Deep cuts: a summer grilling primer
It’s the best time of year for meat lovers. Here’s how to grill well this summer.
Many of my fondest memories of my late husband, Cosimo, involve him standing at the barbecue—no matter the season, that’s where he could usually be found. One of the first dishes he introduced me to after we got married was a strip loin, cut very thin, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, coated in breadcrumbs and thrown on the grill for a few minutes each side. We were working side by side at the first Pusateri’s on St. Clair, and we never wanted to eat anything too heavy after the shop closed—often past 8 p.m. Cosimo showed me that cooking meat doesn’t have to be complicated, and I still make this recipe today. Paired with a tomato salad, it is the perfect light meal.
I don’t want to generalize for all Italians—and among younger generations, there are vegetarians—but when I was growing up, a meal was not a meal without meat at the table. Our entire family feels the same, which is why, when we expanded from our original St. Clair market, we decided to branch out into cheese, deli, fish and meat. After apprenticing with a butcher in his early 20s, Cosimo took the helm of our meat department. The craft was fascinating to him, and as with everything he did, Cosimo became a master at it.
Back then, Pusateri’s was a real Italian market. All the older ladies would come in once a week for their fresh beef, sausages, chicken—and so much veal. Then there was the lamb, which the community often bought in larger cuts for holidays. And if they wanted something cut a special way, for Cosimo, it was always, “No problem.” He wanted to offer them everything (for me as well, as he brought home excellent steaks).
Nowadays, I’m the one manning the barbecue, equally on casual weeknights and for more involved family get-togethers. I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years: the key ingredient to a successful grill is, of course, the meat. Pusateri’s dry-aged New York strip is a favourite of mine, and our marinated mini Manhattans are another. When company comes, I slice up a large Barbarian steak—some prefer the crispier ends and others the juicier middle. Then there are the marinades: I like a simple salt-and-pepper rub, but when I’m looking for a treat, I turn to our top-selling coffee and black pepper or bourbon marinades.
As for technique, the first step is to make sure your grilling temperature is right to avoid the common problem of incinerating your meat. I make use of the two side burners and leave the middle burner off. Keep the meat just off-centre so it’s not cooking over direct heat. On super high heat, start with a quick sear on all sides to lock in the juices, then bring the temperature down to cook to your preferred “doneness.” Always let it rest for five to 10 minutes.
In the summer, when my kids and grandkids join me for patio season, the barbecue gets packed with other favourites: veal chops, baby back ribs and lamb chops with jumbo shrimp on the side. For one of my lighter favourites, grilled whole branzino, deboned and butterfly-cut, is an easy 10-minute meal. For a meatless option, king oyster mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and peppers make a meal unto themselves. Often, I’ll throw in fresh artichokes, fennel and I even grill cheese, like halloumi, with olive oil and lemon.
Whatever the entree, I try to choose the best, freshest ingredients possible. At Pusateri’s, we always made sure to source our meats from Ontario, and still do today. I’m also fortunate enough to still work with a few butchers who worked alongside Cosimo. They love what they do, and they take a lot of pride in creating the best cut. Just as Cosimo would have wanted.
This Month’s Recipe
One of my favourite grilled dishes is Moroccan-spiced Bone-in Filet served with shaved asparagus and honey-harissa vinaigrette. The flavours are sour, spicy, peppery and pungent, a real wow for your summer table.
Ingredients for Beef Rub
- 4 Dry-Aged bone-in filets
- 8 tsp. Kosher salt
- 4 tsp. Ground black pepper
- 8 tsp. Ground cumin
- 4 tsp. Ground coriander
- 8 tsp. Sweet paprika
- 2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. Ground nutmeg
- Harissa, to taste
- Pre-heat outdoor grill or cast-iron grill pan to medium-high.
- Let filets come to room temperature.
- Mix beef rub ingredients together and rub filets on all sides.
- Grill steaks to desired doneness and rest 10 minutes.
- Plate filets with a dollop of harissa.
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette
- 2 tbsp. Harissa
- 2 tbsp. Rosewood Estates Winery honey
- 2 tbsp. Lemon zest
- 8 tsp. Lemon juice
- 2 tsp. White wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp. Pusateri’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pinch of salt, to taste
Ingredients for the Salad
- 1 bunch Asparagus
- 3 Zucchini
- 2 Red radishes
- Shaved parmesan (or crumbled feta), to garnish
- Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and set aside.
- Trim off the woody ends of the asparagus. Separate into two smaller bunches. Toss the first bunch with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and grill. Shave the second bunch with a vegetable peeler or mandolin to create ribbons. Set aside.
- Cut two zucchini into ¼” strips, toss with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and grill. Shave the remaining zucchini into ribbons and set aside.
- Thinly slice the radishes
- Toss salad ingredients with vinaigrette and garnish with shaved parmesan
Ingredients available at Pusateri’s Fine Foods