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Grilling Steak and Salsa Together

wolfgangIf you look up the history of Father's Day, you'll learn that it is observed on the third Sunday of June -- this year, June 21 -- because the beloved father of Sonora Smart Dodd, the woman who first proposed the holiday in 1910, was born in this month.

Here's to Sonora's father, and to fathers everywhere! But I think one good reason everyone originally went along with her plan also had something to do with the fact that the First Day of Summer comes around the same time. Many fathers love to celebrate summer by cooking outdoors.

So, to welcome summer and salute all my fellow fathers out there, I'm happy to share with you one of my favorite grilling recipes. I especially like it because it makes it easy to prepare not just steaks, a featured ingredient of choice for so many dads, but also a side dish and sauce -- all on the grill. What could be better for dedicated outdoor cooks who don't want to spend too much time slaving over a hot fire?

The secret is to grill the sauce. Yes, you read that correctly, because the sauce in question is a variation on a classic salsa, so much tastier than a gooey barbecue sauce out of a bottle. Mexican cooks everywhere know that the best way to develop the flavors and textures of tomatoes, chilies, and onions destined for a salsa is to char them, and the hot grill is an ideal place to do just that.

While those vegetables are cooking, you can also grill up some other vegetables to serve alongside the steaks, such as the asparagus in this recipe, sliced zucchini or eggplant, or quartered and seeded bell peppers. These can all be kept warm, covered in foil, while the steaks cook.

Many people also like mushrooms with their steaks, but I prefer to grill them alongside the meat rather than in advance. Otherwise, the cooked mushrooms could turn soggy if you wait too long to serve them.

Cooking the steaks is easy. Half an hour before you plan to cook them, though, be sure to remove them from the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. That way, the meat will cook more quickly and evenly, ensuring that it reaches the desired degree of doneness. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to test a steak before you pull them all from the grill. Then, let the steaks rest, covered with foil, for 10 minutes before you carve them, so their bubbling-hot juices settle back into the meat.

It's that simple to make a surprisingly complex-tasting main dish that dads everywhere can be proud to serve to their families. Happy Father's Day!

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GRILLED NEW YORK STRIP STEAK WITH FIRE-ROASTED SALSA, ASPARAGUS, AND MUSHROOMS (Serves 4)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 medium-sized tomatoes, cored
3 jalapeno chili peppers
1 large white onion, peeled and cut crosswise into slices 1/2 inch thick
1 bunch jumbo asparagus, trimmed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus extra for drizzling
4 New York strip steaks, each 8 to 12 ounces)
4 Portobello mushroom caps
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushroom caps

Preheat an outdoor grill.

When the grill is hot, brush 2 tablespoons of the olive oil all over the tomatoes, chilies, onion slices, and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and place them on the grill. Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skins of the tomatoes and chilies are blackened and blistered and the onion slices and asparagus are golden, about 8 to 12 minutes total. Transfer the asparagus spears to a platter large enough to hold them along with all the steaks and the mushrooms, cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm, and set aside. Transfer the other vegetables to a work surface and leave them for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Remove and discard the loose, charred outer rings from the onion slices. Peel off the skin from the tomatoes; cut them in half and remove and discard the seeds. Peel off the skins of the chilies; carefully slit them open and remove and discard the seeds, veins, and stems. Mince the chilies.

Put the onion, tomatoes, and chilies in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade or into a blender. Add the basil, remaining olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Pulse the machine on and off until a chunky salsa forms. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Brush the steaks and mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the steaks over the hottest part of the fire and surround them with the mushrooms. Cook the steaks about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare or up to 8 minutes per side for well-done. Cook the Portobello mushrooms for about 2 minutes per side and the shiitakes for 1 to 2 minutes per side depending on size.

Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice them across the grain and diagonally; slice the Portobello caps, too, and leave the shiitakes whole. Arrange the steak slices and mushrooms on the platter with the asparagus. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve immediately, passing the salsa alongside.

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