(pictures forthcoming – as soon as I can get my camera to let go of them)
It’s a recent addiction, really. I never put much thought into balsamic vinegar beyond ‘balsamic vinaigrette,’ which I never liked much anyway. But there was an influx of balsamic on the foodweb one day, and I became intrigued. What was so special about this stuff? How could it overtake so many people’s appetites at once? It had to be something in it. I bought a midrange bottle one day, storing it away, waiting for the urge to use it – for the ‘magic moment.’
I used it, really, for the first time in a salad. A throw-together, need something to eat salad. Spinach, avocado, bacon, green grapes, shredded Parmesan. I have Caesar and Greek dressing in my pantry, but I wasn’t feeling it. I splashed some olive oil, a little lemon juice, the tiniest bit of soy and a generous drop or two of balsamic. It was magic. Twangy, tangy, sweet and savory. It was an experience to be had – and that was with storebought grocery store balsamic. The possibilities of balsamic, better-made (and higher-priced), laid themselves out in my head, stretching farther even than my own inner eye could see.
I grilled today for lunch. I had to, because I had planned on doing it tonight, but turns out that it’s a friend’s birthday and she’s having a party. Ergo, no cooking for me tonight. But I’d already put the flank steak in the marinade and it was tenderizing happily in the fridge. I couldn’t set it up for failure and spoils, so it had to be cooked. Luckily, it being Monday, I didn’t have to go in to my desk job today (yay!), and I only had a few errands to run this morning. I normally only grill at night, so thinking of grilling at lunch was almost like breaking an unspoken taboo. It was a little thrilling, in and of itself. What can I say? I’m a rebel.
I used the marinade recipe from use real butter. Jen not only cooks beautiful stuff, but she takes some gorgeous photos from 8500 feet above sea level. She’s very opinionated, a little coarse at times, and she is the human of a black Lab, Kaweah. What’s not to like? She posted a grilled flank steak marinade a little while back and I decided to try it out on the lovely little flank I had sitting in the fridge. A friend of mine from my desk job had given me some large-ish zucchini on Thursday, and it needed to be used, so I figured I’d slap some of that on the grill, too. And while I was at Publix earlier today, spending money on Naked smoothies (so much daggum ♥ for that stuff!), I saw some quartered slices of pineapple. Already on a grill kick, I thought to myself: ‘Self – why heat up the grill for not quite everything? Grill you some pineapple!’ So I bought some and brought it home with me.
I also bought two nice-looking little basil plants, too, because my seeds haven’t sprouted yet and I love basil so much that it almost hurts. Especially when I don’t have any fresh and readily available. End sidenote.
Though the marinade didn’t have any balsamic in it, the zucchini and pineapple had plenty. I quartered my zucchini and slicked them up with olive oil, then added a little balsamic as an afterthought. I settled them on the grill first and let them alone while I mixed up some balsamic, a little lemon juice and about two tablespoons of light brown sugar for my pineapple. I let the pineapple soak, turned the zucchini and flipped the pineapple once.
When the zucchini came off the rack, every piece had these nice char marks. They still felt firm, but were juicy inside. When the zucchini came off, the steak went on. It took a bit to get warmed up, but it turned out beautifully.
When the steak came off, the pineapple went on. I left it on long enough to get char marks, and that was that. By the time the pineapple was off, the steak had rested and I couldn’t help but slice into it. It smelled delightful, but the look was even better. Browned, crusted over, a hint of pink in the middle. I love a good medium rare filet, but this was something magical. I plated up slices of steak, a little pan sauce from the marinade, zucchini and a piece of pineapple. I sat down, got comfortable and got a little piece of meat.
If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin': it was one of the best things I have put in my mouth. Jen was dead on with that marinade. It mellows out on the grill and tenderizes beautifully, but as a pan sauce, it’s spicy and citrusy and absolutely grand. I might’ve tweaked it a bit, but not by that much. The zucchini was firm on the outside, soft on the inside and juicy all around. The pineapple was sweet, tangy, warm and had a little bit of a crunchy glaze on the outside, thanks to the ‘marinade’ for it.
Maybe I should break the rules more often, if it’s gonna be this tasty. I always knew there was something to be said for being a rebel.