Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Rhubarb Salsa

You know what’s a reasonable thing to have in your garden? A rhubarb plant. You know what’s less reasonable? Having ten enormous rhubarb plants. A bumper crop of rhubarb, each plant producing dozens of thick, crimson red rhubarb stalks, has left us scrambling for new ways to use the tart flesh of this vegetable. We imagine many of our readers in the Northeast have a similar problem; an unusually mild Winter paired with a rather wet Spring has left us ready to harvest rhubarb sooner than normal. While it freezes beautifully, we thought we would spend this week exploring some new recipes that go beyond the usual jams and pies, to help you get inspired with new ideas for using rhubarb.

A few notes to remember, as we work with rhubarb this week:

  1. Rhubarb is usually harvested in late May or early June. Choose stalks that are about an inch in diameter. Stalks can be red or green; pay more attention to the size than the color.
  2. Before using, remove the inedible leaves from the tops of the rhubarb stalks, as they contain oxalic acid, which is toxic and poisonous to humans. We also trim the white part, at the opposite end of the stalk.
  3. Rhubarb should be refrigerated until ready to use, but it also freezes beautifully, keeping in the freezer for up to eight months.

We’re starting with an amazing chipotle rhubarb salsa that uses chipotle chiles and a little sugar to perfectly balance the tart rhubarb. We actually tested this recipe using two types of pepper. The canned chipotle sauce lent a smokiness and a mild spice that worked beautifully with the rhubarb. If you like a little more heat, you can also substitute two habanero peppers for the chipotle; this one change renders a completely different salsa, with an initial sour sweetness followed immediately by a bright, burning heat. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, but one thing’s for certain: Both variations of the rhubarb salsa were amazing when spooned liberally over thinly-sliced flank steak and folded with grilled onions into tacos.

Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Rhubarb Salsa

Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Rhubarb Salsa
Makes 12 tacos; Adapted from a recipe by Naturally Ella.

Ingredients:

For the tacos:

  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 2 large white onions, sliced into 1 inch thick rounds, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Juice from one lime
  • 12 flour or corn tortillas
  • Lime wedges, for serving

For the salsa:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons canned chipotle sauce OR two habanero peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Method:

For the tacos:

Add about 1/4 of the onion, the garlic, the lime juice, cumin, and about a half a teaspoon of salt to the bowl of a food processor. Whirl in the food processor until pureed. Place the flank steak in a baking dish, and rub the marinade over all sides of the meat. Cover, refrigerate, and let marinate for at least an hour.

Heat grill to medium high. Lay the onion rounds on the grill and let cook, turning ocassionally, until blackened in spots and softened, about ten minutes. Transfer to serving platter and break the rings apart (if they haven’t broken apart already).

Meanwhile, on the hottest part of the grill, remove the meat from the marinade and grill, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes per side for medium rare.

Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Rhubarb Salsa

For the salsa:

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and rhubarb, and saute until rhubarb softens and onions begin to turn translucent, about ten minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and bring salsa to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender (or let cool slightly and transfer to a regular blender), and blend until smooth.

Assembling the tacos:

Warm the tortillas on the hot grill. Let the flank steak rest for five minutes, then slice thinly across the grain. Top with grilled onions, rhubarb salsa, and a few of the sliced onions. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the junk food blog "Spork & Barrel," and "Brocavore," a blog about food trucks and street food culture. His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, Eat Rockland, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

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