Sometimes inspiration comes during a daydream, other times an inspired pairing another chef prepares gets the gears turning in my head. This week though, it was all about the ingredients.
It’s the end of summer, but my cherry tomato plant seems hell-bent on overwhelming me with ludicrously sweet, amber pearls of deliciousness. Up till now, my yield has been kind of low, because I can’t help but pop the sun-warmed sugar bombs in my mouth while I’m harvesting them. But even my wanton snacking can’t keep this tomato bush down for long.
A trip to the Saturday farmers market at OxBow last weekend turned up some mission figs, weeping droplets of thick sticky nectar from their bottoms. I couldn’t help but think about the volcano of sweet tomatoes that were erupting back at home. The idea of making a cobbler with these two crossed my mind, but that would have just been crazy.
On my way back from the farmers market, I stopped by the grocery store to see what they had in terms of proteins. As it turned out, they had one really amazing looking tri-tip with the kind of marbling you’d expect from a full-breed wagyu cow. I also found a bin full of red cipollini onions.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with cipollini’s they’re like the Mission Fig of the onion kingdom. Shaped like thin flat pucks, when roasted and given the time to caramelize they truly taste like they’re glazed in brown sugar.
I hadn’t made it to the check-out line yet when the inspiration for this dish hit me. The idea was to give the beef a savory brown crust, while roasting the fruits and veggies to give them a natural sweetness that would act almost like chutney, balancing out the salt on the meat.
While it takes a bit of time to roast the onions properly, it’s worth being patient. The trifecta of sweet fruits and veggies creates a roasted “jam” that makes the perfect accompaniment for the savory beef. To finish it off, I topped the platter with some hydroponic watercress that added a nice contrasting color and a green peppery flavor as well.
Beef Tri-Tip with Roasted Figs, Tomatoes and Onions
This beef tri-tip recipe allows the sweetness of the fruits to act on juices in the meat for a delicious dinner with roasted figs, tomatoes, and onions. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto breaks down how the flavors act together in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 2 pounds beef tri-tip
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 8 ounces cipollini onions
- 8 ounces black mission figs
- 8 ounces yellow cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- A few sprigs watercress for garnish
- salt & pepper
- At least an hour before you plan to cook it and up to 24 hours in advance, generously salt and pepper the beef. If you're using kosher salt, it should form a thin crust on the outside of the meat like in the photo above. Place the meat uncovered on a rack set over a baking sheet in the refrigerator.
- Toss the cipollini onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then put them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes at 375 degrees f. Toss the tomatoes and figs in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper, then add them to the roasted cipollini onions and continue roasting until the tomatoes and figs are soft and caramelized.
- As soon as the figs and tomatoes are in the oven, start the beef. Rub both sides of the beef with the vegetable oil. Heat a cast iron skillet or enameled cast iron pot over high heat until very hot.
- Place the beef on the hot cast iron pan and place a heavy pot or bowl filled with water on the beef to press it down. The weight prevents the meat from curling and helps the beef get a nice even brown crust. Once you have a brown crust on one side, flip the beef over and brown the other side, applying the weight again.
- Once both sides are browned, place the pan in the oven along with the roasting vegetables. Roast the tri tip until an instant read thermometer reads the temperature you want it (130 degrees F for medium rare). Remove the beef from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Allow the beef to rest for 15 minutes, so the juices don't all run out and make your meat dry.
- Once the beef has had a chance to rest, slice it thinly against the grain and serve it with the roasted vegetables and watercress.
Yield: 6 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a food blogger and photographer who spreads his passion for food through his websites norecipes.com and wanderingcook.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blogs in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.