A few months ago, I went to Sun Valley, Ida., to the 14th National Beef Cook-Off with a special vested interest. I was invited to be chief judge for the competition. As a somewhat jaded past judge at such events, I was highly impressed with what this past year's finalists managed to produce with decidedly lesser cuts of meat and a really imaginative use of compatible, almost trendy seasonings.
A young California woman's entry took the top $5,000 prize in the "Indoor Cooking Category." It is a really unusual combination of beef strips, black-eyed peas, jicama, chiles and cilantro that is marinated in a lime-chili vinaigrette.
PRISCILLA YEE'S WARM BEEF AND BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD
1 (16-ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas
1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak, trimmed of excess fat, 1 1/2-inches thick
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup diced jicama, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 sweet red or green pepper, cut into 1-inch long strips
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
Place meat in plastic bag or ceramic dish. Combine 1/4 cup Lime-Chili Vinaigrette with vinegar and pour over meat, turning to coat. Marinate 1 hour.
Remove steak from marinade and place on broiler rack. Broil, about 3 inches from heat source, 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on desired degree of doneness.
Meanwhile, combine black-eyed peas with remaining vinaigrette, jicama, pepper, chiles, green onions and olives in large skillet. Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro.
To serve, line serving dish with lettuce leaves. Spoon black-eyed pea mixture over top, making depression in middle. Slice steak diagonally into thin slices. Arrange in center of black-eyed pea mixture. Garnish with tomatoes and cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Whisk lime juice, oil, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar and garlic together in small bowl. Makes about 1 cup.
The First Prize winner in the "Outdoor Cooking Category" was a woman from Illinois. The entrant's grilled flank steak marinated in citrus and served with a zesty salsa of pineapple, mango, papaya, red and green pepper, crushed chiles and cilantro is one worthy of clipping and saving for next summer's barbecue. She received a $2,500 award.
DEBBIE VANNI'S TROPICAL GRILLED FLANK STEAK WITH FRESH FRUIT SALSA
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 medium orange, thinly sliced
Fresh Fruit Salsa
Place flank steak in plastic bag or ceramic dish. Combine orange juice, chili sauce, chili powder, soy sauce, oil, sugar, orange peel, garlic, salt and hot pepper sauce and pour over meat. Place orange slices over meat. Marinate overnight in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.
Remove steak from marinade and grill 4 to 6 minutes per side, or to desired degree of doneness. Immediately slice all steak on diagonal into thin slices. Place steak on platter and surround with Fresh Fruit Salsa. Garnish with orange wedges and cilantro. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Fresh Fruit Salsa
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup diced mango
1/2 cup diced papaya
1/2 cup diced green apple
1/4 cup diced sweet red pepper
1/4 cup diced green pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed chilies
Combine pineapple, mango, papaya, apple, peppers, vinegar, cilantro, sugar and chilies in bowl. Mix well. Chill. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.