Summer is officially in full swing, and there is no better way to celebrate summer’s bounty than by shopping at your local farmer’s market. A chef once told me a good rule of thumb when it comes to food pairing: “What grows together, goes together.” I like that saying, but I also like the saying, “ There is no better way to enhance food than by keeping it simple.” By taking fresh, seasonal ingredients and mixing them with proper cooking techniques, you can make a dish exciting and flavorful with very little work.
Summer also brings another word to mind: grilling. And nothing is better than grilled beef, especially a steak. I love the taste of a well-marbled rib eye grilled to perfection. But often, the words “beef” and “inexpensive” do not go hand and hand, especially humanely raised, grass-fed beef with no added hormones. So instead of heading for a rib eye or a New York strip, I like to find cuts that are equally delicious but much easier on the wallet.
A few of my favorite budget-friendly cuts are flank steak, skirt steak and hanger steak, but for this particular recipe I used hanger steak. Hanger steak, sometimes called the hanging tenderloin, hangs from a steer’s diaphragm in the primal section known as the short plate. In the past, it was sometimes called “butcher’s steak” because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale. It is marbled with fat and extremely flavorful. I have found grass-fed, hormone-free hanger steak between $10 and $12 per pound at some local markets, but Valentine’s Meats sells it for just a bit more. I pay a little bit extra because their beef is very lean, but still retains its luscious flavor – and I like to support local businesses.
Seven of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The grass-fed, hormone free, free-range hanger steak is from Valentine’s Country Bakery and Meats in Orange, Va., http://www.valentinescountrymeats.com/. The watermelon is from Lois’s Produce in Leedstown, Va., http://loisproduce.com/home.html. The red onion is from Laurel Grove Farms in Oak Grove, Va. The Persian cucumbers are from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pa., http://www.toigoorchards.com/. The aged feta cheese is from Blue Ridge Dairy in Sterling, Va., www.brdairy.com. And the pesticide-free, ecorganic tomatoes and oregano are from Potomac Vegetable Farm. The farm has two locations: in Vienna, Va., and Purceville, Va. www.potomacvegetablefarms.com.
Equipment: 1 small marinating dish or baking dish, 1 large mixing bowl, 1 small mixing bowl, a charcoal grill or large grill pan for over the stovetop, and skewer sticks.
1-pound hanger steak – cut into 2-inch cubes — $13.49
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil — $0.10
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar — $0.07
1 tbsp. fresh oregano – roughly chopped — $0.25
3 cups watermelon – cut into 1-inch dice — $1.50
¼ cup red onion – thinly sliced — $0.25
3 Persian cucumbers or 1-½ cups – cut into ½ inch dice — $1.50
½ cup Kalamata olives – pitted and sliced in half — $1.25
3 large tomatoes or 2 cups – cut into 1-inch dice — $3.75
8 ounces feta cheese – cut into ½ inch dice — $5.00
½ cup extra virgin olive oil — $0.40
1/3 cup red wine vinegar — $0.34
2 tbsp. fresh oregano — $0.50
1 tbsp. salt — $0.02
1 tsp. pepper – freshly ground — $0.02
Total cost of this dish = $28.44
- This is my most expensive dish yet, but I like to remember that occasionally eating high-quality beef that was humanely raised is better than frequently eating grain-fed, feed-lot beef.
For the Beef:
Wisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and fresh oregano. Pour the mixture over the pieces of beef that have been cubed, and massage into the beef. This may not seem like much marinade, but it’s just enough to add depth of flavor without losing the true taste of the meat. Refrigerate overnight in a plastic zip bag, but make sure the bag is in a dish to prevent leaking into the fridge. Pull the beef out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking so that the beef can come up to room temperature. Place the meat on paper towels to dry off any excess moisture. Skewer 4 to 5 pieces of beef onto each skewer, making sure the pieces are tight together. Season it liberally with salt and pepper. (Reference picture)
When you are ready to grill, it is imperative that your grill is very hot. This particular cut doesn’t take long to cook, so to achieve maximum caramelization, your grill needs to be smoking hot. Cook on each side for 4 – 5 minutes for medium doneness. (Reference picture below.)
For the Watermelon Salad:
Mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, fresh oregano, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Set it aside.
Place the watermelon, red onion, cucumbers, olives and tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add dressing and mix until thoroughly coated. Right before serving, add the diced feta cheese and fold gently so as not to break up the cheese. Enjoy!
Serves 4 – 5 people.