Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad

Perfect song on the radio 
Sing along 'cause it's one we know 
It's a smile, it's a kiss 
It's a sip of wine, it's summertime 
Sweet summertime 

Oh, pardon me. I didn't realize you were listening. I do have a tendency to sing loudly when I'm alone in the kitchen. I typically don't sing so loudly when other folks are present, unless you have the good fortune of being one of my children. In that case you'd be asking me to be quiet because it's embarrassing. But since you're surely not one of my children I won't be singing for you any time soon. Unless you're stopped next to my car at a red light. In that case you'd be smiling awkwardly at me over the passenger seat because you find my singing to be so off-pitched it hurts. Then you'll see me slowly rolling up my windows and looking even more awkwardly back at you. But anyhow, I'm singing today because this is today's theme song. And theme songs are meant to be sung along to. The first day of summer. Summer solstice. The longest day of the year. A day for grilling out. A season for salads.

And today, boy oh boy, do I have a salad for you. Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad is the perfect mix of light and hearty, sweet and savory.

This has become the favorite salad in our house. The other night I prepared enough to last two dinners but was pleasantly surprised to find my children asking for seconds and thirds. Sure enough we finished off the whole batch in one sitting.

The key to this salad is the balsamic reduction. Since I don't have a lot of extra time on my hands and I prefer to do things the easy way, I made sure my balsamic reduction was super simple. It needed to be something I could do while candying pecans. So I dumped a bottle of balsamic vinegar in a heavy saucepan and put the heat on. Then I reduced the liquid to half while stirring continuously. Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Enough talk. Let's get to it.

Balsamic Glazed Sliced Steak Salad

1-2 pounds flank steak (or whatever you want to cook up tonight)
1 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups candied pecans
1 cup dried cranberries, sweetened
10 oz grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
16 oz sliced button mushrooms
1/4 head shredded red cabbage
1/2 liter balsamic vinegar
balsamic vinaigrette dressing

The Preparation Method:

Let us begin by taking a closer look at the tastiest salad I've made in years...

Now that we have our inspiration for the task ahead of us, we shall carry-on.

Word to the wise with this salad—plan ahead. Make the balsamic reduction yesterday. Make the candied pecans the day before yesterday. There is no good reason why you should be eating dinner at ten o'clock at night just because you forgot to make these most crucial items ahead of time. They both keep on the shelf nicely. Make them when you have an extra half hour in the day and be amazed at how quickly you can pull this salad together.

I posted about the candied pecans the other day. Click here for the recipe.

The balsamic reduction glaze is easy. Pour a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in a heave saucepan. Use half a liter or a full liter. (The glaze that is left over can be stored in an airtight container in the cupboard to spruce up most meat or fish entrees.) Turn the heat on medium-high. Stir continuously. Bring to a slow boil. When the vinegar sticks to a wooden spoon, as seen in the picture above, the reduction is complete. It should be thick like molasses. This process took me about 30 minutes. Beware of letting it go too long for fear of it burning. Immediately take off the heat and let cool. Set aside. (The cupboard is fine. The refrigerator will turn it hard as a rock.)

Next begin preparing the other toppings...

Thinly sliced red cabbage.

Grape tomatoes cut lengthwise.

Sweetened dried cranberries.

Thinly sliced button mushrooms.

Now it's time to get the steak on the grill. Get the grill nice and hot before you put the steak on. Help the steak stay nice and tender by only flipping it once. Keep the lid on the grill while it's cooking.

Grill your steak how you like it. For us this was about four minutes on each side to achieve nice grill marks on the outside and medium-rare in the center. This steak was a little thick. Less time if your steak is thinner.

Bring off the grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness. This will allow all the juices to settle into the meat rather than run all over your cutting board. Then thinly slice the steak.

While the steak is resting, start dressing the salad plates...

A handful of mushrooms.

Just a touch of red cabbage.

A small handful of dried cranberries.

Some grape tomatoes.

And a few candied pecans. Unless you are one of my children. In which case you would grab the whole bowl and dump it on your plate and leave none for your siblings or your parents. Sneaky buggers.

Even though Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing is quite possibly one of the easiest salad dressings on the planet, I opted for a store bought variety. Newman's Own is one of my favorites! Pour a light drizzle over the salad at this point.

Now add the slices of steak over the top and give a heavy drizzle of the balsamic reduction over the top of the warm meat. In a minute or two it will melt into the meat and turns into magic on a plate.

Enjoy on the back porch—or stoop or balcony or fire escape—tonight.

Happy summer everyone!

What is better than a video with Karaoke style lyrics? Come on and sing along with me. I promise I won't  give you any awkward looks.

Kenny Chesney - Summertime

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