Mild or spicy: Western flavors, Eastern tastes

When I was 25 and living in Montana, I met my future in-laws, who had come out from the East Coast for a visit. I’m sure they were wondering why their nice Jewish son had moved to Missoula, and probably curious about this new “Josie” person they’d been hearing about over the telephone.

To welcome them to town, I cooked Citrus Tomatillo Enchiladas with plenty of jalapeño. They showed excellent manners in the face of adversity and ate politely, the heightening color in their faces the only giveaway that fiery flavors were not for them.

Now that I’ve known them for a decade, you can bet I take a different culinary route when we see them. While we eat french fries, I design for my mother-in-law  a lovely big salad tossed with a creamy, mild avocado dressing.

The skirt steak with grilled avocados and nectarines can be made spicy or mild according to taste; just adjust or leave out the optional chipotle peppers.


Dino Kale Salad with Chicken and Green Goddess Avocado Dressing

Serves 2-3 as a main dish

1 avocado, pitted, skin removed, coarsely chopped

3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, peeled

2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, divided

2 1/2 Tbs. tarragon white wine vinegar

1⁄3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch dino kale (also called lacinato kale)

2 cups cooked chicken, preferably grilled, diced

1/2 cup shelled edamame

1⁄3 cup green onions, sliced

1 Tbs. fresh lime juice

1 large peach (or 2 small), pit removed and diced

2 Tbs. salted, roasted pumpkin seeds

In a food processor, blend avocado, Dijon mustard, garlic, 1 Tbs. of the thyme leaves, tarragon vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper until smooth. Thin with water till the consistency of thick ranch dressing. Set aside.

De-stem the kale, tear the leaves into bite-size pieces, wash and spin dry. Arrange in a large salad bowl. In a separate bowl, toss together chicken (I prefer plain grilled chicken breasts for this recipe), edamame, green onions, lime juice and remaining thyme leaves, along with 1/4 cup avocado dressing. Toss.

Add chicken mixture and diced peach to kale. Toss salad with remaining dressing and garnish with pumpkin seeds.


Balsamic Steak with Grilled Avocados and Nectarines

Serves 4

2 1/2 lbs. flap steak

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1⁄3 cup olive oil

3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbs. canned chipotle peppers, finel chopped (optional)

1 Tbs. garlic, minced

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

2 avocados

3 nectarines, cut in half, pits removed

2 Tbs. fresh basil leaves, julienne cut

additional salt and pepper

1 Tbs. fresh squeezed lime juice

Place flap steak in a large sealable bag or wide-bottomed plastic ware. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire, chipotle and garlic. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 3 hours before grilling.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade and shake off excess. Season with 3/4 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side to serve medium-rare.

Let steak rest 5 minutes after cooking. While steak is resting, slice avocados in half, discard pit and remove carefully from skins. Grill avocados and nectarines, cut side down, 2-3 minutes until marked firmly by the grill.

Slice steak thinly against grain, cutting on bias. Dice avocado and nectarines in 1⁄2-inch squares. In a small bowl, toss avocado and nectarines with basil, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, more black pepper to taste and lime juice. Serve steak with avocado and nectarines.

Josie A.G. Shapiro is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet” and works at the JCC of San Francisco. Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer.

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”