Thai-Style Steak Salad

July 2, 2012

At least once a week we opt for a dinner salad.  Tired from a long day of work or summertime adventures as it may be, dinner can be on the table in minutes with just a bit of forethought.  Our secret… grill enough meat on the weekend to have hearty leftovers.  Perhaps it is a breast of chicken spared from our ravenous tots or a generous morsel of salmon craftily hidden from my husband’s lunch, or as the case was last weekend, a nice piece of hanger steak.  Steak salad takes on endless incarnations, but this is one of our favorites from Sunset magazine years ago.

Thai-Style Steak Salad bursts with flavor from a mixture of fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, salty peanuts, and a tangy dressing.  Using leftover grilled meat makes it a cinch to pull together, but you could certainly grill up a steak for the occasion.  The dressing is super light and oil free helping this dinner balance out the indulgences of the weekend.  The chili garlic sauce is spicy so adjust the amount to your own taste.

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Spring is officially here.  Time for fresh potatoes, crisp peas, and tender greens.  This dish celebrates them all.  With no resemblance to its more traditional mayo-based cousin, this potato salad is fresh and crisp with a delicate balance between marinated potatoes, plump peas, crunchy toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula.  The whole lot is tossed in a simple mustard vinaigrette to make an uncomplicated, appetizing side dish for any spring meal.

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The first time I ate this rice was at a park potluck picnic.  A number of families gathered with our very small children trying to eek out some semblance of a dinner party  while our children ran wild over, under, and around the play structure.  It truly is the perfect potluck dish- full of interesting flavors and textures, stays well at room temperature, and is quite easy to whip up in advance.  Since that night, this dish has become my secret weapon.  It starred at not one, but three baby showers that I threw over the last few years, pairing beautifully with an Asian chicken salad.  It has also been a hit at multiple potlucks.

Curried Mango Rice with Cashews could not be easier to make.  Cook up some brown rice and let it cool.  Mix together a dressing with curry paste and lime juice.  Then toss it all together with diced mango, toasted cashews, and crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds).  Since the dressing is not cooked, it is important to use curry paste, instead of dry curry.  The paste has been cooked a bit in oil in advance.  Regarding the mango, this time of year it is easy to find fresh mangos in the market, but to save time or make this out of season, look for mango chunks in the freezer section.  We buy them at Trader Joe’s to make in this rice and add to smoothies or oatmeal.

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This has been a cleansing week.  No work for me and no school for the kids means that we had a lot (too much?) time around the house.  Complications outside our control kept us from adventuring in the way we might otherwise.  The upside is that the floors are swept, the drawers organized, and the piles of recipes are neatly filed away.  This house is clean. Most importantly, the last of the holiday cookies and sweets have happily made their way (on way or another) into a better place, out of my reach.  I mean, who really wants to be looking at a cookie on January 5th?  Not me.

Though I am not swearing on to a year of clean eating, or anything as drastically healthy as that, I do find that the foods I crave are those which lack the butter, bacon, and sugar indulgences of the holidays.  This recipe I share with you today is probably the complete opposite of the holiday foods which filled my gut (and yours?) the last couple of months.  Fresh, mostly raw, brightly colored, acidic.  This salad is exactly what I want to eat right now (which works out well since our Satsuma tree is going gangbusters and someone has to eat all that fruit!)

Orange and Beet Winter Salad pairs bright juicy orange with paper thin slices of roasted beet, creamy avocado, and crunchy toasted sunflower seeds.  The greens are an accent instead of the foundation of this dish.  Eat this now and enjoy it, I know I am.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw

November 6, 2011

It has been a slow transition to fall around here.  Halloween has come and passed, but until today the skies have been clear and the air relatively warm.  This must be the reason I have not yet completely embraced the hearty warm foods of the darker months.  Now daylight savings has come to an end and the rains are finally pelting down. The last of the tomatoes found their way into salsa and the eggplants into stir fries. It is time to break out the symbolic fall and winter vegetables and what better to start with than brussels sprouts in salad form?

Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw is a bright and crisp salad.  Brussels sprouts (which are rarely served raw) are sliced very thin and tossed with red onion, a lemony mustard vinaigrette, and percorino romano cheese.  If you think you do not like brussels sprouts, be sure to give this a try.  Leaving them raw keeps them crisp and mild in flavor with none of the distinctive odor that comes from cooking them.  Serve this salad with just about anything, but I love to serve it beside some other rich saucy dish where it adds a fresh and acidic counterpoint.

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Lest you think my family and I survive on berries and chocolate alone, I thought it was time to share an actual meal with you hungry readers.  Sure I know “people” who might on occasion settle in over a pile of brownies and call it dinner, but really, it is time to talk about real food, with protein and vegetables included.  This is the kind of food we should eat most of the time to make the indulgences of jam-piled pancakes and syrup-coated ice cream well deserved.

In truth, most of our summer meals resemble this one.   We have some lean grilled meat, seasoned up to our whim.  One the side is a pile of some kind of beautiful warm season veggie.  There may be some focaccia bread or rice, but more and more I find that we do not miss the starch when we leave it out.  In its place, I make a double portion of vegetables.  Yes, even the kids do not seem to notice this omission (I just make sure they get their piles of pasta on another night during the week).

Armenian Lamb Kebabs are very simple to prepare, yet just different enough to pass for something special if need arises.  They are perfectly seasoned to compliment the lamb without overpowering it. The Greek Salad is a fabulous side to the lamb, but it could be paired with any number of other meats.

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Some dishes seem to create themselves.  The ingredients radiate with pure excitement when they enter into each others’ proximity.  This was the case when the loads of astonishingly fragrant strawberries pushed into the log of chevre in the fridge the other night. They called to me in their sweet seductive voices to please toss them with fresh spinach and roasted almonds, I was powerless to resist. Luckily, this force is pure good.  This dish is  full of vibrant seasonal nutritional powerhouses, so the guilt factor is nearly nil.

While strawberries are often restricted to  dessert or breakfast dishes, they make an excellent salad.  Feel free to adapt this at will.  The spinach can be replaced with arugula or butter lettuce, the chevre with feta, and the almonds with walnuts or pinenuts, but do not leave out the STRAWBERRIES!  They are too good right now to miss.

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