In photo: Clockwise from top left, Watermelon-Cucumber and Vodka Cooler; Spinach and Avocado Penne Pasta Salad; Spicy Pineapple Slaw; Strawberry Pretzel Terrine, Chili-Lime Flat Iron Steak.
Fourth of July celebrations mean outdoor gatherings with plenty of food and drink. After all, it’s the most popular time to grill, according to many barbecue and grilling surveys.
The Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen decided to chill out with a collection of no-sweat recipes. We are staying away from the creamy salads, and those with cheese. Not that cheese is ever a bad idea, but our goal was breezy, cool and refreshing. Also, low effort and low cost.
For our grill, we turned to less expensive whole cuts of meat like flat iron and flank steak, which take less time to cook. Tri-tip is another good option, it just takes longer to cook. All these meat cuts are economical and go a long way. They take to most any kind of marinade and seasoning. And once grilled, you can slice them into thin pieces.
For salads, we relied on the standards of pasta and cole slaw, but with flavorful oil-based dressings. Both of today’s salads area a great match for the Chili-Lime Flat Iron.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad has become a popular dessert for summer potlucks. Everyone knows it’s not really a salad, but it warrants that name thanks to the strawberry gelatin layer. But instead of the cake pan version, we like the Food Network’s Terrine version. It features cream cheese and creamy mascarpone and wins in the make-ahead category.
We couldn’t leave out a thirst-quencher. Today’s recipe for a Watermelon-Cucumber Vodka Cooler, is, well, super cool. You can make it with or without the vodka. And if you are not a vodka fan, sub in white sparkling wine.
CHILI-LIME FLANK STEAK
Serves: 6 / Prep time: 50 minutes / Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
1 large lime, plus wedges for serving
1 tablespoon favorite chili powder
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pound flat iron or flank steak
Vegetable oil, for the grill
Grate the zest of 1 lime; cut the lime in half. Combine zest with the chili powder, brown sugar, thyme, cumin, chipotle powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Squeeze the zested lime over the steak and use the lime halves to rub the juice into the meat. Rub the spice mixture on both sides of the steak. Let stand at room temperature, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill to medium-high. Brush the grates with vegetable oil. Grill the steak until it’s well browned with nice grill marks, about 8 minutes. Flip and grill until a thermometer inserted sideways into the center registers 125 degrees, about 5 to 7 more minutes for medium rare (the thinner edges of the steak will be cooked to medium).
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Season with salt and thinly slice against the grain. Serve with lime wedges.
From Food Network Magazine, June 2016 issue.
SPINACH AVOCADO PENNE PASTA SALAD
Serves: 8 / Prep time: 30 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes
1 pound box mini penne pasta or other small pasta
1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
1 bunch of cilantro, bottom stems removed
1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled, pressed or very finely minced
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cumin or to taste
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions in well seasoned boiling water until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
In a food processor, place the cilantro and spinach and process until chopped into tiny pieces. Add cilantro mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in garlic onion, tomatoes, avocado and beans. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Pour dressing over the top and stir gently until everything is well coated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Adapted from www.pinterest.com
SPICY PINEAPPLE SLAW
Serves: 8 to 10 / Prep time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
This slaw gets its spiciness from jalapeno peppers. For less spiciness remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers. You can substitute about 6 cups of coleslaw mix for the cabbage and carrots.
5 cups shredded green cabbage (from one small head)
3 carrots, peeled, shredded
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups small diced pineapple from about three-fourths of a pineapple
2 jalapeno chiles, finely chopped, ribs and seeds removed for less heat
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice from about 4 limes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, onion, pineapple, chiles, cilantro, and mint. Drizzle with oil and lime juice.
Season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Let stand 30 minutes. Toss again before serving.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, May 2016 issue.
STRAWBERRY PRETZEL TERRINE
Serves: 8 / Prep time: 45 minutes / Total time: 6 hours 45 minutes (not all active time)
Here’s a different take on the strawberry pretzel salad recipe. If the terrine doesn’t seem set, you can freeze it until firm enough so you can cut it into slices.
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup hot water
2 pounds strawberries, hulled (1 1/2 pounds chopped small, 1/2 pound whole)
1/3 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus the juice of 1 large lemon
1 container (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, softened
1 package (8 ounces) regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups small pretzel twists
Pinch of kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and hot water and stir until fully dissolved; let cool. Combine the chopped strawberries, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a large bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries are juicy, about 15 minutes. Stir the dissolved gelatin into the strawberry mixture.
Meanwhile, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and lemon zest and beat 1 more minute; set aside.
Pulse the pretzels with the salt and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a food processor until finely crushed. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until well combined. Pour the mascarpone mixture into the prepared loaf pan; smooth the top. Top evenly with the pretzel mixture, then top with the strawberry-gelatin mixture in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 6 hours.
To make the strawberry sauce: Puree the whole strawberries with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar and the remaining lemon juice in a blender until smooth.
When ready to serve, invert the terrine onto a platter. Top with the strawberry sauce.
From Food Network Magazine, June 2016 issue.
Serves: 4 / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 15 minutes
5 cups cubed seedless watermelon (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 large English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup vodka
Mint sprigs or cucumber slices, for garnish
Set a large fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl or pitcher. In a food processor or blender, purée watermelon. Pour watermelon purée through sieve, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula (you should have about 2 cups juice). Purée English cucumber and pour through sieve into watermelon juice.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together lime juice and honey. Add to watermelon and cucumber juices, along with vodka. Adjust sweetness with more honey if desired. To serve, fill four glasses with ice and top each with cocktail. Garnish with mint sprigs or cucumber slices.
Adapted from www.marthastewart.com.