Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Caesar reinterpreted

Originally appeared in the November 8, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

I realize there are more than a few conservative, culinary purists who would baulk at the liberal rearrangement of a traditional Caesar salad.  But hey, before you come to bury Caesar, at least give this week’s recipe a chance.  That being said, I am indeed one of the subscribers to this adage:  that the barometer for a chef’s skill should be the professional prowess of how they construct a classic Caesar.

The backbone of all noble Caesars is an emulsion essentially containing anchovies, eggs, oil, and parmesan cheese (and some additional seasonings).  The steak is solely employed to make this salad an entrée, and the additional elements—the egg, the tomato, and the haricot vert—well, they just sounded like they’d get along with the rest of the gastronomic gang.  And what’s that with two types of cheese?  Though I’d never have had the courage to tell one of my estimable chefs this, I have the guts to tell you, don’t sweat it.

And yes, I also realize that we’re ebbing away from salad season; but, like all the classics, we can always conjure an occasion to enjoy them.  And, like all the classics, we can always find an excuse for reinterpretation.

Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Serves 3 – 4

For dressing:

  • 8 – 10 anchovies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 large, cage-free eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For salad:

  • 20 ounces strip steak
  • 1 – 2 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned, chopped into bite-size pieces, rinsed and drained.
  • 3 – 4 hardboiled eggs, chilled, cut into quarters
  • 4 – 6 ounces haricot vert (French green beans), blanched, shocked, chilled
  • As needed, cherry tomatoes, halved
  • As needed, crumbled blue cheese, for garnish

1.  For dressing:  mash anchovies and garlic together to make a paste.  Beat in eggs and lemon juice until smooth.  Beating constantly with a whisk, slowly add in olive oil to form an emulsion.  Add in Parmesan cheese and season to taste.  Place in refrigerator while you prepare remaining components.

2.  In a sanitized kitchen sink fill with potable water, rinse the chopped romaine and drain thoroughly; reserve in refrigerator.  Blanch green beans in boiling water, shocking afterwards in ice water to halt cooking process; drain and reserve in fridge.  Prepare hard-boiled eggs, peel and chill.  Season steak with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and in a sauté pan over high-heat, sear steaks on both sides.  When desired doneness is reached, place steaks on a plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

3.  In a large bowl, toss romaine with desired amount of dressing.  Plate each serving with a mound of dressed romaine, and arrange haricot vert, eggs, steak, and tomatoes on top.  Garnish each salad with crumbled blue cheese.

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Tasty treasures in the clearance aisle

Originally appeared in the August 30, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Impulse buys.  When it comes to consumer compulsion—whether it be conversion to a “smart” phone, or giving in to that gotta-have-it gadget expertly positioned in the check-out lane—I typically have the wherewithal to stave off such temptation.  But when it comes to the gotta-have-it compunction of gastronomy, I must admit that I am a rather impressionable culinary consumer.

Take the centerpiece of this week’s dish: Swordfish.  I picked up this hearty specimen in the clearance section of my local market; and while I’m not ignorant to the likelihood that this product had at one time been frozen before being thawed and packaged, I still believe a cut of this stature has some redeeming qualities, particularly for those home-cooks with their eyes on their checking account, and their hearts (to mix metaphors) on the nourishment of their family.

There’s nothing wrong with snagging a clearance cut of meat or discount fillet of fish, but I implore you make haste (read, don’t procrastinate and let it linger in your fridge).  Enjoy your swordfish with a simply-dressed salad of thinly peeled asparagus and radicchio.

So don’t be self-conscious about surveying the clearance section at your local market.  Who knows what tasty treasures you’re apt to find.

 

Pan-seared swordfish with asparagus and radicchio

Serves 2

  • 1 large swordfish steak
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • A few pinches of sugar
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4 – 6 ounces fresh asparagus, peeled lengthwise
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Bring one quart of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, and using a vegetable peeler, thinly cut asparagus lengthwise.  Thinly slice radicchio and combine with fresh herbs.  When water is ready, add asparagus; blanch briefly (no more than 15 seconds) before thoroughly draining and plunging into ice water to stop the cooking process.  Drain again and combine with radicchio mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, vinegar, red pepper, sugar, salt and pepper until mixture emulsifies.  Set aside.

2.  In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add a bit of olive oil.  Season swordfish with kosher salt and pepper before gently adding to pan.  Sear fish on both sides, allowing to cook as you do so, until exterior is golden.  After removing fish from pan, allow to rest for several minutes.

3.  Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and gently toss to coat.  Serve swordfish on top of the asparagus salad.

 

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grilled chicken skewers with honey-lime corn salad

Skewer de force

Originally appeared in the August 23, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Back in culinary school, I was acquainted with a jovial bloke who had a comical hatred for, what he called, “food on sticks.”  I never really questioned my culinary comrade, just laughed along with everyone else at this particular idiosyncrasy.

Otherwise admiring my friend’s insight, I didn’t necessarily agree with his take on skewered fare.  For one, just about every noble cuisine has a version of the aforementioned execution—whether it be kebob (see also kabab, kibob) or satay or souvlaki; plus, cooking “food on sticks” can be a labor-light technique that yields savory, bite-sized servings.  My cast-iron grill has accumulated some signature flavors over the years, so it’s the cooking device of choice when it comes to skewers.

A caveat: Once again, this installment’s co-star carries the capability to transcend its side-dish status.  By not only complimenting the grilled chicken, the honey-lime corn salad is a pleasantly complicated recipe that you might find yourself employing over and over again either as a stand-alone dish, or pairing with a multitude of suitable proteins.

So as long as the refreshing weather lingers, fire up your grill and break out your sticks.  Don’t let the humble kebob get impaled by anybody’s bad rap.

Grilled chicken skewers with honey-lime corn salad

Serves 2 -3

  • 3 large, free-range chicken breasts
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each, chopped fresh basil and dill
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, chunked

1.  Cut each chicken breast into three large chunks and place in large bowl.  Pour in enough olive oil to generously coat the meat; add fresh basil and dill and gently toss, distributing evenly.  Allow meat to rest in fridge.

2.  Meanwhile, bring roughly 1 quart of water to a boil, and add in ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (this will help soften the kernel).  Add cut kernels to water, and cook for about 4-5 minutes (or until kernels are tender).  Thoroughly drain corn and allow to cool in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine lime juice and honey, and slowly whisk in olive oil to form a emulsion; season to taste with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

3.  Preheat grill.  Remove chicken from fridge.  Using four sticks, arrange several large pieces of meat along two skewers each.  Season with salt and pepper and grill on all sides until meat is cooked; allow to rest.

4.  When corn has cooled, add honey-lime dressing, fresh cilantro, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and gently fold together; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve with grilled chicken skewers.

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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