Sunsets are beautiful, no matter where you are.
In a rented 24-foot truck filled with tables, benches, suitcases and snacks, I joined my friend Sarah on a 2000 mile roadtrip from Texas to Massachusetts. Our journey took us to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even through New Jersey and New York for blink-of-an-eye moments. We collected stories in every state we visited – of the young woman who had bought her first home on a peaceful tree-lined street, of the mom raising three kids who finally had the perfect place for them all to celebrate the life they had been given, of the wife who fell in love with the TV show Parenthood and then fell even more in love with her own family.
We fell in love too, with tear-stained faces that longed to pour out their lives for the marginalized, and with Walter, an 80-year old spitfire who tells the best corny jokes and greeted us with “when’s the pahdee stahting?”
The tables and benches met their families on our journey. We met new family on the journey too. And everywhere we traveled, there was the moment when the sun whispered its “see you tomorrow” in a blaze of gold and red and lapis. Growing up in Oklahoma, I always thought we had the most beautiful sunsets. Then I moved to Texas and found them to be exquisite too. I’ve seen sunsets that have taken my breath away in Guatemala and Kenya. And no matter the state we visited, we’d hear,”Did you see the sunset? There’s nothing like a sunset here.”
Yes, sunsets are beautiful, no matter where you are.
All along the way, we celebrated our roadtrip with folks who invited us into their homes for a little rest and good conversation and lovely food. We had Kentucky Hot Brown, Derby Pie, Carrot Salad (which has no raisins – praise Jesus), and homemade bread with ricotta and honey.
Long after the sun had set in Ohio, Sarah’s family welcomed us with hugs and pasta and what might possibly be the best salsa I’ve ever eaten. Uncle Les was kind enough to share the recipe (along with a tour of his music studio and all his guitars, a peek at the deer stand in the woods behind his home, and the magnums of wine he had made, because he just might be a bonafide Renaissance man). The salsa takes just a bit of time to make, but it’s very much worth it. The smoky heat is perfection.
Today, I’m missing Uncle Les and Walter and Michele and Kristin. Today, I’m even missing the bouncy loud ride in the cab of that truck. Today, I’m missing talks about God and dreams and sandwiches made with peanut butter and candied jalapeños or bananas and Miracle Whip (yes, Sarah and I both confessed our strangest food combinations to each other). Today, I am longing for a good sunset and great conversation around the table. There can never be too many moments at the table, don’t you think?
So today, I’m sharing salsa with you. Actually, I’m sharing the whole recipe Uncle Les calls one of the best things around – Tecate Skirt-Steak Tacos. The salsa alone is worth the effort, and the rest is certainly reason for a party. Maybe it’s time for me to mark one more thing off my adventure list – to host a big picnic with all the fixings. You’d most certainly be invited! I’d love to know – what recipe would you bring to the party?
Tecate Skirt-Steak Tacos (from The Mission in Scottsdale, Arizona)
makes 4 servings
1 pound skirt steak, silver skin removed, cut into 6″ pieces (or you can use thinly sliced flank or New York strip steak)
1 12-oz. can pale lager (like Tecate)
4 T. fresh lime juice, divided
1 t. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
1 T. olive oil
2 large plum tomatoes, cored
1/2 small can chipotle chili in adobo, coarsely chopped
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro
8 fresh corn tortillas
Avocado slices, crumbled Cotija cheese, and lime wedges (for serving)
Combine steak, beer, 1 T. lime juice, 1 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper in a resealable plastic bag. Seal and chill for at least 3 hours.
Cook onion, garlic, and oil in a small skillet over medium heat until soft and translucent. Let cool.
Prepare a grill for high heat. Grill tomatoes over high heat, turning occasionally until well charred but still holding their shape, 6-8 minutes. NOTE: THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP, AND DON’T TRY TO DO THIS ON THE STOVE.
Reduce grill to medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and grill until charred, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let steak rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend onion and garlic, tomatoes, chipotle, and remaining 3 T. lime juice in a blender until smooth. Add chopped cilantro, season with salt, and pulse until just combined. Transfer salsa to a small bowl.
Grill tortillas until soft and beginning to char, about 30 seconds per side. Slice steak against the grain into 1/2″ strips. Top each tortilla with a few pieces of steak, then some salsa, avocado, and cheese, and add a lime wedge for a little bright punch of flavor. Serve with friends that feel like family, and watch a beautiful sunset, no matter where you are.