Because He Insists

Teacherman insists that I write this post. “Best Salad In The World!” he said, looking at me with almost stern conviction. “Best. Salad. IN THE WORLD.” Ooookay, for the sake of peace in the home. . . .

Tonight there was more fun with non-scary meat–we grilled an enormous sirloin steak, cut into four filet-mignon-sized pieces. Each piece was rubbed with chipotle powder, paprika, powdered bay leaves and cumin (and salt and pepper of course), grilled to about medium, and topped with a creamy blue cheese, roughly crumbled. This crispy, juicy, melting and oozing entree was phenomenally good, but not what Teacherman is jumping up and down telling me to write about.

I love vegetable side dishes almost more than I like anything else. The different flavor possibilities are infinitely exciting, and because of this, my portions sizes are usually gargantuan. Concerning steak, though, I’m always a little stymied. The traditional steak sides are broccoli and/or some preparation of potatoes, and due to allergies and food intolerances ranging across the two of us, neither of these things can grace our dinner table. (Don’t think we’re deprived, though: when we eat alone, Teacherman and I are wont to snarf down the very foods that the other cannot eat).

Since it’s ostensibly spring (not that one would know it from the sub-zero temperatures), my thoughts veered towards a salad of baby greens. I threw mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a bowl, forked them about a bit, then tossed in an entire bag of baby greens. (I believe that the contents of these bags are supposed to serve 4-6. Not in my house). This mixture was scooped onto two dinner plates, nearly completely covering them with the glistening leaves.

To continue the blue cheese theme, I crumbled the remaining ounce or so over the greens, added a handful of sliced, brilliantly red strawberries from the two-pound flat in the fridge, and another handful of extremely toasted pecans. In my opinion, the reason that the salad was so good was the fact that I almost ruined the last component.

I threw the handful of nuts into the toaster oven at 350, set the timer, then forgot about them. In a real oven, toasting nuts takes about 10 minutes. In a toaster oven, one never really knows–sometimes it takes 15 minutes, sometimes it takes 3 or 4. This time it took 3, maybe. I slid the the tray into the toaster oven, ran outside to turn on the grill, and by the time I got back inside the pecans were almost black. They were not, luckily, burnt, and I frantically tipped them onto a room-temperature plate to stop the cooking. In spite of the fact that they were simply raw pecans when I took them out of the bag, the over-toasting transformed them into something almost spiced; the oils in the nut had bubbled to the surface and caramelized, lending them the same moreish quality as buttered popcorn.

There are innumerable recipes for mesclun salads with strawberries, various cheeses and various nuts. I thought the salad I made would be a simple, tasty, non-extraordinary accompaniment to the excellent, Teacherman-grilled steak. Instead, the confluence of flavors made the salad what we lingered over, finishing the entree first, to savor the salad without distraction.

Published in: on April 6, 2007 at 7:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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