I’ve got some great karma when it comes to food. It’s like I won a lottery at birth, the prize being that I have additional sensitivities when it comes to flavors and smells; I am able to discern and identify them, even in unfamiliar combinations, and incorporate them into my daily (cooking) lifestyle. I did not inherit this from anyone I know of in my family — it’s just my gift to be able to take simple food and make it taste good — no, great.

When I embarked on a diet last May I had to find a way to make some pretty bland food come to life and learn to replace fat, sugar and salt with flavor, texture and fiber, and I did. Now, cooking more dietetically and healthily as I do, while I still love my salt, once served a plate of my food no-one has any need to reach for the salt shaker. Use of spices and herbs is a delicate balance; you can overdo and you can under-do. Sticking with what you know to be tried and true is a rule of thumb I have learned to heed.

For a dozen years I lived in Georgia, where not only do they over-salt everything but they also add fat to everything too, for instance when they fry anything from veggies to bologna (yes they fry bologna), and the result is both unhealthy and for me just flat out difficult to eat. They also call things by a different name sometimes, which can lead to disaster! The first time I asked a Georgia butcher for a tri-tip he gave me a piece of mystery meat that ended up having to be cooked like a pot roast. Not that the Pot Roast wasn’t delicious, but I had really wanted tri-tip. That was my first Georgia lesson: Ask not for tri-tip but for “sirloin roast”!!!

So the next time I did that, got just what I wanted, cooked it to perfection (medium rare), and was so elated that I went back to thank the butcher and tip him! Apparently I have been in the restaurant biz ‘way too long, as he took the tip reluctantly, with his head cocked to one side like my Jack Russell terrier Rosie does when I ask her algebra questions!! Or like I do when she answers!!!

The Greek Salad is a favorite of mine, and this is a very traditional dressing which I find works best and should be tossed at the table right before you serve it.

Spice Rubbed Tri Tip
Preheat oven to 500ºF with convection fan on if available. Have ready a large shallow pan with a roasting rack. Actually, the rack is optional; I for one trim the fat first and don’t need it.

Take tri-tip out about a hour before cooking. Wash and trim fat and season with:
1 tsp. seasoned salt, whichever is your favorite, I switch it up between a few different ones.
1 tsp. garlic salt (Lawry’s is best, as it has big pieces of garlic, salt and parsley.)
1 tsp. Goya Adobo Seasoning (You’ll hear me mention this wonder spice over and over; it can be found in the Latino or ethnic food section of most grocery stores.
Fresh cracked pepper to taste (My roast is black when I get through with it!)
1 tbs. paprika
4-5 cloves fresh garlic pressed
Rub these ingredients all over tri-tip and set aside. (For those who like spicier flavor, add some red pepper flakes and let sit in the ‘fridge for three hours, then take out and let sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking.)
Turn the oven down to 450ºF and roast for 20-30 minutes for medium rare on a two- to three-pound roast.
To check for done-ness do not cut or stab; press on the meat. Remember, if you take it out too soon you can always put it back after you let it rest for at least 5 minutes, but if you over-cook it you can’t hit the undo button! After a few tries you’ll, well, get to know your meat!
When it’s done, remove, tent loosely with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Sautéed ‘Shrooms:
In the meantime sauté your ‘shrooms. I like to use any and all kinds of mushrooms, so go forth and experiment!!!
In a large shallow skillet over high heat, add:
Olive oil to coat bottom of pan — let it get good and hot but not smoking. Add:
2 large packages sliced mushooms (any variety)
Stirring occasionally and leaving little areas for the steam to escape, watch closely and about half way through turn heat down to medium. Do not add any seasoning ’til the end when all water has evaporated from your ‘shrooms, then just add a little soy sauce or kosher salt and fresh pepper. Then it’s done, so put it on the back burner on the very lowest setting.

Greek Salad:
1 package baby greens
1/2 cup rough chopped Kalamata olives, pitted
3 small cucumbers, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1 package small grape or cherry tomatoes (whole)
2/3 cup chopped or crumbled feta cheese (I use reduced-calorie — just as good, less salty, holds together better)

Greek Dressing:
In a jar or a shaker, add:
4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup) (that’s one tbs. per person)
Juice of one lemon (1/4 cup)
1 tsp. dried or fresh oregano
Lemon pepper (fresh ground if possible)
1 tsp. thyme dried
1 tsp. sugar
Goya Adobo Seasoning or kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste (AGAIN, this means really TASTE it!!!) And remember that feta cheese and the olives are both very salty, so adjust for that as well.

When you are satisfied with the temp on the roast and it has rested sufficiently, slice it against the grain and serve with its own juices and the mushrooms on the side. Toss the salad at the table and serve!

And as always, Enjoy!!!
© Jennifer Green Alger 2010