My camera broke last week. Last Thursday, specifically. Two days after we returned from Seattle. It was not a particularly spectacular break. No "camera overboard!" cries, off a Washington State Ferry. No minute-long falls from atop the orange Needle. It was all rather dull, in the event, one photo of a flower that sounded a little odd. Less *click!*, more *cli-grrrrr.
And then, nothing.
Well, not nothing, exactly. The small screen displayed ERR, where the f-stop once was. I think, technically, ERR stands for Error. But ERR seemed spot-on, no elaboration necessary. As in, "If you think I've any intention of snapping another, you ERR, you silly, silly girl."
(Camera humor. Dark, stubborn stuff.)
(Seattle public art. Wacky, wonderful stuff.)
But after the usual Fudges and Fiddlesticks, it occurred to me to think, oh, thank goodness. Thank goodness it didn't break, say, two days earlier, while we were wrapping our Seattle stay. Or worse, two weeks earlier, when our trip had just begun.
And then, approximately 9 seconds later, I thought, what would it have mattered? Really?
It wouldn't have.
Because every trip we take back is very much like the other, and each very much like the life we left behind, and not very much like I think most see Seattle.
It dawned on me, this time around, that Seattle has grown up (again). Has become (is becoming) ever-denser, -bigger, -hipper. Not as hip as Portland, say. (Far too few food trucks, far too much traffic.) But hip enough to have this weird caché, that perplexes and amuses me in equal measure.
Seattle, to me, is that stellar friend, successful, smart, funny, fun, witty and good, whom you've known since before all that. Since really bad hair cuts and truculent pimples and that truly unfortunate neon biking short phase. Since you were just you, and they were just them, and the both of you were plain old vanilla nobodies.
(Before vanilla was loaded with bean flecks. Or fancy prefixes like "Premium" and "French".)
That's the Seattle I know, love and crave, the one I long to return to each year. The slug-studded hikes through old neighborhood parks, where Banana versus European Red counts qualify as entertainment. Concrete-colored beaches, barnacled, treacherous, driftwood-rich, pebble-generous. Utterly marvelous. The still-thrilling rush of a ferry's front deck. Whiskery air, salt-prickled and crisp. Honey Bear chocolate peanut butter layer cake, four stories high, four star-worthy.
(Man does not live on Voxx coffee alone. Close, very close. But not quite completely.)
The hush and the dense and the weight of those forests, stippled with sunlight, achingly green. Those forests where Sasquatch seems not only possible, but probable, perhaps even perfectly normal. Where the colors are muted and the hues, so hushed, it seems someone turned down the dimmer switch. (I've never been much one for jewel tones, which I've always chalked up to my pale complexion. It occurred to me, this recent visit, that maybe it was just my native surroundings.)
Except for those days the blue's bright, the sun blinding. Seattle struts its stuff, come August.
Building epic sand cities with whatever's around. Imagineering ships from root balls on empty beaches with new friends. Crashing kitchens and couches of friends known forever. Taking in science, seals and Molly Moon's with Mamo. (Re-)acquainting the kids with the joys of terriyaki, two minor mountains, the ubiquity of hills.
(Best quote of the trip, from a walk with Henry: "Now here's something you don't see everyday: HILLS!")
Same stuff as last time.
Same stuff as always.
So similar, the camera was superfluous.
But, the thing is? It never gets old.
I could say the same of the following steak. This steak is The Steak, the only steak I make, or at least the only one I return to. Steak is a special guest in our home, stuff of friends, gatherings and celebrations. Years ago, after botching several precious cuts, I stumbled upon Mark Bittman's grilled marinated flank steak. It was simple, and excellent, and worked like a charm, so much so I've never seen fit to look farther.
That was before my oldest was born. He turns twelve (!!!!!!!!!!!!) this coming week. Even eaten occasionally, that's a lot of steak.
What we're talking about, here, is flank steak, steeped in a bath of lime, soy, garlic and ginger. I've adjusted a bit over the years, upping the aromatics, pinning down the salt and pepper, portioning the meat to better soak up its drink. Lately, I've taken to using strip steak, another flavorful, well-marbled, grill-friendly cut. Also, I've increased the marinating time slightly. Bittman suggests 30-60 minutes. I prefer 12-24 hours.
After spending the night in this heady brew, said steak is arranged on a medium-hot grill. A lacquering-caramelizing kind of thing happens, the marinade's salts and sugars getting jiggy with the meat's ordinary Maillard. Meanwhile, the interior gently cooks/smokes, taking on that incomparable grilled beef goodness.
(An aside: I've broiled. I've seared. I've shaken my head. I wish it weren't so, but it's just not the same. Grill or bust; stove and oven won't do. I now consider this late-spring-through-early fall food.)
The finished steak is fluent in lime, its citrus squinch counterpoint to beef's buttery point. Ginger's sweet warmth is felt throughout, as is garlic's rich, nutty baritone. The soy does double-duty, seasoning the meat, while cheering on the beef's inherent umami.
All of which is to say, this is no shy steak. If marinade-as-veneer is what you are after, gauzy flavor, whiffs and hints, then this is not the path for you. If, however, you take your steak gutsy, schooled in sparkle and zip and oomph, then may I suggest one fine candidate? It may not forever be your one and only. But if you're anything like me, it may be a few decades before you tire of it.
(Oh, and the camera?
After days in the dog house, a dedicated googling/trouble-shooting session revealed a likely jammed shutter. Flip, toggle, snip, snap, and she roared back to life, *click!*.
Here's to happy endings. )
Marinated Grilled Ginger Lime Flank Steak
adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman
I almost always double this, as leftovers are nearly better than first-overs. Think cold slices stuffed into sandwiches, or scattered throughout salads, or fried up with peppers and onions, fajita-style. (Completely excellent.) Or eaten, standing, in front of the fridge, fork in one hand, smile in the other. Besides, the grill's already going, and when did anyone ever complain about "leftovers" when suffixed with "steak"?
I grill on a standard-issue, charcoal-fueled black Weber kettle. Please adjust grilling times and techniques to your chosen kit.
Please allow 4-24 hours to marinate.
4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed (from 1-2 limes)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt per pound (2-3 teaspoons, total)
freshly ground pepper, 10-15 grinds
2 pounds strip steak OR 1 flank steak, 2 - 2 1/2 pounds
Combine all ingredients, except steak, in a shallow casserole (I use an 8 x 13" Pyrex), and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. If using flank steak, slice into 3-4 pieces, each 4-6" across. Set steak in marinade, swoosh around a bit, and flip over, such that both sides have met with the marinade. Refrigerate steak and marinade in the casserole, at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
The next day, 30 minutes before dining, fill a chimney starter with charcoal, and light. Remove steak from refrigerator, and set aside, to take off the chill. When charcoal is gray and smoldering, 15-20 minutes, empty onto one side of grill, banking coals to create hot and moderate zones. Return grate, replace lid, and let grate heat until hot, 5 minutes. Carefully, using tongs, arrange steaks on the hot side of the grill, then let them sit, undisturbed, 3-4 minutes. After 3 minutes, check the undersides: you're looking for an easy release, good color, and respectable grill marks. (If steaks begin to char or flare up, nudge them toward the cooler zone.) When steaks release easily and show color (3-5 minutes, depending on size and thickness of steak), flip steaks and sear the other side, another 2-3 minutes. I tend toward a medium-well steak, and so at this point, move steaks over to the cooler zone for a few minutes, to finish cooking. Your choice.
When steaks are done to your likeness, remove to a platter, and cover with foil. Allow to rest, 15 minutes, then thinly slice, against the grain, and plate with their juices.