I am fully aware that how other people structure their family lives is none of my business. But, as much as I love local, sustainable foods, I wish families could sit down together to enjoy their food – whatever that food is – and, even more importantly, to enjoy each other’s company. Because even though it matters where our food comes from, if we eat it by ourselves, standing up at the sink or while driving in the car, we’ve missed the whole point.

We have to feed not just our bellies but also our family’s soul. Sitting down together connects us to each other. When you add kids to that mix, dinner time can become a critical tool in creating healthy communication and relationships.

If local beef remained uncooked, but a family enjoyed takeout pizza while everyone talked their days, I’d take it. If the chicken soup made with free-range chicken was only a wistful wish while a family laughed and loved their way through a meal of canned soup, I’d say the people are more important than the food, and good on ya.

In a perfect world, I’d take family dinner time AND healthy food. If I had to choose only one, however, I’d always take setting the table together, sitting across from each other, eyeballs to eyeballs, and communicating about the day. In the hope that you can manage both sometime this week, I give you an easy recipe for these glorious summer days when the grill is calling.


This recipe will stretch to serve 6 if you slice the steak thinly and add another vegetable and a rice dish or grilled potatoes. If making aioli is more than you have time for, you can doctor store-bought mayonnaise with lime juice, soy sauce and garlic.

1 pound flat iron steak

2 heads romaine lettuce

2 to 3 cucumbers

2 cups julienned red pepper


3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup mirin

1/3 cup minced scallions

6 tablespoons soy sauce


2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lime juice, from about 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 cup canola oil

To make the marinade, whisk together all ingredients. Remove 1/4 cup of marinade and set aside. Marinate the steak in the remaining marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.

To make the lime-soy aioli, put the yolks, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic and pepper in the food processor and pulse to combine. Very slowly add the oil, pouring it down the machine’s feed tube, until the mixture has thickened into mayonnaise. Set aside. (You can make this ahead of time and refrigerate.)

Heat a grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the steak to the hot grill or pan and grill for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn with tongs and grill for another 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the romaine heads in half lengthwise, keeping the cores intact.

Brush the leaves with some of the reserved marinade and place the lettuce cut-side down on the grill for 20 seconds or so.

To assemble the meal, halve the cucumbers lengthwise and slice into 1/4-inch slices.

Combine any remaining reserved marinade with the cucumbers and peppers.

Slice the steak very thinly, on the bias and against the grain.

Top the grilled lettuce with the cucumbers and peppers, then the sliced steak. Serve with the aioli.

Serves 4 to 6.

Annie Mahle is the chef aboard the Maine windjammer, Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Her latest cookbook is “Sugar and Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” She can be reached at [email protected]

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