MENU: A California Ranch Dinner

Inspired by the humble yet beautiful ranch food of Central California, we're cooking up a feast of west coast staples: empanadas, tri-tip tacos, stewed beans, onion and olive enchiladas, grilled romaine with blue cheese and bacon, and bright apricot tarts. The Menu

Planning Tips
  1. The empanadas can be made days in advance and fried off just before serving.

  2. These Cal-Mex-style enchiladas are completely vegetarian. Make sure you use canned pitted olives, such as Lindsay brand, or any of the varieties we recommend in Uncanny Flavor.

  3. Tri-tip steak, also called Newport, Santa Maria, or triangle steak, comes from the lean bottom sirloin. We love it seasoned with cumin and rosemary as a tender filling for tacos, but it also works great as a filling for sandwiches, or simply rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary and grilled over a fire.

  4. In California ranch country, you can't have tri-tip without beans. This version is an update to Santa-Maria style beans, featuring both kidney and pinto beans with chickpeas stewed in a rich tomato base, brightened with bell peppers, fresh salsa, cilantro, and jalapeños.

  5. The Apricot Tarts can be prepared ahead of time. If you don't want to feature apricots, other stone fruits such as peaches and plums work beautifully.

  6. To read more about California Ranch life, see Georgia Freedman's story California Eternal.

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RECIPE: Tri-Tip Tacos
The beef cut of choice for California barbecue and grilling, tri-tip steak (also called Newport, Santa Maria, or triangle steak) comes from the lean bottom sirloin. Here it's sliced and seasoned with rosemary, chiles, garlic, and cumin in a tender filling for tacos.



2 lb. whole tri-tip steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓cup olive oil
¼ cup rosemary leaves
6 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 large poblano chiles
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dark chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
Warm corn tortillas, for serving
Tomato salsa, for serving (optional)

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1. Season steak with salt and pepper, and rub with 3 tbsp. olive oil, rosemary, and garlic; wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

2. Heat broiler to high. Place chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet, and broil, turning as needed, until blackened all over, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until cooled, about 30 minutes. Remove stems, skins, and seeds; roughly chop, and set aside.

3. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.) Remove steak from marinade, and transfer to grill; cook fat-side down, flipping once, until charred and cooked to desired done-ness, about 50 minutes for medium. Transfer steak to a cutting board, and let rest for 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in reserved chiles along with chile powder, cumin, and salt and pepper; remove from the heat.

5. Thinly slice meat against the grain, and then roughly chop; combine with onion and chile mixture in a serving bowl, and serve with tortillas and salsa, if you like.

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RECIPE: Grilled Romaine Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon
Fresh heads of romaine lettuce are split down the middle, grilled until charred and smoky, and then topped with blue cheese and bacon for this satisfying salad.



6 strips bacon
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
5 heads romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise, rinsed and dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

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1. Heat bacon in a 12" skillet over medium heat, and cook, turning once, until crisp and fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate, reserving 2 tbsp. drippings, and let cool; crumble and set aside. Transfer reserved drippings to a bowl, and add oil, vinegar, and Worcestershire; whisk until smooth, and set dressing aside.

2. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat.) Working in batches, if necessary, place romaine halves cut-side down on grill, and cook, turning once, until charred and slightly wilted, about 4 minutes.

3. Transfer lettuce cut-side up to a serving platter, and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with reserved bacon and blue cheese.