SOURCE: The Beef Checkoff

January 25, 2010 09:00 ET

Back to Basics

Making Weekday Meals With What's on Hand

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - January 25, 2010) - Dinner is the perfect time for families to reconnect and enjoy a nourishing meal, but when evenings are hectic, firing up the range can seem daunting. While people often turn first to non-perishable pantry staples in a pinch, a well-stocked freezer also can inspire convenient, easy-to-prepare meals.

Many Americans' freezers are full of versatile, flavorful possibilities for dinner, such as beef. In fact, 60 percent of consumers purchase enough beef to store in their freezers and use later(1). So, it's helpful to know that when coupled with some basic pantry ingredients, a roast, steaks or ground beef -- after defrosting in the refrigerator -- are convenient building blocks for a great-tasting dinner.

According to Dave Zino, executive chef of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, consumers can customize their beef by turning to what's already in their pantries, such as spices, seasonings and other ingredients to create a marinade or rub.

"Marinades and rubs not only add flavor to beef, but with the right ingredients, marinades also can be helpful in making some steaks more tender," says Chef Dave.

Chef Dave offers these tips for getting the most from the beef you have on hand.

Know your cut:
-- Tenderizing marinades are very helpful for steaks such as top round,
   flank, and eye round. When tenderizing, marinate for at least six hours
   but no more than 24 hours.
-- Tender cuts such as tenderloin or T-Bone only need to be marinated for
   15 minutes to two hours to soak up the flavor.
Open up the pantry: The ingredients you need to easily mix up a marinade
are often ones you have on hand.
-- A tenderizing marinade contains acidic ingredients as a base, like lemon
   or lime juice, vinegars or wine.
-- A marinade or rub that's meant to add flavor often uses oil, mustard or
   soy sauce as a base.
-- Allow 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade for each one to two pounds of beef.

Mix it up: Make your own dry rubs by combining your favorite herbs, spices
and other dry seasonings from your pantry.
-- Apply a rub for at least 15 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.
-- Rubs not only add flavor, but they can also help seal in juices and form
   a delicious crust.

For some mealtime inspiration and more on beef marinades, recipes, storage guidelines and cooking tips, visit BeefItsWhatsforDinner.com.

Balsamic Marinated Steak & Asparagus

Marinade time: 15 minutes to 2 hours
Total recipe time: 25 minutes
Makes 4 servings

   4       beef round (sirloin) tip side steaks, cut 1 inch thick
           (about 8 ounces each)
   1       pound fresh asparagus
   1/2     teaspoon salt
   1/8     teaspoon pepper

Marinade:
   2/3     cup prepared balsamic vinaigrette
   2       tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl. Remove and reserve 2 tablespoons. Place beef steaks and remaining marinade in food-safe plastic bag; turn steaks to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.

Place asparagus in shallow microwave-safe dish; add 1/2 cup water. Cover and microwave on HIGH 3 to 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain asparagus. Add reserved 2 tablespoons marinade to asparagus; turn to coat. Set aside.

Remove steaks from marinade; discard marinade. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 12 to 14 minutes for medium rare (145°F) doneness, turning once. (Do not overcook.)

During last 3 minutes of grilling, arrange asparagus on grid around steaks; grill 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. Season steaks and asparagus with salt and pepper.

Courtesy of The Beef Checkoff

BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

(1) The Praxi Group: Beef Flavor Preference Study, October 2005, Funded by The Beef Checkoff