Al Mio Padre—For My Father

Frederick C Raffetto

Frederick C Raffetto

It seems only fitting on this Father’s Day 2015 to dedicate this post to my Dad.  Although he is no longer living, he left us with life lessons that remain with us and hopefully passed onto generations to come.  Two things that come to mind today are his love and respect of good food and generosity of spirit.  For the first 10 years of my life my father and uncle owned a restaurant that evolved over three generations of their family.  I vividly remember sitting on the counter of the large kitchen and watching as food was prepared, always in awe of the large kettles and the aromas they emitted.  The pantry was another favorite of mine. The distinct smell of coffee was always present and to this day it carries me back.  Just seeing all the food stored so neatly on the shelves waiting to be turned into something delicious gave me a thrill.  This could possibly explain my need to keep a well stocked pantry in my home.  It serves as inspiration for future recipes and kitchen creations. photo

Having grown  up during the great depression, he spoke often of his gratitude for his family not suffering the extreme hardships many others endured.  Occasionally people would show up at the restaurant or at our home in need of something to eat but having no money.  My father never turned them away.  He made sure when they departed they left their hunger behind, at least for the moment.  Driven by deep faith, he believed if he helped the less fortunate his family would never go hungry, and so it was.  We didn’t eat fancy but there was always abundant food.  I try to live by his example and hopefully passed those values onto my children and grandchildren.

Today also marks the first official day of summer so today my featured recipe involves grilling meat.  My dad also really loved beef so that is what I used but if beef is not your thing, you could easily substitute chicken, pork or fish as your protein.  I am talking tacos, a perfect meal for those days when heating up the kitchen is just wrong.  What gives the meat its flavor is the marinade.  For maximum benefit let the meat marinate overnight but if you are short on time I recommend at least an hour.  If using skirt steak as I did, remember to let it rest after cooking so the juices can be reabsorbed and always slice thin against the grain to enhance the tenderness.  IMG_9089

Here is how it goes down.

Cantina Steak Tacos with Lime                            Serves 4

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

  • 2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of extra fat and silver skin if necessary
  • 3 c of orange juice
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 T cumin powder
  • 1 ½ t Worcestershire sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 avocados, peeled and smashed with a fork
  • 1-2 limes or more if desired
  • ¼ t adobo sauce from a can of chipotles or hot sauce (more if desired)
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, divided
  • 1 white onion, diced or scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 tomato, chunked or wedged
  • 1 package small corn tortillas (about a dozen)
  • Combine orange juice, garlic powder, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl or zip lock bag.
  • Place your steak into the bowl or bag with the marinade. Let soak for a minimum of 1 hour, although overnight is preferable.
  • Heat a pan (preferably cast iron) on high heat on stove or grill. Remove the meat from the marinade and dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper each side. Sear marinated skirt steak for about 1 ½ minutes on each side for medium rare.
  • Place on a cutting board and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Cut the meat across the grain into thin slices.
  • While meat is cooking prepare smashed avocado by adding the juice of  ½ – 1 lime depending on personal taste. Add the adobo or hot sauce, chopped scallion and ¼ c of cilantro, chopped. Season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
  • Place a tortilla on a preheated pan and cook for 30 seconds on each side or warm wrapped in a clean cotton towel in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes while meat is resting.
  • Prepare tacos by first taking a warm tortilla and filling them with meat and then topping them with avocado mixture, diced onion and tomato.
  • Sprinkle with cilantro.
  • Cut lime into angled wedges and then cut the wedges into thirds. Before eating tacos, squeeze the lime overtop for extra zest.

IMG_9064When we cook steak, we place a cast iron pan on the grill, heat it until it is screaming hot and cook it in there for a really good sear.  The skirt steak received the same treatment.  Make sure to dry the meat first or the sear will be compromised.  The combination of the orange juice and the lime adds a brightness to the meat and the use of fresh ingredients bring in the summer.  If you are in a hurry you could just slice the avocado rather than making the guacamole but if you have leftovers the lime keeps the avocado from browning so it is good to go for the next meal.  This Mexican inspired, family friendly recipe will become a regular on your table, I feel certain.IMG_9078

In closing, I would like to say to all good dads and others who are in rolls to influence children, thank you for all you do to shape the future of our country.  Remember always that you are being watched closely and leading by example is a gift that will live forever in the hearts of those you have touched.  Whether it’s tacos or another favorite, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Food made with love nourishes the body and the soul.  I send you all best wishes for a Happy Summer Solstice.  Until next time, happy cooking and good eating.  Jeanne


Heirloom Tomato

Heirloom Tomato

Summer's Jewel

Summer’s Jewel

4 responses to “Al Mio Padre—For My Father

  1. Jeanne–what a lovely tribute to your father. And of course a delectable dish!–Debi/Driftless Depot

  2. Thank you, Debi. I have been thinking about you and assume with summer, you are quite busy, Still hoping to make it to Spring Green soon. Can’t wait to see what’s new at your place. Hope all is well with you. Jeanne

  3. Elizabeth Palmer

    Foods, smells, can evoke such wonderful memories. Your essay reminded me of a few from my past. Our departed loved ones are often just a recipe away!

  4. Thanks, Elizabeth. That is so true. I have some of my Moms and grandma’s recipes written in their hand. I love just looking at them. It was so wonderful to meet you finally. Thanks so much for being a loyal reader and for your comments. I believe we are kindred spirits. Jeanne

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