Right now, the weather can’t make up its mind if it’s summer or not. We’ve had outrageously hot days, followed up by weeks of cool, cloudy and rainy weather. My cooking has remained optimistic: I’ve been aiming for lighter, easier to cook meals that don’t heat up the kitchen too much, like this steak salad for lunches this week.
The other reason I’m cooking this particular lunch item this week is in response to a blogging challenge on pulcetta.com focused on cooking a food found in a novel. As you may have figured out by now, if I’m not cooking or gardening, I’m more than likely sitting in the garden and reading. I read widely, though generally my favorite genre is mystery or suspense and I’m a particular fan of mysteries set in interesting places that have characters that reflect those places and cultures. One of my favorite series is by Dana Stabenow and features Kate Shugak, a private investigator living in remote Alaska. As I was thinking about this challenge and reading A Taint in the Blood, I realized how much Kate Shugak cooks throughout the series. Often, the meals include moose and other locally hunted protein, but in this particular novel, Kate goes to Anchorage to work on a case and buys things like steak. Since I doubted I’d find moose at Whole Foods, I decided to replicate a recipe Kate makes about mid-book: an herbed steak with spinach.
(I spent some of the weekend hanging out, drinking Aperol spritzes – recipe coming out on Friday – and reading).
I thought I’d try flank steak, as it’s lean and quick cooking, but Whole Foods also didn’t have this cut (maybe I should have asked for moose after all?). I decided to go for round steak instead, coating it in olive oil and then smothering it with herbs, searing it in a cast iron pan and then throwing it in the oven for a bit to finish off, a very similar technique to the one Kate uses in the book. The original recipe in the novel has Kate then steaming some spinach and dressing it with red wine vinegar. I had originally purchased spinach for my salad, but it got repurposed for an omelet on Sunday morning, so am going with mixed salad greens instead, lightly dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil. I also threw in some dill and garlic goat cheese. Kate is not a drinker, but I couldn’t resist tasting the steak with a bit of red wine on the side, and I promise you, it’s heaven. It was all I could do to resist munching on the sliced pieces of steak as I put my salad together.
Herbed Steak Salad
4 small round steaks, about a pound total weight
3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Spinach or salad greens
Red wine vinegar
For the steaks: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil over the steaks and make sure both sides are liberally coated. Combine the herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Dredge the olive oil coated steaks in the herb mixture until both sides are well coated. Add the steaks to the preheated skillet and cook about four minutes per side. Steaks should be well seared on both sides and should reach an internal temperature of 130 degrees for medium rare. I found it helped to cover the skillet between flipping the steak to keep the heat in. Set the steaks aside, cover with foil and let rest or at least two minutes.
Slice the steak thinly. Plate four plates or bowls with spinach or salad greens. Place the sliced steak over the greens and then sprinkle with goat cheese (to taste), and drizzle with red wine vinegar and with olive oil.
For more novel food blogginess, head over to http://www.pulcetta.com/2016/05/announcing-novel-food-27.html