cooking tools to pack for vacation + genius steak recipe + switching running shoes

plus green kitchen ideas for earth week (and every week)

Greetings from Hilton Head! Andrew and I got our vaccines (mine is not quite two weeks out) and decided to take a small vacation in SC, mainly to give Avi some sun and beach. I am anemic at best with this newsletter, but I swear my intentions are to be super-regular about it. Turns out that nearly full-time work at the Post + a few other projects I hope to talk about soon take up more time than hours in the day, weekends included. It’s now Thursday, I started this draft on Monday and have been trying to write it every morning, but cough someone cough has been cough waking up early cough every morning and then cough talking my ear off about various ship wrecks.

vacation cooking arsenal: The first time Andrew and I went away anywhere together, I packed a knife bag with what I considered my must-have cooking tools, and he looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. These days, he is one to remind me to bring a Microplane grater and a corkscrew (ever wanted to pop open a bottle of wine on vacation and realized there wasn’t a corkscrew in your kitchen drawers?) Everyone is different, but here are the things I bring when we stay in a rental home.

  • chef’s and paring knives

  • regular and tiny whisks

  • corkscrew

  • microplane rasp grater

  • regular and tiny silicone spatulas

  • maldon flaky sea salt

  • small offset and fish spatulas

  • y-shaped vegetable peeler

  • bialetti moka pot (+ ground illy coffee)

  • wooden spoon

  • kitchen shears

I also made a dry-ingredient mix of my favorite buttermilk pancakes I wrote about recently. As well as a snacking cake mix from a truly delightful SNACKING CAKES by Yossi Arefi.

stuff i love: For the week we’re on Hilton Head, I’ve been trying to go running every day. I don’t go far—about 20 to 25 minutes total—but I’m hoping the flat road helps me build endurance, something that’s pretty hard to do in very hilly area of Maryland where we live. I’ve been using my Peloton app (and sharing the results on Instagram) to track my runs and keep myself honest. It helps me to show up even if I really don’t want to lace up my shoes. For the first time since I started running in my twenties, I have switched to new brand of running shoes and went from being a devoted Asics runner to a Brooks one; I got these Brooks Ghost 13 shoes and I couldn’t love them more. Running shoes are personal and it’s always better to go to a running store and try them on with a knowledgeable salesperson, but in these pandemic days, I took the plunge with Road Runner Sports. If you’ve never heard of this store (online and brick-and-mortar), I recommend checking them out, and keep in mind their own brand of running clothes is excellent. Their $1.99/year VIP membership is worth signing up for!

I finally (!) jumped on board of Swedish dishcloths and boy do I love them! They do everything paper towels can, but aren’t as wasteful and can be reused dozens and dozens of times. To refresh them, stick them in the dishwasher and when they’re spent, you can throw them in the compost. We barely use paper towels now; keeping them on hand for really gross clean-ups, like Forrest throwing up a hairball.

live: Earth Week was last week, but at our house we’re making our best effort to live Earth Day daily, from reducing consumption of single-use plastic (more on that later) to composting to reusing old things. To that last item, I’m endlessly inspired by Erin Boyles of Reading My Tea Leaves blog in her incredible ability to breathe new life into things others might have discarded. Erin suggests perusing your sidewalks, local Buy Nothing Group, Craigslist, thrift and antique shops, and repairing what you have before acquiring a brand-new object. Her suggestions aren’t prescriptive or judgmental. Instead, Erin offers her own projects are a jumping-off point for your own customized approach that works best for you.

My colleagues and I put together lots of Earth Day (week/month/year/life) ideas for you in a special “green” issue. I wrote about simple and uncluttered ways of cleaning your kitchen, while my boss, Joe Yonan, shared 5 recipes for seed-to-stem cooking, and my colleagues Aaron Hutcherson and Matt Brooks compiled ideas on how to “green” up your kitchen. Kari Sonde wrote about reducing plastic wrap use in the kitchen + there are ideas on greening up your grocery shopping + starting to compost (if you aren’t sure where to begin).

cook: By accident and sheer laziness, I stumbled upon a genius steak recipe, which I want to share with you. I rarely call any recipe—let alone one I develop—genius, but this one’s truly amazing and tastes so much better than the sum of their parts. I know that suggesting you cook steak right after my Earth Week ode as well as on the heels of Epicurious announcing they’re no longer publishing new beef recipes (and haven’t for a year), I’m—as the kids say—not reading the room, but in our household, we eat beef about once every 4 weeks and we try our best to source from more sustainable/humane places.

I doubt I’m the only person who does this with steak, but I threw it together on a lark one night when I was desperate to do something quick, inexpensive, easy, and flavorful. I’m writing it up for 1 pound of steak, but you can easily scale this “recipe” up. Don’t get hung up on exact amounts; it’s a pretty forgiving dish.

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brown sugar skirt steak
makes about 4 servings, along with lots of vegetable sides

I like the flavor of dark brown sugar here, but in a pinch light brown sugar will work great too. Out of brown sugar? Make your own by mixing granulated sugar and molasses together (about 1 cup granulated to 1 tablespoon molasses, or more to taste). This also works well with other kinds of butcher’s cuts steaks, such as flank, bavette, hanger, and so on.

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (light brown is ok too)
1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 pound skirt steak

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and pepper until combined. Rub the mixture all over the steak, then transfer to a shallow container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 12 hours.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the steak, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (it will help the meat to cook more evenly).

Heat a grill or grill pan (cast iron skillet works as well) on medium-high until you can hold your hand a few inches above the heat for no longer than a few seconds. Lightly oil the grates of the grill or grill pan. Using tongs, place the steak on the grill (or grill pan or skillet) and sear the steak, flipping midway through, until done to your liking. I cook ours to medium-rare, or until the internal temperature registers about 130 to 135°F. (On my grill, it takes about 2 minutes per side; and I’d rather undercook than overcook.) Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let sit for about 10 minutes.

While the steak sits, make a salad, pour yourself a glass of wine, and/or set the table. When ready to serve, slice the steak against the grain and serve with salad, rice, whatever you like.

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As usual, I hope to be back soon (fingers crossed)!

xo,
olga