I was asked to make something fast for my daughter and myself, and I had a hankering for something a little different. I can pan sear steak with the best of them but I wanted something fast and simple. My daughter suggested tacos, but I was thinking what I would see in a plate of fajitas, and it is essentially marinated steak, bell pepper strips and onions. So, I went to the local carniceria and found a beautiful red pepper and some nice thinly sliced steak (0.7 lb), so I also bought the chicken my wife wanted and some flour tortillas and headed home.

We prepared a fajita style marinade as so:

Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced.
salt to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
add water till the steak was covered.

The steak and marinade were placed in a bowl, wrapped in plastic and allowed to sit in the refrigerator.

In the meantime we cut up 1 green and 1 red pepper and 1/2 yellow onion and 1/2 red onion. We placed the veggies in a bowl for the time being.

The longer you marinate, the more flavor you’ll get. Some people add cumin to the marinade, others add cilantro, and still others add jalapeno pepper. Some even add tequila! Still others marinate the peppers with the steak.  In Keith Law’s blog, he uses a dry rub for his fajitas. This is a place where some inventiveness will help you. Look at some other recipes for fajita marinades to get ideas.

After the steak was marinated enough (the longer the better for sure, and overnight is probably best. We did it an hour. We were hungry), we took it out of the fridge and cut it into thin strips. This aids in the cooking. For that matter, if you cut the steak before marinating, it will marinate faster (increased surface area).

If you want the steak to have a more grilled appearance, you’ll need to use a pan at a high heat and probably start cooking the steak first. As this can leave a kitchen absolutely full of smoke, I chickened out and just added a tbsp of oil at medium-high heat, let the pan warm up and tossed in everything – steak, onions, peppers – at once. I cooked until the steak was done, no hint of red and with the vegetables soft and moist. I had my daughter try the meat and when we were satisfied, we removed the food from the skillet, drained the juices, poured it all into a bowl. We provided a spoon and flour tortillas and allowed anyone to have at it.

It looked great, and would have been great over a bed of rice, too.

If you’re a bachelor, then sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with ways to jazz up your food, make it a little better. I can’t solve every cooking problem or every cooking issue, but we’ll list a trick every so often to help you on your cooking way.

1) If you’re making spaghetti and using one of the commercial spaghetti sauce packets with tomato sauce (or canned sauce) and meat, I’ll offer a couple ways to make it a better sauce. First, double the amount of ground beef they recommend. It makes the sauce richer, it makes the sauce more like a meal. Second, get a large bell pepper or two, sliced mushrooms perhaps,  and a triangle of parmesan cheese. No, not ground cheese, a real chunk of parmesan cheese. If you have access to a cheese shop and can get parmigiano-reggiano, that would even be better, but a chunk of parmesan from Wisconsin will be far better than anything you can get preground and in a can. Get a grater too, while you’re at it, if you don’t have one.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

Follow the instructions on the packet, add the meat. Core and devein the pepper, then cut the pepper into strips or squares and toss that into the sauce. Before you’re done with the sauce, grate some cheese. Don’t grate too much, as a little parmesan goes a long way. Toss it into the sauce, stir thoroughly and taste test. Add pepper, basil, garlic  or other spices as desired.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

I’ve seen bachelor friends try this and go from, “My mom makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world” to “Oh, that’s pretty good” and helping themselves to seconds.

Now obviously this isn’t the only way to improve on a spaghetti packet, or that can of Ragu. Other sites that offer ways to improve a sauce are here and here. And finally, though parmigiano-reggiano is about the most expensive cheese I know, outside of artisanal cheeses, since it’s used more to enhance flavors than be the meal, you don’t need much, you don’t use much, and if you keep it cool and dry, it keeps forever.