Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Ropa de Vieja is one of Cuba’s national dishes and is hands-down, a seriously delicious beef stew with bell peppers and tomatoes. The dish translates to “old clothes” because after hours of cooking, the flank steak’s stringiness looks a lot like clothing that’s been worn a little too long! 

My friend (and future cousin-in-law!) asked that I come up with my own version, since it’s one of her favorite recipes that her Cuban grandmother and aunt would make for dinner during her childhood summers in Miami. She provided a little history on the dish and requested that I make one without MSG (yay!). I can only hope she approves. If she does, she claims I’ll be an honorary Cuban. I’ll just have to keep an eye out when I make it for her, since I heard she used to sneak spoonfuls behind her abuela's and tía’s backs! 

For those familiar with the recipe, if you’re wondering where the “de” comes from, my friend’s aunt insists on it! Apparently she has amazing attention to detail, and that’s something I can totally get behind. 

In my version, I decided to convert the traditional recipe to a slow cooker because it usually takes a few hours on the stovetop, and I wanted to see if the slow cooker could make this recipe a  weeknight-possibility without compromising the flavor! It totally worked. No pressure cooker? Save this one for a weeknight and stew the meat for a few hours, until it's beyond tender!

While my recipe is pretty authentic, especially served with Cuban rice, beans, and fried plantains, I’ll admit I added a little red wine, which may make it a little less traditional, but also makes it oh-so-tasty! Feel free to add more broth or water if you want to be even more authentic. The stew would be phenomenal either way!

Ropa de Vieja (Cuban Beef Stew with Vegetables)

Time: 45 Minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
1.5 lbs flank steak
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup dry red wine
1 (15 oz) can whole tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, halved

To Serve
Cuban Rice
Fried plantains
Canned black beans

Directions
Pat steak dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a 6-quart pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add steak and brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes. Set steak aside. 

Add an additional 1 tbsp oil in the pressure cooker over medium high heat and stir in onions, garlic, bell peppers and sauté until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, cumin, and paprika and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. 

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, and bay leaf to the pressure cooker. Simmer for 2 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Return steak and any accumulated juices to the cooker. Cover and secure pressure cooker with lid and increase heat to high. Once the pressure cooker whistles over high pressure, reduce the pressure to low and cook for 25 minutes. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool before removing lid.

Reheat the stew uncovered over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in vinegar and olives and simmer for 5 minutes to allow flavors to combine. 

Serve stew over Cuban rice with fried plantains and black beans on the side.

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Peruvian-Style Steak with Aji Amarillo Mashed Potatoes

Oooh, just look at it! A Peruvian-Style Stir-Fry served over spicy mashed potatoes! It's so mouthwatering good, that my take on Lomo Saltado is often on my mind when I haven't had it in a while.

Traditionally, Lomo Saltado is a delicious Peruvian stir-fry typically served with French fries on the side. I was first inspired to make this dish a few years ago after walking into a Latin grocery store after work in San Francisco and stumbling upon a jar of aji amarillo paste. I didn't know what I would make with it, but after my purchase, I stuffed the jar neatly into my bag and smiled as I walked out the door.

After doing a little research on Peruvian cuisine during my commute home, I knew I needed to try Lomo Saltado, which typically uses fresh aji amarillo peppers. The dish originated from the Chifa culinary tradition that dates back to 19th century Peru, where Chinese settlers developed their own Fusion cuisine. Enamored, I thought "Chinese cuisine + Peruvian flavors, well, that can only be delicious!"

But since I only had the paste, with no aji amarillo peppers in site, I decided to use jalapeños and habaneros for the stir-fry, and introduce the paste to the mashed potatoes instead. Let me tell you, that was the right decision! I found that the spicy and fruity flavors of the paste melded perfectly with mashed potatoes. 

While I love Peru's traditional use of French fries in Lomo Saltado, there's something incredible about serving this stir-fry over a bed of mashed potatoes. The stir-fry sauce thickens to a wonderful gravy-like consistency that pairs so perfectly with your mash, you will want to lick the plate clean! Pro Tip: You can easily find aji amarillo paste at many Latin markets, or online with a few seconds of Googling. If you have Amazon Prime, you'll have it in 1-2 days!

But if you'd like to try the traditional recipe, serve the stir-fry over steamed rice, add aji amarillo if you wish, and feel free to fry up your own French fries! These are flavors you have to try if you haven't already!

Peruvian-Style Steak with Aji Amarillo Mashed Potatoes

Time: 45 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 oz sirloin or flat iron steak, thinly sliced
3 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup warmed whole milk
3 tbsp butter
2-4 tbsp aji amarillo paste, to taste
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 large red onion, sliced into strips
1 large jalapeño pepper, halved and thinly sliced
1 small habanero pepper, halved, and thinly sliced (optional)
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced into strips
1/2 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and cumin. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Add steak to the mixing bowl and transfer to refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and return potatoes to pan over very low heat. Mash potatoes using a potato masher, ensuring any excess moisture has evaporated. Slowly fold in milk, butter, and aji amarillo paste. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm.

Remove steak from marinade, reserving marinade in a separate bowl. Pat steak dry with paper towels.

In a large wok, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add steak and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Transfer steak to a platter.

Add red onions, sliced chilies, and tomatoes to the pan, and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until vegetables begin to brown. Pour over reserved marinade and stir in cilantro. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Return beef to the wok, stir to combine, and remove from heat. 

