Thursday, May 07, 2009

steak and arugula salad

I've been meaning to write this clever little post idea I've had stewing for a while about how I have re-committed myself to my relationship with food. Real, healthy food. The kind that comes from a natural source rather than a box, a can, a delivery guy. And really, my worst culprit is that delivery guy because in New York, there are plenty of them running around delivering pretty much any thing your palate craves. But I am convinced that no matter what calorie counting, fat watching, carb depriving diet I try (and really, I'm a terrible dieter), the best thing for me personally is just to get myself back in the kitchen and start cooking for myself again. It is a journey. One that takes time and commitment, but since I love food, I think this is one relationship that is worth the effort.

Recently I was craving a certain steak and arugula salad from one of my very favorite restaurants in the city - Vynl. If you know me, you know I am not much of a red meat eater so this craving may come as a surprise to you. You may also be aware that historically I was never much of a salad person. That should just tell you how good this salad is. Instead of responding to the craving by reaching for the phone (or my laptop since I usually order online - see, NYC makes it too easy to eat out!), I reached for my own cupboards. Except, really, this takes more planning then that. I first ordered all the ingredients I needed online, because grocery shopping that way is a dream! By commiting to bi-weekly grocery deliveries, I can plan better meals with real food instead of being stuck with what is left in my cupboards or what I can grab near work.

On Sunday afternoon, I dove into my imitation steak salad.

First up, I started with some baby arugula.
The package claims it was pre-washed but I don't really trust that. Besides, I don't have a lot of opportunities to use my salad spinner - so I tossed some greens in and gave it a whirl.
Next up: one red pepper. Let me tell you a little something about red peppers. Until quite recently I thought I did not like them. For years I steered clear of peppers of all colors all due to a genuine aversion to green bell peppers. I assumed they were all alike - bitter and gross. But somehow, some way, I convinced myself to start trying these babies and low and behold I learned . . . they are tasty! Unlike their green cousins, red (and orange and yellow) peppers are not bitter at all. In fact, they are kind of sweet. See. . . .
I decided to delve into uncharted territory for me and roast this red pepper. My cook book and internet resources suggested a long tedious process involving the oven and 45 minutes which seemed a bit overkill for one measley red pepper so I tried my Cuisinart grill instead. I just turned it on high heat and attempted to balanced the red pepper between the grill plates.this was easier said than done as the pepper made a couple of escape attempts which I quickly thwarted with the use of a hot pad.
I rotated the pepper a few times to ensure even roasting and since I was doing other things during this process, I have no idea how long it took to completely roast the pepper. 20 minutes? 30? I just let it roast until I was ready for it, or, more accurately, until I needed the grill for the meat. Meanwhile, I chopped up one shallot and a few cloves of garlic in my mini-chopper.
Then I tossed them in some olive oil, gave them a quick stir and let them brown up.
When they looked like this, I removed the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Then I pulled out this wonderful "low-fat"! goat cheese out of my fridge. I absolutely LOVE goat cheese and if it really is lower in fat, then all the better.
Goat cheese is a soft cheese so while I started by slicing off a couple of generous medallions (of which I used about 2/3), I was ultimately trying to get some crumbles.
So I chopped it up and got this:
By now, I think the red pepper is sufficiently roasted, so I removed it from the grill to make way for the meat. And since one of my online guides recommended putting the pepper in a jar with the lid on to help steam off the skin, I did that. Although I can't say I was entirely clear as to why I needed to remove the skin. And since I found it difficult to remove, even after I let it steam it up in a covered dish, I skipped that step and went straight to the chopping and de-seeding stage. I have no tips here. Just remove the top, dig out the seeds and dice.Meanwhile, you should grill your meat. I used skirt steak that came pre-marinated in lime and cumin - deliciously spicy. I don't have a bbq on hand in my apartment so I tossed it onto my Cuisinart grill: Skirt steak is a pretty narrow cut which slices into nice and easy to eat strips. And just fyi, this was cooked medium-rare, it looks far more rare here than it did in real life. Now it's time to put it all together! Toss the arugula on a plate:
Add some of the garlic and onions,
Add the goat cheese crumbles,
and the roasted red peppers,
Add the meat [pretend there is a photo of that part here],
And drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the top as dressing.
The verdict: Delicious! Even better than the original!
Except, I was pretty sure I could add just one more thing to make it better. As I was putting everything away I realized what that one thing might be: an Asian Pear!
Have you ever eaten an Asian pear? They are on the pricier side as far as fruit goes but oh, so worth it. I L O V E them! I sliced this one up after my salad and ate it for dessert . . . they are so sweet and juicy and delicious that they are a great answer to sweet tooth cravings.
I prepped my salad leftovers and used some very thin slices of pear to the mix to take for dinner at work the next day:
I prepared the arugula, pears and goat cheese in the tupperware,
and put the meat and red peppers and onions in a plastic bag (so I could reheat it before eating).
And since I couldn't find a small enough container for transporting a small amount of balsamic vinegar, I poured some of that in a plastic bag as well.
The meal was originally for dinner on Sunday and I had two more salads - one for dinner on Monday and one for dinner last night. Each time I was happy to pull something out of the work fridge that I had prepared rather than wandering down to the lobby to pick up a delivered meal. And the addition of the pear? Wonderful! The salad is complete.

But I still had some red peppers leftover, so I put them in a jar,
added some olive oil,
and tossed in the remaining garlic and onions.

I was told they can be stored like this for a couple of weeks. I dont' have this much left now but what I do have is a good start for spicing up a sandwich or maybe some pasta.

One more thought, I think this salad could be great without the meat as well by substituting in some walnuts. I think this might become a new summer staple for me.


Jen said...

Looks good!

Do you always eat dinner at work??? Ya'll must have some serious billable requirements.

My firm's billable goal is 1900, but I work part time, so this doesn't actually apply to me. Still, I know Big City firms probably have crazy requirements.

Or is it that you just have too much work? Or both?

alison said...

That is honestly the first time I've ever seen meat look good in a picture. Nicely done!

Soul-Fusion said...

Jen, I have a billable requirement of 2000 for a bonus. I also end up doing a lot of non-billable stuff - client development, training, committees, etc. So I work late a lot. But not all the time, I'm just currently in a late cycle. Besides that, I am generally hungry enough for dinner by 6 and it is a rare, rare day that I leave the office that early. Of course, you should know I don't usually arrive until 930 in the morning which might seem late to anyone outside NYC.

Tiffany said...

I'm salivating. You had me at goat cheese...

katie said...

Goat cheese kind of scares me but the salad does look really good.

Jen said...

I'm betting NY is still lively and happening well into the evening. In Cincinnati, the downtown area is dead at night. Everyone leaves!

Glad to hear your billable goal isn't too insane. I have heard tales of 2400, even 2500. Yikes.

Nothing But Bonfires said...

Roasting your red pepper on the indoor grill is seriously a genius idea. I am making this salad immediately!

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