the heat – you want the pan to stay decently hot for a good sear, but not so hot it overcooks the meat. When you have nice browning, flip the steak. I suggest using a meat thermometer at this point, inserted into the thickest part of the steak, until it registers 125-130°F (medium rare). This will take another 10 minutes or so.

Remove the steak to a plate, and wrap with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Now make the salsa: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Cover and set aside.

Slice meat thinly, against the grain, into strips. Assemble the tacos by adding meat, a tablespoon of salsa, and shaving cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Easy, Spicy Adobo Chicken “Pollo Adobado”

Here’s an easy way to make adobo marinade – buy the chiles in adobo sauce and add your own ingredients to liven it up!

Most grocery stores have chiles in adobo sauce in the international foods aisle.  The brand I found – San Marcos – is smoky and spicy.   I thought I might add more smoked paprika but once I opened the can I decided it didn’t need it.

You’ll only need half (about 1 cup) of the sauce, so refrigerate the rest for up to a week.  Try it on shredded chicken for exciting enchiladas!

I had 3 chicken breasts that were about 8 ounces each; to make them easier to marinate (and cook), I cut them in half lengthwise to end up with 6 thinner breast halves.

Let the chicken marinate for as long as you can.  Overnight is best!

Easy, Spicy Adobo Chicken, Pollo Adobado

Yield 2 cups of adobo sauce, to marinate up to 4 pounds of chicken.

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts (or your favorite pieces, bone removed)
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided

for the adobo:

  • 7.5 ounce can chili peppers in adobo sauce (such as San Marcos)
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, optional
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar (or lime or orange juice)

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients for the adobo and puree until smooth.  You’ll only need half the marinade for up to 2 pounds of chicken; refrigerate the rest up to a week.  Set the other cup of adobo aside.

Cut chicken in half lengthwise to form 2 thinner pieces.  ​Put chicken in a zip top or vacuum-sealable bag, pour adobo over the top, seal and refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.

Remove chicken from fridge, and slice onion.  Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large pan and cook onions over medium-high heat until browned and soft.  Set onions aside.

In same pan, add last tablespoon of butter.  Cook chicken in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan, until chicken is browned, excess sauce is evaporated and chicken is firm when poked; about 10 minutes.  Serve over rice (try my fiesta rice recipe here) and topped with onions, or make enchiladas using extra adobo, quesadillas or tacos.  Enjoy!

Grilled Tarragon Cherry Chicken Salad

Cherries are in season right now, and I bought some the other day and they were some of the best I’ve had.

I also bought about 10 pounds of chicken breasts on sale and now our freezer reminds me every time I open it that we have tons of chicken to cook!

Grilling whole cherries allows the sugars to start to caramelize.  It’s a little extra work but worth it!

Wrap this up in a pita or tortilla.  Or put it on a bed of spinach!

Fresh tarragon, lemon, goat cheese…have I convinced you yet?


Grilled Tarragon Cherry Chicken Salad

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or if you must, sour cream)
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated cucumber
  • few grates of pepper
  • squeeze of lemon
  • splash of milk (to thin sauce, if desired)

for the chicken:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2)
  • half a lemon, sliced
  • sprigs of fresh tarragon
  • 12 whole fresh cherries, stems still on

Combine the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a bowl; stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate.

Slice the chicken crosswise to form 4 thinner cuts.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and top with lemon and tarragon sprigs.

Grill for about 5 minutes and turn.  Add cherries directly to grill.

After another 2-3 minutes, check chicken for doneness. Take cherries off grill when they begin to ooze juices and are semi-soft. the Let chicken and cherries rest a few minutes.

Remove stems and pits from cherries by hand, and roughly chop.

Dice the chicken, add to a bowl, and mix in as much yogurt sauce as you like, but at least enough to cover.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate to chill.



Ginger-Honey Grilled Shrimp

This is one of my first ever blog posts…please excuse the poor quality photo!

Surprise!  Something that doesn’t have cumin or cilantro is on the menu tonight.  Shrimp was on sale at our grocery store so I bought a pound frozen and pondered what to do with it.  Sweet and spicy sounded nice, and I have a gluten-free teriyaki sauce my sister recommended that I had yet to crack open.  Japanese it is!

I use San-J teriyaki sauce (and their soy sauce too).  I swear it’s better than the regular stuff!

Ginger-Honey Grilled Shrimp

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • juice of half a lime
  • Gluten Free teriyaki sauce for drizzling

Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp and teriyaki sauce in a bowl and whisk together.   Reserve 1/4 cup marinade for basting later.  Pour the marinade over the shrimp in a zip top bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When the shrimp have had time to marinate, skewer the shrimp on metal or bamboo sticks (soak the bamboo skewers to prevent burning).

On a grill or in a grill pan, cook the shrimp, basting a few times, until opaque on each side.  Remove from skewers and serve over rice, drizzling the rice and shrimp with teriyaki sauce.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!