Recipes

Savor Western flavor with Santa Maria-style Tri-tip Kebabs

Santa Maria-style Tri-tip Kebabs. (Susan Selasky/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
Santa Maria-style Tri-tip Kebabs. (Susan Selasky/Detroit Free Press/TNS) TNS

In California, whole seasoned roasts are strung up on steel rods and then gradually lowered over hot red oak coals. Cooking a whole roast, generally 2 1 / 2-3 pounds, takes about 45-50 minutes for medium-rare. The roast is sliced and served with salsa and pinquito beans, which are said to be grown only in the Santa Maria Valley.

Whether you grill or roast tri-tip, whole roasts or steaks or chunks for kebabs, it’s best done medium-rare or to a final internal temperature of 130 degrees. There’s not a lot of fuss with tri-tip either. Whole tri-tip roasts typically have a fat layer. Some will come pretty well-trimmed. But it’s recommended not to completely remove all the fat layer because it protects the meat during grilling. You can trim some away if you like and remove the rest after cooking.

If cooking a whole tri-tip roast, pay attention to where and how the grain runs throughout the meat. Similar to flank steak and others, tri-tip needs to be cut against the grain. Because of tri-tip’s somewhat triangular shape, the grain can switch directions. Each cut will be different. Before seasoning, eye up where the grain changes and make a mental note.

At some stores you will find tri-tip already cut into steaks or pieces. For today’s recipe I bought a package of the steaks. Doing so makes it convenient to cook individual steaks to someone’s liking. It also makes it easy for cutting, as I did for today’s recipe, into even chunks for making kebabs. Today’s recipe is seasoned Santa Maria-style, with a little bit of extra heat from chili powder. Feel free to change it up if you like.

Santa Marie-style tri-tip kebabs

Serves: 6; preparation time: 30 minutes; total time: 45 minutes

1 3/4 pounds of tri-tip steaks or tri-tip roast

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 tablespoon favorite chili powder or to taste, optional

Wooden skewers soaked in water

1 sweet onion, cut into chunks

Favorite bell peppers cut into pieces or mini red bell peppers

Santa Maria-style Salsa (see note below)

Cut the tri-tip into 1 1/2-inch even chunks. Place in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the salt, black pepper, garlic salt and chili powder. Sprinkle over the meat and toss so the seasoning evenly coats the meat chunks. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to let flavors meld.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Thread the meat on wooden skewers alternating with pieces of onion and bell peppers.

Oil the grill grates.

Cook the kebabs until nicely seared on all sides, turning each one about every 2-3 minutes. Remove from the grill. Let stand a few minutes before serving. If desired, serve with the salsa and a tossed green salad.

The traditional accompaniments are pinquito beans, fresh salsa, tossed green salad and grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter.

Note: Here’s how to make a Santa Maria-style Salsa. In a medium bowl, combine 3 chopped tomatoes, 1 / 2 cup finely chopped celery, 1 / 2 cup chopped green onions, 1 / 2 cup finely chopped California green chiles, 2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, dash of Worcestershire sauce, pinch of garlic salt, pinch of dried crushed oregano and a few drops of your favorite hot red pepper sauce. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Makes about 3 1 / 2 cups.

Nutrition information not available.

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