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one down

Recipe: emily’s grilled flank steak

The first week of NaBloWriMo is done… just 24 more days to go. Wooo!

My house finally got some desperately needed attention today because I had to shoot a recipe and there was not a single cleared surface for me to set my food upon. I hadn’t shot anything in my kitchen for weeks. The tripod had to be disinfected because the last time I used it, I was standing in a field of elk poop (there were also fields of cow poop and deer poop and probably other poops I was gratefully unaware of). But the weirdest part for me was when I tightened the clamp on the quick-release plate of the D200. I’ve been shooting with the new camera for 3 weeks now. Switching back to the D200 (my dedicated kitchen camera), the once hefty body felt like a child’s play toy in my hands. Don’t take that as a slam to the D200, because I still love it to itty bitty bits – it is such a workhorse.

I think we’ve returned somewhat to normalcy here. We’re still busy, but at least we’re busy in one place instead of busy abroad or busy while a moving target. And I’m finally tackling my post processing properly instead of bouncing around looking for the obvious shots to share. Here are a couple from Tuesday of last week’s shoot.

outside of crested butte

looking back on a mere fraction of the largest aspen stand in the world

The recipe I shot today isn’t the one I’m sharing on this post. I can’t share it until next week – it’s the Daring Cooks challenge (and it was soooo good). Today’s recipe comes from my best friend in high school. I didn’t cook so much in high school – I prepped. I loved to use a knife for slicing, dicing, mincing, peeling. Emily, on the other hand, cooked. The first time we prepared dinner for her family, I was making the pasta sauce under her direction. She said, “Add some olive oil.” Like a typical noob, I poured about two drops of olive oil into the saucepan. Emily watched and before I could right the bottle, she pressured the spout of the bottle down with one finger and let about a half cup of olive oil dive into the sea of puréed tomatoes. Thus, Emily taught me that fat makes food taste Good.

slice up flank steak

flank steak, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, tomato paste

We prepared meals on several more occasions and I quite loved the way Emily cooked by feel, by intuition. It was something I wouldn’t achieve comfortably until I was in college. If I recall correctly, the first time I was introduced to this flank steak recipe, we were at a friend’s house and Emily just threw it together.

toss some vegetables with oil, salt, and pepper

skewer the beef and veggies with… skewers

Ever since then – oh probably 22 years ago – I’ve slapped this together in a pinch. Each time I make it, I think of Emily and I remember sleeping over at her house and being woken up by Ginger, the family basset hound who gently rubbed her eye-boogers off on me to show her affection (rather, her ownership of me). I remember climbing out the window onto the roof of that lovely Victorian house to puzzle over those matters that occupy the minds of 16 year old girls who were good at math and science. We would talk while watching Emily’s father tinker with the meteorological instruments in the yard (he was THE meteorologist for the Navy).


I didn’t just learn this recipe from Emily, I learned a lot about being comfortable in my own skin from Emily. Instead of wanting to fit in with “the crowd” I valued her uniqueness which in turn allowed me to celebrate my own individuality and walk with confidence through the halls of high school and on out into the world. Once I stopped caring about being one of the cool kids, I was one of them. Very Zen. (In all honesty, I had a freaking blast in high school.)

serve it up right off the grill

Emily’s Grilled Flank Steak
[print recipe]

1 lb. flank steak, sliced thin against the grain
3 oz. tomato paste (about 1/2 of a small can)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
sugar (to taste)
1 tsp sesame oil (to taste)
1 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until the beef slices are well-coated (I use a clean hand to do this). [If you are grilling vegetables with the beef, cut them up into large bite-size pieces and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I like onions, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms.] Skewer the beef alternating with vegetables if grilling together – don’t pack the beef in too tightly or they will require more cooking time. Grill on high heat, turning the skewers to cook evenly. I like my beef on the rare side, so these took about 6-8 minutes total cooking time (also, our grill is totally lame and weak – except for one spot – so just keep an eye on your skewers). Serve hot.

24 nibbles at “one down”

  1. Cate says:

    I think I need to come to Colorado right now. GORGEOUS! I’d love some of that steak too!

  2. Rosa says:

    That looks really scrumptious!

    Yes, Colorado is calling ;-P…



  3. Manggy says:

    Grilled *tomato paste* flank steak! Such a simple- but genius- idea. I’m afraid I still haven’t reached the point where I cook by intuition. And that’s after having been through college several times! I think it’s the scientist in me, refusing to break free from the order. I just read a recipe over and over to prepare then fake the natural flow of cooking when I’m in the kitchen.
    Hm, I’d like to hear more about this skin-comfort thing ;)

  4. Fiona says:

    That looks delicious, and it’s an easy marinade I could totally do. But more importantly: what a sweet tribute to your friend. Being a geeky girl in high school is weird, for sure. It can be great, though, under the right circumstances.

    I’m loving NoBloMo so much. Who can I bribe to make you blog every day forever???

