It’s 5:30 a.m., and chef Tony Maws is running. Actually, he’s not just running. He’s sprinting up and down the stairs at Harvard Stadium. And he’s not alone. He’s one of 300 this morning, all part of The November Project, a free fitness movement that was originally born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England months. Now present in multiple cities in across four time zones in North America, the movement motivates and encourages people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels to get out of their beds and get moving. And Maws is moving.
At 44, he has a six-year-old son and two of the Boston area’s most popular restaurants, one fine dining, Craigie on Main, and one casual, The Kirkland Tap & Trotter. Known for his rustic farm-to-table style, Maws continually earns recognition as one of the country’s best chefs.
At Kirkland Tap & Trotter, local ingredients are the foundation of a menu that’s mostly cooked on a wood-fired grill, the centerpiece of the restaurant. While Maws knows that most of his guests come to toss back pints of craft beer and get their hands on his slow-roasted pork belly and beer-battered ocean perch, he also understands that Kirkland is a place regulars come to several times a week. “I want this to be a place you can eat at regularly, so there have to be dishes that are not all heavy,” Maws says. To that end, he offers a grilled dayboat swordfish, a Persian-spiced vegetable stew and his killer grilled brochette, a steak skewer perfect for summertime grilling. “It’s simple, but we’re not looking for innovation, we’re looking food delicious. And it’s delicious.”
Made from sirloin tips, one of the leaner cuts, the kebabs are marinated in a dry rub of garlic, paprika and cumin and offer a relatively guilt-free way to eat red meat. “And then we add the good fat of roasted avocado,” Maws says. “The dish is finished with a bright salsa verde. I think of it as a new version of steak and potatoes.”
Maws may love to cook (and eat), but he’s as dedicated to fitness as he is to food. “I ride my bike to work, and I go to the gym,” he says. “Part of it is to manage what I eat, but it also makes me feel great. You need that balance. I think that it creates harmony. Plus, if I’m going to chase around my six-year-old son and continue running two restaurant, I’ve got to be running stairs at 5:30 a.m.”
Grilled Sirloin Tips and Avocado
Serves 4 (2 skewers each)
If you’re grilling indoors, use a cast-iron pan or any black-steel heavy-bottomed pan. (Depending on the sensitivity of your smoke alarm, you might want to keep your windows open and oven fan on high — you want the pan hot so that the beef gets a nice sear on it and doesn’t steam.)
For the spice rub:
2 teaspoons dried onion powder
1 teaspoons dried garlic powder
2 teaspoons sweet paprika (or sweet chile powder)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (may substitute dried, but use only 1 tablespoon)
For the sirloin:
2 pounds sirloin tips, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the avocados:
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Salsa verde, for serving
Combine the spice rub ingredients. In a bowl, toss the sirloin tips together with all but 1 teaspoon of the spice rub (reserve remainder for the avocados) and 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Thread sirloin tips onto 8-inch bamboo or metal skewers and let the beef marinate in the rub for a couple of hours in the fridge.
Fire the grill to high heat. While the grill heats, pull the skewers out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature for about half an hour before cooking.
Cut avocados in half, removing the pit. Scoop the avocado halves from the skin with a spoon, taking care to keep them intact.
Grill skewers over the hot fire until medium-rare, approximately 5 minutes per side
Season the avocado with remaining rub and tablespoon olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.
Grill avocados just away from direct heat until well-marked, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Flip them over, and grill for the same amount of time. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top and serve with salsa verde.
Andrea Strong is a freelance writer whose work often appears in Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She’s probably best known as the creator of The Strong Buzz, her food blog about New York City restaurants. She lives in Brooklyn with her two kids, her husband and her big appetite.
Photos by Michael Piazza