Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Savory Steak Salad

I'm not sure where the trend originated. Someone came up with the idea of combining dried fruit, nuts, bleu cheese and red onions with varieties of lettuce to create a more interesting salad . The farthest back I can go in my own cookbook colletion is to a salad with blue cheese, pear, and a walnut vinaigrette from the Silver Palate Cookbook published in 1989. I do know that once this combination hit mass production at national chain restaurants and got drowned in sweet raspberry vinaigrette dressing, it lost it's zing.

Last night, I had a few people over for a light summer dinner. I served this hearty salad, an assortment of cheeses and crackers, along with some fresh cut fruit and a glass of wine. Starting with a few ingredients I already had in my apartment, I did my best to update the unique combination of strong cheese, sweet dried fruit, and earthy nuts. I hope this leaves the McDonald's version in the dust...

Savory Steak Salad

(Serves 4)

1 - 1lb. sirloin steak (grilled or broiled to preference, and sliced into 1/2" strips
1 1/2 bags of European lettuce mix, rinsed and dried (yup, I'm a cheater!)
3/4 lb. asparagus spears (lightly cooked, and plunged in an ice bath to cool and keep the crunch)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. crumbled bleu cheese
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 red onion (sliced thinly into rings)
3-4 leaves of fresh basil
balsamic vinaigrette to taste
crushed black pepper

Pepper the steak on both sides, to taste, and then Broil or grill the steak to preference. While it cools for a few minutes, wash the asparagus spears. Clip off the tough ends. Bring water in a large saute pan to boil. Add asparagus spears. Turn off heat and let sit for 2-3 minutes or just until asparagus is "tender crisp". Plunge into a bath of ice water to cool and retain bright green color. Cut asparagus into 1 inch length pieces and chill. Return to the steak, and slice it against the grain into 1/2 inch thick strips. You may refrigerate until just before serving.

Toast pine nuts. I prefer to use a small saute pan over a medium flame, or spread the nuts on aluminum foil and put into a toaster oven on 325 F until the nuts get lightly browned. Remove and put in a glass cup or bowl to cool to room temperature.

Crumble bleu cheese into another small container and refrigerate. Slice the onion and store in a Ziploc plastic bag until ready to serve. Wash and dry basil leaves. Stack them on top of each other and roll it up legthwise, like a jelly roll (could also look like a green cigarette). Using a sharp pairing knife, hold the roll steady and slice every 1/8 inch starting at the tip of the leaf and ending with a slice to cut off the stem). This is easier done than typed. It is known as creating a "chiffonade" of basil. Set the basil aside. It may be refrigerated in a closed container or plastic bag until ready to serve.

When ready to serve: Rinse and dry the lettuce leaves. Place them in a large salad bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and spread evenly across the top of the lettuce pile. I started with the beef, then the asparagus, the onions, then the cherries, then the nuts, the basil, and finally the cheese. I prefer a light amount of dressing, so I tossed mine with a quarter of a cup of salad dressing and left additional dressing on the table for people to add as needed.

Salad ingredients may be prepared, and chilled, for up to 6 hours in advance of serving.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

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