When it comes to summer, it’s safe to say that I get pretty excited about everything that comes with it. Great weather, backyard parties, vacations, hanging by the water, cooking and eating outside—I know I can’t be alone. While I’ve always been this way, I have to note something interesting I noticed about how the season is enjoyed after making my move to Los Angeles oh so many years ago: the locale specifics. The broad strokes are all the same, but once you get down to the details you start to notice some things. I admit that some of this is a little obvious like what body of water you’re hanging around, but one that really surprised me was the food. Yes, most of us serve up hotdogs and hamburgers, but those true staples are so regional in some cases that they aren’t even options if you find yourself away from home…like my wife and me.

I grew up around Boston where, if you’re familiar with the area at all, you know there’s no such thing as a cookout if there’re no steak tips around. For Sarah, who’s from the St. Louis area, barbecued pork steaks are the equivalent. Both are completely delicious, and both are nowhere to be found in our current city. Lucky for us, one of the things we really enjoy doing together is cooking. So, we decided to take what we loved and create our own traditions. In the end, we’ve made a balsamic glazed tri-tip with mushrooms and polenta and our newfound favorite wine, the Bodegas Valderiz Valdehermoso Joven 2015 from the region of Ribera del Duero,our go-to for summer cookouts.

Bodegas Valderiz Valdehermoso Joven 2015
Bodegas Valderiz Valdehermoso Joven 2015

Why did we land on these? First of all, the meat is a cut that you can actually get here, but that wasn’t the true motivating factor. What mattered to us was finding something that we both loved and looked forward to equally, and this was definitely it. Also—as living in a city doesn’t always mean you’re going to have access to a grill—we needed something that would be just as good whether it was cooked indoors or out. Again, this absolutely fit the bill. As for the wine, we actually just recently discovered it. It’s calledTempranilloand, believe it or not, it’s actually the most popular wine in Spain AND one of the top 5 most popular in the world. After you have one sip, it’s really not difficult to see why. Of course, you can love a wine to death but if it doesn’t match well with the dish you’re having it with it could easily ruin both. Happily, it turns out that Tempranillo pairs gorgeouslywith things like barbecue, grilled meats, and corn-based dishes so it seemed completely perfect for what we were trying to do. We decided on this Tempranillo wine in particular because it’s a favorite of ours, but really any wine from the Ribera del Dueroregionis going to be a completely safe bet.

So, while Sarah and I will always enjoy visiting home during the summer and sharing our local cookout delicacies with the people we love, we’re not sure the tradition we’ve started here could get any better. Not that I would ever suggest you replace your own, but if you happen to have the opportunity, you should absolutely give it a try. And don’t forget the wine! You’ll find the recipe below, and you can order the wine right here!

Balsamic Tri-Tip with Mushrooms and Polenta Recipe

Delicious steak and polenta recipe
The tasty result with a glass of wine

(Yields 6 servings)

Steak Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tri-tip steak 
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce 
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 minced/pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Mushroom Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb halved or quartered crimini/baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Polenta Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 minced/pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 Qt low-sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal/polenta
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oz grated parmesan


Begin by marinating the steak. Simply whisk all ingredients together and pour over steak after placing it in a pan or baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

Prep the rest of your ingredients now, or ~1 hour before you’re ready to cook the steak.

Polenta will be first.

Wine and food prep
Prepping food with a glass of wine

Preheat the oven to 350℉. Heat your olive oil over medium heat in an oven-safe saucepan. Add the onion with 1tsp of the salt and sauté until fragrant and soft. Reduce your heat to low and add the garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about a minute or two.

Add the chicken stock and turn the heat to high. Once boiling begins, slowly add the cornmeal/polenta, whisking as you go. When you’re finished, cover your pot and put it in the oven for 35-40 minutes, taking it out to stir every 10 minutes.

When the polenta is done cooking, stir in the butter, pepper, and remaining salt. Finally, incorporate the parmesan.

After about the first or second stirring of the polenta, begin your steak.

Cooking steak on the stove top

Heat your vegetable oil in a large pan (I prefer a grilling pan) over medium-high heat. While it’s warming up, remove your steak from the marinade and pat dry. Crowd the steak in a single layer in the pan (to avoid sugar burn), searing on all sides. Continue to cook until desired temperature is reached: 120-125℉ for medium-rare, 130-135℉ for medium. When finished, transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil*.

Now for the mushrooms.

Add the vegetable oil to the same pan you were cooking the steak in (with heat still on) and allow it to warm for a moment before adding the mushrooms. Cook until they have reduced in size and become tender. Next, add the balsamic and simmer for about a minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Once finished, salt and pepper to taste.

Plating is up to personal preference (obviously), but I like to lay down a bed of polenta followed by the steak, then pour the mushrooms and their juices over it all. This time we added baby arugula and halved grape tomatoes that we’d wilted in the pan after the mushrooms were finished. It was a fun experiment, but we’ll be sticking with an unwilted version with a little parmesan, salt, and pepper over top from now on.


*Keep in mind the steak will continue to cook under foil. I try to pull mine from the pan just a little bit before it reaches where I want it to be upon serving.