Grilled steak with watermelon-pistachio salad

Something chilled, and something from the grill

Originally appeared in the July 12, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

If you haven’t had the chance to do so, there’s still plenty of time to celebrate the edible hallmarks of summer.  Today, I’m sharing a recipe that offers something from the grill, but includes an accompaniment with a personality all its own—think of it as a chilled and sweet response to the heat of the grill.

I suggest using the grill for this method because of the signature flavor it imparts to the meat; and while I used strip steak for this particular recipe, I encourage you (as always) to make your own riffs and select whatever cut you’re comfortable with.  As I’ve mentioned before, when your purchasing watermelon check to make sure the fruit is heavy and slightly waxy.  A pale area on one side of the oblong melon suggests the fruit has rested on the ground long enough to ripen.  And with the dressing, the balsamic accents the melon’s sweetness, and the savory gorgonzola adds a salty bit of bitterness.

I used our 7-year-old, Jack, as a guinea pig for this recipe.  Sitting at the kitchen table, with a mouth full of food, Jack (my most forgiving critic), forking another piece of fruit, said something which I’ll translate for you here: “Tell the people in the paper that this is darn good steak.”  Thanks, pal.

Grilled steak with watermelon-pistachio salad

Serves 2

  • 16 ounces of strip steak
  • 14 – 16 ounces of melon-balled watermelon
  • 3 fluid ounces olive oil
  • 1 fluid ounce balsamic vinegar
  • 8 – 10 leaves of fresh mint, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon crushed pistachios
  • To taste, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper

1.  Season your steak with salt and pepper, and grill to desired doneness (you may need to use and oven to finish cooking process).  Remove steak from grill, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare salad:  place melon-balled watermelon in a bowl; in a separate bowl, add balsamic vinegar and slowly whisk in olive oil to form and emulsion.  Add a pinch of sugar, pinch of salt and pepper, and add fresh mint.  Pour desired amount of dressing over watermelon, and gently toss to coat.  Gently incorporate gorgonzola and pistachios.

3.  Slice steak into thin pieces and serve with watermelon salad.  Garnish plates with gorgonzola, pistachios, and fresh mints leaves.


Published in: on July 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sesame salmon with cucumber salad and wasabi-butter sauce

Salmon offers ease into spring

Originally appeared in the April 5, 2012 edition if the Southside Times.

With the temperate winter we experienced in Indiana, it feels like spring has been slowly sneaking in since January.  But now that the mild season is officially here, it’s time to start turning our culinary attention to lighter, fresh fare.

This week’s recipe contains a trio of individually constructed components, which unite to form an intricate dish.  It might sound complicated, but don’t jump the gun—check it out: the technique for the salmon is a simple sear followed by a quick finish in the oven; the cucumber salad is composed of a painfully easy vinaigrette paired with the aforementioned veg; and the sauce is an adaptation of a stabilized lemon-butter sauce.

The Asian influence shouldn’t be lost on you—both sesame seeds and sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and wasabi powder should be dead giveaways.

And while there’s a tricky flavor combination, there’s also contrasting elements of texture (crunch the seeds and a different crunch from the cucumber) and temperature (hot, warm, cold).  Make sure your salmon is heated through and that your salad is cold, this makes the spicy sauce a delicious addition to an already busy plate.  Give this one a shot—it’s an easy way to ease into spring.

Sesame salmon with cucumber salad and wasabi-butter sauce

Serves 2

  • 1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 pinches granulated sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and red pepper flakes
  • 2, 8-ounce skinless salmon steaks
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 2 fluid ounces white wine
  • 4 fluid ounces heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon wasabi powder
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch plus ½ teaspoon water, dissolved

1.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar and sesame oil until an emulsion is formed.  When vinaigrette is thick, add in seasonings and then cucumber.  Coat cucumber with vinaigrette and refrigerate until service.

2.  Place a large sauté over medium-high heat.  Add sesame seeds to a wide bowl or pan.  When sauté pan is hot, add a small amount of olive oil.  Place each salmon steak (skin-side up) in sesame seeds, coating one side of the fish, and then gently place in the sauté pan.  When sesame seeds begin to toast and become golden, carefully turn over to sear the opposite side of the fish.  Remove from pan and repeat with second steak.  Return both steaks to sauté pan, and place in 400 degree oven until salmon is cooked through (about 8 – 10 minutes).

3.  While salmon cooks, prepare sauce: in a small saucepan over medium heat, add wine and reduce by half; slowly whisk in heavy cream and gently bring to a simmer.  Whisk in wasabi powder and add in dissolved cornstarch mixture (called a slurry).  When sauce is thickened, remove from heat and, in batches, whisk in butter.  Adjust seasonings and set aside.

4.  Remove salmon from oven.  Add cucumber salad to each plate, and place salmon on top.  Serve with warm wasabi sauce.

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Puff cups with mango yogurt

Get cooking with kids: part 5

Originally appeared in the March 29, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”—it’s a noble lesson that many parents try to instill in their children; but putting this concept into practice proves to be quite difficult when it comes to food.

For this final installment in our little series geared toward little-ones, I thought it appropriate to offer a dessert.  I entertained several notions before settling on the idea that kids love pudding; and though my mind briefly landed on some sort of custard, I instantly thought about the caloric content and decided to drop it.  Then I realized: it’s all about how you dress it up.

Leaving the knife-work to the grownups (along with extraction of the lighting-hot sheetpan from the oven), the remainder of the procedure is kid-friendly.  You can find puff pastry—a flaky dough that contains many striated layers of butter—in the freezer sections of local grocery chains, and kids enjoy using round cutters to cut-out the shapes.  Though I’ve recommended using mango as the fruit component, it really your call.  The possibilities aren’t necessarily endless, but they’re mind-numbingly abundant.  You don’t have to change the book, but you can certainly change the rules.


Puff cups with mango yogurt

Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • As needed, 1 large egg broken and scrambled (for eggwash)
  • 1 ½ cups low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons zero calorie sugar substitute
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried mango (or fruit of choice)

1.  Preheat standard oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, prepare eggwash in a bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine yogurt, sugar substitute, and chopped fruit; reserve in fridge.  Using a large circle cutter or biscuit cutter, cut a circle shape from the dough and place on a parchment-lined sheeptan.  Do one for each cup.  Now, use the same cutter to cut another set (you should have two sets now); and this time, using a slightly smaller cutter, cut another circle.  So what you should have are a set of solid round discs, and a set of donut-shaped discs.

2.  Brush a bit of eggwash around the sides of the solid disc, and set the dough with the hole in it on top.  What will happen is the top portion will puff up, leaving a small cavity for the filling.  Brush top of puff pastry with remaining eggwash, and place in the oven.  Allow to puff up to golden brown (about 10 – 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling with flavored yogurt.

Published in: on March 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blue cheese, peach, and port wontons

Tiny wontons are tons of fun

Originally appeared in the September 22, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

This week, I’m plating a treat that’s crispy, bite-sized, and pleasantly addictive.  In addition to providing the crunchy shell for egg rolls, wonton wrappers are the thin dough commonly used to create pot stickers, gyoza, and other Asian-based dumplings.  But really—because of their versatility—the wrappers can be used for a host of culinary inventions.  Read more after the jump: (more…)