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Salad for the meat-and-potatoes crowd

August 17, 2015

Potatoes are grilled with fresh herbs, paired with grilled sirloin and served with peppery watercress.

Even as I attempt to eat less red meat, I still crave steak. During the summer months, its virtues suit our lifestyles. Steak cooks quickly, is easy to transport to a picnic and tastes great hot, warm and chilled. Leftovers make indulgent sandwiches. Grilled steak, piled on garden-crisp greens topped with a freshly made dressing, ranks as a favorite dinner on a warm evening.

Combining grilled steak with potatoes reminds us of cozy Midwestern steakhouse dinners. This season we’re enjoying two delicious steak salads: The first pairs thinly sliced steak with crispy grilled russet potatoes and a spicy ranch-style dressing; the second employs grill-steamed little golden potatoes with a fresh herb vinaigrette.

Boneless New York strip makes great salad steak because of its tenderness and uniform thickness. After cooking, it slices thin with little effort. Meatier-tasting sirloin tip, petite-cut top sirloin and flank steak prove good choices when serving the steak cold. Take care when cooking, as these steaks tend to be leaner; don’t cook them past medium-rare, or they’ll be dry and tough. Whenever possible, select choice grade steaks with about 1/4-inch of fat around the edges to keep things moist during cooking; it can be trimmed before adding to the salad.

The same tricks for grilling steakhouse steaks apply to those destined for a salad: Take the chill off the steak before cooking, season it highly and use a properly heated (and hot) grill. Let it rest after cooking for 5 minutes, so the juices settle. Use a super-sharp thin bladed knife to slice the meat against the grain for maximum eating pleasure.

As for the potatoes, I like the golden-brown flavor of russet slices cooked directly over the coals; I start the cooking in the microwave while the grill heats. These slices make a delicious side to a burger, but tucked warm into crisp greens they surprise the diner. I employ my hobo-pack style of grilling potatoes for small tender yellow potatoes that get even creamier when cooked in their own steam. To crisp them a bit, I move the pack over the hottest part of the coals for a couple of minutes.

When tossing the salad with a creamy dressing, I prefer sturdy greens — especially with hearty slices of steak and potatoes. Romaine sets the standard, but there’s also good flavor in those heads of Little Gem lettuces sold in bags and the large-leafed arugula sold in bunches. For a stunning presentation with romaine, I cut the head crosswise into thick slabs and put each slab in the center of the plate. Then I top it with all the salad goodies and a drizzle of dressing.

More delicate lettuces, such as watercress, baby spinach, pea shoots and spring mix welcome a lighter dressing such as the fresh herb vinaigrette. This summer, I’m enjoying living cress from Living Water Farms; it is sold with the roots still attached and tastes delicate and sweet. Keep all cress perky by wrapping it in damp paper toweling and storing in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

The goodness about tossing sliced steak in a salad with potatoes: You’ll eat less steak. One 8-ounce steak will make two salads.

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GRILLED STEAK AND POTATO SALAD WITH SPICY RANCH DRESSING

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

I like the Amish blue cheese from Salemville in Cambria, Wis. Pretty blue veins with a rich, not-too-strong flavor that doesn’t overpower the steak.

3 small russet potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, about

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, about

Coarsely ground pepper

1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steaks (or New York strips), each about 1-inch thick

1 medium red onion, peeled, thickly sliced

1 large head romaine lettuce, tough outer leaves removed

Spicy ranch dressing, see recipe

3 small tomatoes, halved, seeds shaken out, flesh cut into small dice

1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, diced

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (or feta or goat cheese)

Thinly sliced fresh basil, optional

1. Prepare a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to hot.

2. Pierce potatoes in several spots with a fork. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Cool, then cut into 1/3-inch thick rounds. Brush both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper. Then drizzle lightly with oil. Lightly brush the onion slices with the oil; season with salt and pepper.

4. Arrange the potato slices over the hotter part of the grill; put the onion slices around the cooler edges. Cook, turning once, until all are golden and tender, about 5 minutes for the potatoes and 15 minutes for the onions. Transfer potatoes to a plate. Separate onions into rings; slice rings in half.

5. Grill the steaks over the hotter portion of the grill, turning only once, until medium-rare (or as preferred), about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest a few minutes.

6. To assemble the salads, cut four 1-inch thick center slices from the romaine. Alternatively, cut the head of romaine lengthwise in quarters. Transfer one romaine slice to each serving plate. Divide the potatoes and onions over the romaine. Very thinly slice the steak; lay the slices on top of the salad. Drizzle steak and greens lightly with dressing. Sprinkle with tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese. Garnish with basil. Serve salad while the steak is warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 526 calories, 33 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 73 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 720 mg sodium, 10 g fiber

SPICY RANCH DRESSING

Prep: 5 minutes

Makes: about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons each: sour cream, mayonnaise

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh: chives, cilantro

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red pepper hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients into a blender. Process to mix. Dressing will keep several days in the refrigerator.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 47 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 143 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

HERBY POTATOES AND STEAK SALAD

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

12 very small golden potatoes (about 1 pound), halved

2 tablespoons olive oil, about

1/2 teaspoon salt, about

Freshly ground pepper

2 or 3 sprigs fresh tarragon, rosemary or oregano (or a combination)

1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steaks (or New York strips), about 1 inch thick

Fresh herb vinaigrette, see recipe

4 cups tender watercress sprigs, rinsed, patted dry (or baby arugula or spinach)

1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to hot.

2. Put potatoes onto a large square of heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Top with the herb sprigs. Wrap in foil to completely enclose potatoes. Wrap the package again with a second square of foil. Place the foil packet directly over the heat source. Grill, moving the packet around occasionally, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from grill; cool in packet.

3. Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper. Then drizzle lightly with oil. Grill the steaks over the hotter portion of the grill, turning only once, until medium-rare (or as preferred), about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest a few minutes.

4. To assemble the salads, open foil packet; transfer potatoes to a bowl (discard the herbs). Toss potatoes with some of the vinaigrette. Add watercress and toss very gently. Divide the mixture among 4 serving plates. Very thinly slice the steaks; lay the slices on top of the salad. Drizzle steak with a little of the dressing. Serve salad while the steak is warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 393 calories, 24 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 57 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 490 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

FRESH HERB VINAIGRETTE

Prep: 5 minutes

Makes: a generous 1/3 cup

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons each, finely chopped fresh: parsley, basil, chives

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix everything in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well before using.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 92 calories, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 111 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

 

 


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