Mound mashed potatoes on a plate and top with stir-fry. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

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Steak with Cilantro Mayo and Tomatillo Salsa

Happy Taco Tuesday everyone! You’re going to just adore these steak tacos! I whipped these up after learning a great technique for a delicious steak: dry brine it overnight with salt! I’ve done this with Turkey in the past for Thanksgiving, but not with steak. It’s just about the easiest kitchen task in the world and produces great results. 

Of course, serving up steak tacos with cilantro mayo sounded like the perfect combo, especially because I wanted to use the rest of the avocado oil mayonnaise that Primal Kitchen was so kind to send me in the mail! Blending the mayo with cilantro and capers made for a most delicious result. I still have tons of nasturtium and arugula greens going in my garden too, which added an extra nice touch as a topping.

Fortunately, even though it seems like there would be a lot of extra calories with the oil and mayo, these tacos are served in very reasonable portions, so you won’t have to unbuckle your belt when you’re done eating or worry about indigestion! They’re also packed with protein, so even though the portions aren’t huge, you won’t be feeling hunger any time soon.

Steak with Cilantro Mayo and Tomatillo Salsa

Time: 30 Minutes + Easy Overnight Brining
Serves 4 (3 small tacos per person)

Ingredients
Kosher salt
2 medium sirloin steaks, about 1.5 lbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 large handful cilantro
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp lime juice
12 (4-inch) corn tortillas
Canola oil, for frying
4 radishes, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatillos, finely diced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp white wine vinegar
A handful of small nasturtiums or baby arugula
4 Lime wedges, for serving

Directions
Generously salt the steaks on all sides. Cover and transfer to refrigerator to dry brine overnight. 

Remove steaks from refrigerator and trim off fat. Transfer fat to a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Heat skillet and fat over low heat and cook until the fat renders enough to cover the bottom of the pan, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer any remaining fat pieces to a plate. 

In the same skillet, heat rendered fat on high heat and and add steak to the pan, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan and ensure that a crust forms. Sear on one side for 3 minutes, without moving the steak. Turn over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer steak to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. 

In a blender, add mayonnaise, capers, garlic, cilantro, 1/4 olive oil, and lime juice and blend on high until the mayonnaise reaches a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat enough canola oil to line the bottom of a small skillet and heat over medium heat. Add one tortilla at a time, and fry on each side, flipping with tongs, about 20-30 seconds, until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, separating each tortilla with a paper towel to blot out excess oil. Keep warm.

In a small bowl, combine nasturtiums, radishes, and white wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the steak has rested, dice steak into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine with reserved pieces of fat if desired (they taste soooo good!). Add to a bowl with tomatillos, lime juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare tacos by spreading cilantro mayonnaise over each tortilla. Top with steak and follow with nasturtiums and radishes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lime wedges on the side. 

Flat Iron Steak with Yellow Squash and Tomatoes

 

This dish is hands down the most summery meal I’ve made all season! The flavors of the steak and the sherry vinegar glaze are outstanding, and I will say that I decorated this dish after eating a few bites of the steak, and was in such awe of my creation that my artistic abilities certainly overtook me

Below is the recipe! It’s so delicious and easy to make that you might as well take a trip to the store after work and make it tonight!

 

Flat Iron Steak with Yellow Squash and Tomatoes

Serves 4
Time: 20 Minutes

Ingredients
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.5 lbs flat iron steak, cut into 4 (6 oz) steaks
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium yellow squash, halved
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
2 tsp light brown sugar

Directions
Pat steaks dry and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or dutch oven on medium-high with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add squash and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes, or until squash is tender. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add steak pieces when oil shimmers and cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Set aside and cover with foil for about 10 minutes to let steak rest before slicing.

In the same pan, add vinegar, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Slice steak when well rested. Serve drizzled with sherry/balsamic glaze and with squash and tomato sauté on the side.

What I love Most About Summer + Recipe for Steak & Arugula Salad

 

My calendar may say that it’s summer, but I’ve been so busy lately, I barely notice the change in season anymore. It’s a stark contrast to how I would literally count down the days to summer when I was a child, rejoicing when the final bell rang. Those long warm days in the California sun just couldn’t come soon enough!

The fact that summer is in full swing finally just dawned on me when foraging for these arugula greens. It’s a little sad that it took me three weeks to fully recognize the change in season, but mid-July is when my garden really starts to shine. I realize now that while I no longer count down to the lazy summer days of my past playing with friends, visiting the beach, or going to theme parks, I don’t think it’s a bad compromise that in adulthood, I have an incredible garden where I enjoy nothing more than counting down the days until my fruits and vegetables are ready to be harvested.

I suppose I truly have the better deal now because I really didn’t know how to cook much of anything when I was a kid. Now at least half of the food I cook up in summer is from my garden and that makes me a very, very happy dietitian. While this dish utilized the last of our arugula crop, my favorite salad greens will be back shortly with corn and pumpkins to follow. Until then, we will surely be eating our weight in tomatoes and kale!

Below is a recipe the salad, which I’ve adapted from an Epicurious recipe.

 

Steak & Arugula Salad

Serves 4
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients
5 oz arugula
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 large sprig fresh rosemary needles
1 lb boneless top loin steak or sirloin (1 inch thick)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large shallot, thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

Directions
Mound arugula on a large platter.

Heat oil with garlic and rosemary in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat, turning garlic once or twice, until garlic is soft, about 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, cut steak crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and toss with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add steak to skillet all at once and sauté over high heat, tossing with tongs to color evenly, about 1 minute for medium-rare.

Arrange steak over arugula using tongs, then add shallot to oil in skillet along with vinegars and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and boil 2 minutes. Garnish to taste with ground black pepper. Pour dressing over steak and serve immediately.