Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Serve this dish to others, and they'll wonder
when you had time to go to cooking school

I love when we cook something that could compare with a dish served at a good restaurant, and especially when it took no time at all the make.
   Steak Salad with Shaved Fennel and Dried Cherries (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine is just such a dish. It’s simple yet elegant, with ingredients whose flavors blend perfectly.
   Serve it to others on a weeknight or at casual dinner party, and they will wonder when you had time to go to cooking school.
   The highlight for my husband and I was the shaved fennel bulb, which added a perfect crunch to the salad. It’s important to make sure the fennel bulb is shaved thinly with a mandolin or vegetable peeler as the recipe directs – big hunks of fennel will take away from the salad’s appeal.
   As I mentioned at the start, the dish took a short time to make, and was easy to prepare.
   Sherry vinegar (I used white wine vinegar instead), fresh thyme, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt and pepper are mixed together in a small bowl, then olive oil is drizzled and whisked in slowly to create a vinaigrette.
   Mache or lettuce (we used lettuce) torn in bite-size pieces, the shaved fennel bulb, crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese (we used feta) and dried cherries are tossed together in a large bowl, then tossed with enough of the vinaigrette to coat lightly. I found that took a little more than half of the dressing. This is an important direction – you don’t want to weigh down the salad with gobs of vinaigrette.
   A skirt, flank, or strip steak is sprinkled with fresh thyme, salt and pepper, then cooked on one side then the other. It’s left to rest for five minutes, then sliced thinly.
   My husband found the steak to be a little undercooked after slicing it, and so he popped in the microwave for about a minute to cook it a little more.
   To serve, spread the salad on a plate, drizzle with more dressing, then put a fan of steak slices on top and drizzle with dressing again.

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