Eat a Fajita Pita

Until about 10 years ago, most cooks ignored skirt steak, the long, almost accordion-like beef cut from the diaphragm at the rib cage. It is naturally thin, with crosswise fibers and a skin of fat covering most of the meat. For a time, it was inexpensive, but not many people knew what to do with it.

Then Texas cooks marinated skirt steak in a little lime juice and seasonings, and fajitas were born. With marinating and grilling, the fat burned out and the meat became sweet and juicy.

Now that it's so popular, skirt steak isn't so economical, but it's still less expensive than sirloin. Skirt steak doesn't always need to be marinated, but it should be trimmed of all fat and then grilled over very hot coals until it is well browned on the outside yet still red inside.

To serve, slice the steak as thinly as possible. For a change from standard fajitas, pack the meat slices in pita bread and top with a dollop of avocado salsa flavored with jalapeno peppers and cilantro.

GRILLED SKIRT STEAK WITH AVOCADO SALSA

1 jalapeno chile, cored, seeded and minced

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound skirt steak

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil

2 pita breads

Sour cream, optional

In bowl combine jalapeno, shallot, cilantro, lime juice, vegetable oil and avocado. Toss gently and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat coals in grill until thoroughly hot and covered with ash. Brush steak on both sides with olive oil and season to taste with salt. Grill meat until browned on both sides but still rare in center, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

To serve, slice meat thin. Warm pita breads on grill. Slice breads in halves to get 2 pockets per bread. Fill pockets with meat. Top each with dollops of salsa and sour cream. Pass any remaining salsa separately. Serve hot. Makes 2 servings.

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