It’s Winter…it’s Spring… it’s Winter… Nobody knows! What I do know, is that the first day of Summer is the same amount of days away whether it’s sunny or snowing outside in the middle of April and if that’s the case, I am going to need a salad for dinner.
If you’re like anything like me, salads can be a lot of things, but the one thing they can’t be is boring. If that’s the case, I either won’t want to eat it or I’ll eat it and it will leave me so dissatisfied, somehow I chalk it up to a starter salad and start looking for some “real dinner” an hour or so later.
This salad was inspired by three things: my good friend’s favorite tri-tip steak salad, a little twist of nicoise salad and any excuse I can have to use my inside grill to make it feel a little more like Giants baseball season and Summer nights. It’s simple, delicious, Whole30 approved and can be a real show stopper if you take your time. It’s everything you want a dinner salad to be and almost everything can be done ahead of time. The salad is basic but the variation possibilities are vast – make it your own!
Here’s (M)egg’s version:
Grilled Steak Salad with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
Grilled Flank or Skirt Steak
Grilled Red Onions, sliced thick
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Hard (or moderately) “Boiled” Eggs (You’ll see what I mean below)
Blanched Green Beans
Red Butter Lettuce (or your favorite)
Shelled Pistachios (or your favorite nut)
A few splashes of hot sauce
Salt and Pepper
1) Prepare everything separately and plate one salad at a time. I love the look of a plated salad and with each ingredient being somewhat large, it’s nice to carefully portion each ingredient. This also gives you a more satiated feeling, in that it’s a prepared dinner than a side salad.
2) Season every ingredient separately (salt, pepper). If each tastes great on it’s own, it will taste great together. Don’t worry that the entire dish will become too salty; you’re not making each ingredient salty, you’re making each ingredient taste more like itself.
3) Use similar but different variations on the ingredients based on your favorites! This version has my own favorites of each of these ingredients but you could easily swap out any one for a favorite of your own. Here’s my thought and process behind each:
Steak: I love a skirt or flank steak – they’re affordable, cook really fast and when prepared correctly, are really tender and flavorful. Keep it simple: plenty of salt, pepper, HOT grill, CUT CORRECTLY. Given the cut of meat, medium is really the max you want to cook it to for it to remain tender. If you don’t like your meat to be medium, go with another cut…of another animal. So much of what makes recipes work or not work is just using the right item for what you want. If you want well done, this might not be the item for you. If you love well done (and probably a bit chewy) steak by all means, continue! If not, try subbing chicken or even salmon.
Slicing against the grain. You hear it all the time, people say it matters… it does! It creates short fibers in the meat so every bite is tender and enjoyable. I cannot stress enough what a difference this makes. If you’re not sure the direction of the grain of your meat Facetime me, we’ll get through this together.
“Hard Boiled” Eggs: I’ve got to say, I am not really a fan. I want to be but I’m just not! I am talking about that discolored, chalky yolk surrounded by the rubber band that used to be the whites of an egg… which is precisely why we’re using 6-8 minute eggs here instead. All the goodness of a creamy egg, none of the trouble. Three things to make your life easier cooking eggs: 1) If you’re boiling them in water, add some white vinegar to it. This helps the shell release more easily once they’re cooked. 2) After you boil/cook them, immediately drain them and soak them in ice water and let them get cold. This also helps them to peel more easily. 3) “What do you mean IF I boil them? They’re boiled eggs for crying out loud!” Have you ever tried using a steamer? Yep. Get your steam rolling, put your eggs in there, cover and set your timer. As easy as it gets (6-8 minutes for me). What I love about this method is the cook time is more accurate so your eggs turn out the same every time. You’re not dealing with the time when the eggs are in the water and the water is cold until it boils – that could vary every time! If you don’t think a minute makes a difference in time… ask an egg! This is easy, neat and I am embarrassed I have never thought of it myself. Of course you can use an instant pot too, I just don’t have one.
Grilled Onions: Mix it up! Try grilling green onions whole, red like I did or anything else that sounds good. The main things you’re looking for here is that nice char. If you’re cooking inside, cast iron is the way to go. Outside, naturally the grill will take great care of you.
Blanched Green Beans: You know the drill: simmer some salted water, drop in the green beans until their color turns bright (maybe 2 minutes? Under is better than overcooked here) and put them in a bowl full of ice water to cool them down quickly. They’ll be vibrant, crisp and taste great. Don’t love green beans? Try something else! What you’re looking for here is another hearty green vegetable: Try broccoli (blanched), romanesco (grilled or roasted), asparagus (blanched or grilled) or even zucchini or bell peppers (both grilled)!
Pistachios: No prep here (unless they have shells on… don’t leave those for your guests to do.. “Thanks for coming, shell your own nuts”… not ideal). If you don’t like or don’t have those maybe try cashews, walnuts or even slices/slivered almonds. Just keep in mind someone needs to be able to pick it up with a fork so stay away from anything too hard like whole almonds.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes: As simple as it gets: cut, season with salt and pepper (maybe some garlic powder or fresh garlic), toss in olive oil, place in your oven at 400 degrees until they’re nice and soft, turning with a spatula a couple times during the process to brown on all sides. Done. In a time crunch? You can buy sweet potato fries (check the ingredients, simpler the better) and throw those in to save yourself a step. No one has to know…although if they’re crinkled, you’re going to have to fake some pretty legit knife skills.
Lettuce: Choose your favorite or try something new! My Farmer’s Market Lettuce Whisperer always has beautiful red butter lettuce so I love to use it here. Anything would do though! Spring mix, spinach, romaine, arugula – go nuts.
Dressing: You can definitely swap this for any favorite. I love the mustard vinaigrette because it’s tangy to counter the sweetness of the potatoes and grilled onions and balances the richness of the steak. Another balsamic or Italian dressing would be great here too, you choose!
I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a lot of text for a ‘simple’ salad!”. You’re right, but it’s not really about the salad. It’s about being mindful and taking care in each step of what you’re doing to make something nice for someone you love, even if that someone is you. I hope this encourages you more than to make this salad, but how to think of what you’re putting together at each step of the process and to cook from your heart with the ingredients you and your loved ones enjoy the most.
A toast: To being thoughtful, to losing track of time to focus on the process and to adding care where people don’t expect you to.