  5. Kristin says:

    Nummy, nummy…tomato, s&p, garlic, soy & SESAME OIL! It’s got to be great. Having watched my super-intelligent, geeky, intolerant of fashion,fools & lazy people daughter leave the evils of middle school to go to an incredibly diverse high school, I can relate to your comments. She is who she is & is being accepted & even EMBRACED for that. She’s got conservative (gasp!) friends, fundy (another gasp…I never thought she’d be that accepting at 14, she’s VERY stubborn) friends, gay & lesbian (always been accepting of that…she’s consistently inconsistent in some ways), smart, not-so-smart, pommie, etc friends. It is so nice to see people her own age like her for who she is. And someday I hope that she’ll be as joyful and happy in her own skin as you seem to be. I think we’re on the way.

  6. Caitlin says:

    Ah, makes me wish I had a friend like that in high school. Us nerds were never comfortable in our own skins :P I did, however, have my father, who taught me knife skills, how to cook by feel and taste, and how much fun it was to be in the kitchen. And my mother, who taught me that pie crusts are easy and yeast is fun to play with. So I guess I wasn’t too poorly off!

  7. Carolyn Parker says:

    Even raw meat looks good through your lens. I squeem shooting meat (chicken).

  8. Heather says:

    Um. This post made my stomach growl and my mouth water. For real!!

  9. Pinky says:

    Oh how these pictures of fall in the mountain thrill and sadden me. They are so refreshing to see, and they steel my resolve to move back to the mountains.
    Also, even though I’ve just woke up and am drinking my morning coffee, I want to devour that steak! It looks mouthwatering!

  10. Denise @ There's a Newf in My Soup! says:

    Someday, I will be living in the mountains, somewhere in Colorado or Montana, in my rustic, but elegant “cabin.” That’s my dream and you just keep feeding it with every beautiful photograph you share. I won’t mind standing in elk poop if I can experience the beauty you do every day! Can’t wait to see what you’ve prepared and photographed for the DC – that’s my weekend project. I like the idea of the flank steak on skewers, and I want a few of those Paris time-sensitive treats!

  11. nina says:

    The nature photos are simply spectacular, but then again so is nature, you were just there to capture it so beautifully!!! As for the flank steak kebabs, yum-yum!!! It is making me want to light the grill tonight!!

  12. Kitt says:

    Ooh, tasty. I’m so used to marinating flank steak, grilling it and then slicing it. Definitely trying this way next time. And what a nice tribute to a friend.

  13. Monica says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    A friend suggested your site to me and I’m thrilled with it. (Holy flank steak, I’m ready to try that; and your pics are scrumptious too.) I’m wondering if I might show your site to my creative writing students (I teach at a high school in upstate NY) as an example of food writing; this last post is a perfect example of the kind of piece I’d like them to attempt: food, recipe, memoir, reflection.
    Thanks for a great blog!

  14. Allie says:

    Oh god. oh geez oh god. i am a vegetarian and this is blowin my mind right now. Don’t tell anyone, but if I came to your house and you made this I’d have some anyway. Just so yummmyyyy!

  15. TheKitchenWitch says:

    You were so lucky to have Emily! I wish I’d had her good sense when I was in high school. The skewers look great, too!

  16. Manisha says:

    Everyone should have an Emily!

    I didn’t bring out my grill even once this summer. I could see myself doing this with lamb. Sesame oil, yessss!

  17. Christi says:

    These look great! I also have a question about a previous post (sorry!!!!): I was reading your post about the flourless espresso cake and was wondering if I could convert it to mini versions, like in a mini quiche pan? I’m hosting my sister-in-law’s bridal shower and want to have bite sized treats but am not sure about the baking times or putting a mini quiche pan in a water bath…..(by the way, I made your vanilla macs today to freeze until the party and they smelled AMAZING; great recipe as always, thanks!).

  18. Christi says:

    Oh! I forgot, how far ahead in advance can you make the cakes? can they be frozen? Thank you so much for the great recipes!

  19. Christi says:

    Oh! I forgot, how far ahead in advance can you make the cakes? can they be frozen? Thank you so much!

  20. Tartelette says:

    Ah these pictures! You’ve done Mother Nature right!
    So, your steak marinade recipe gets used already at least once a week at the house w/ steak, pork or chicken. I have a strong feeling this one will too soon!

  21. Mrs Ergül says:

    I it sad that I don’t stay anywhere near that kind of beauty!!

    On a lighter note, these grilled steaks look so good! bookmarked for future use!

  22. Anne says:

    Thank you for telling me what to cook for dinner tonight. It was delicious. I went to Safeway and found $16. worth of Flank Steak on sale for $6.! Double Joy.

  23. The Italian Dish says:

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures this morning and the nice childhood memories.

  24. jenyu says:

    Mark – yup, we need to get you comfortable in your own skin! xxoo

    Fiona – ha ha, if someone paid me a proper salary, I could be convinced to blog daily… but I might just lose my shit ;)

    Kristin – that is so sweet of you. I’m really flattered.

    Monica – oh wow, that’s unexpected! That would be perfectly fine if you want to share with your students but… sometimes I cuss :) Just so you are warned :)

    Christi – I’ve never tried with that recipe, although the flourless chocolate cake recipe that was a daring bakers challenge has been made in small individual pans. They were on the dry side… :( I think if you make the flourless espresso one, you can make it up to 2 days ahead and just keep it tightly sealed in the fridge. Bring to room temp before serving. I couldn’t tell you about making those bite-sized tho. Sorry!

    Anne – yay!!! :)

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