His recipe is inspired by a salad that I enjoy at Tacubaya, a Mexican restaurant in Berkeley. It’s just a simple garden lettuce salad with avocado, but the toasted pumpkin seeds make it especially good. To add protein, I order the salad with beef, which makes it much more satisfying.
When I make this at home, I add carrot, radish, and Aleppo pepper. You can also add sliced cucumber. I like it with skirt steak, but you can serve it with sliced grilled or sautéed chicken breast as well. To grill the skirt steak, see the sidebar at left. A mandoline works especially well to quickly, easily, and evenly slice the carrots and radishes.
Salad for Dinner by Tasha DeSerio, Taunton Press, 2012.
|1 clove garlic, pounded to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt||1/2 cup pumpkin seeds|
|2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice; more as needed||1 (1 1/4 pound) skirt steak, cold|
|1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar; more as needed||Freshly ground black pepper|
|1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and lightly||2 ripe avocados|
|1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika||4 handfuls (8 ounces) handfuls assorted mild garden lettuces, washed and diced|
|Kosher salt||2 medium-size carrots, very thinly sliced|
|1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil||3 radishes, such as French Breakfast, very thinly sliced|
|1 shallot, thinly sliced||Aleppo pepper, for sprinkling (optional)|
To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, paprika, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. Taste with a leaf of lettuce and adjust the vinaigrette with more lime juice, vinegar, or salt if necessary. Set aside.
Put the shallot in a small bowl and cover with ice water. (The ice water crisps the shallot and helps remove some its hot and gassy flavor.) Set aside.
Warm a small sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the pumpkin seeds. Fry the seeds, tossing or stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate lined with a paper towel and season with salt.
Cut the skirt steak into manageable lengths and return it to the refrigerator until shortly before you are ready to cook it. (Because skirt steak is so thin, you want the beef cold to prevent it from overcooking before it browns.) Season the beef with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Warm a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and place the beef in the pan without overlapping the strips. Cook until the beef is nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook on the opposite side until medium rare, 1 to 2 minutes more; time will vary depending on the thickness of the meat. (If necessary, reduce the heat to medium high to finish cooking thicker sections of the meat.) Transfer to a plate and let rest for about 5 minutes.
Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pits (see the technique in the sidebar at left), and slice the flesh diagonally into about 1⁄4-inch slices. Set aside.
Drain the shallot. Put the salad greens in a large work bowl; sprinkle the shallot, carrots, and radishes on top and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the salad with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Add about half of the pumpkins seeds and toss once more. With a delicate hand, transfer the salad to a platter or individual serving plates, evenly distributing the seeds, carrots, and radishes that may have fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Then, using a large spoon and starting at the very edge of the avocado (where skin meets flesh), scoop the flesh out of the avocado in one swoop. Separate the avocado slices and tuck them here and there among the greens. (At this point, I like to season the avocado, as best I can, with salt.) Thinly slice the meat against the grain. Arrange the skirt steak on the side or in the salad. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette on and around the salad, focusing on the avocado and beef. Sprinkle the Aleppo pepper (if using) and the remaining pumpkin seeds on top. Serve immediately.
More about Skirt Steak
If you haven’t bonded with skirt steak, you should. It’s an inexpensive and delicious cut of beef, especially when cooked properly. Unlike other cuts, it’s best to store the beef in the refrigerator until just before you cook it—the thin steaks overcook easily if not. A hot cast-iron skillet or grill works best to caramelize the beef quickly. Thin steaks are typically ready just after they brown on both sides. When cooking thicker steaks, brown the meat on both sides and then reduce the heat to medium high (or move it to a cooler part of the grill) to finish cooking. You’re after a true medium rare; rare skirt steak is chewy, and steaks cooked over medium have a tendency to be tough and livery tasting. Be sure to let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes, and slice it against the grain.
To pit an avocado, cut it in half lengthwise and gently twist each half in opposite directions to separate. To remove the pit, hold the avocado in the palm of your hand, and carefully tap the pit with your knife blade. The pit will stick to the blade. Then, twist the knife to free the pit. To remove the pit from the knife blade, turn your knife sideways and tap the pit on the cutting board a few times.
To slice an avocado while the flesh is encased in its skin, hold a half in the palm of your hand and, using a small sharp knife, slice the flesh diagonally into about 1⁄4-inch slices, cutting through the avocado without penetrating the skin (or your hand). Repeat with the other half.
To dice an avocado, slice the avocado as above and then slice again in the opposite direction into a cross-hatch pattern.
To remove sliced or diced avocado, use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh in one swoop (start at the very edge of the avocado, where skin meets flesh). At this point, you should be able to easily separate the slices or dice.
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