This time of year, I focus my meals around tomatoes and fresh corn. I know soon enough local ripe tomatoes and corn will no longer be available. Every day I enjoy the freshness of a perfect juicy tomato and the sweet crunch of fresh corn. They taste so good and refreshing at peak season. I never get tired of them. This obsession challenges me to create different recipes that include corn and/or tomatoes. One variation I created is a steak salad loaded with summer vegetables. This is a light and refreshing salad with just the right amount of spicy citrus dressing to complement he vegetables and steak.
My focus for the recipe was to use local vegetables and fruit from NY Hudson Valley farms. It turns out, everything but the nectarines were grown in Yorktown by Meadows Farm. This local only focus (with the exception of the citrus salad dressing), is a big change for me because I add avocado to everything, especially salad. Avocado would taste great in this salad too. The salad’s produce ingredients include, yellow and green beans, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, fresh corn, arugula, nectarines and herbs. This whole group of fruit and vegetables pair perfectly with grilled steak. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me until I finished the salad, I could buy my steak locally at Hemlock Hill Farms in Cortland Manor.
This salad does not take long to prepare, but as is typical cooking with fresh produce does require more prep-work. I believe the results are worth it. Each step is done to bring out the bright flavors of fruit and vegetables. What is important to focus on is the timing of adding certain ingredients, and when to cook your steak. To achieve the freshest appearance and taste, slice then add the nectarines and steak just before you are ready to serve. Also tear or snip the herbs at that time as well. The rest of the ingredients are hardier and won’t turn brown when exposed to the air and acid.
I am using a new technique I just learned for dressing a vegetable salad. Instead of whisking all the salad dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl, I mix some, but add the rest directly to the vegetables. The citrus juice, zest, Sriracha, and honey get mixed together so the honey dissolves and is easy to mix. Normally, I would add the vinegar with the citrus, and then the olive oil to the citrus mix. However, I will add these ingredients separately to the prepared vegetables and adjust the amounts as needed.
First, add the vinegar to the vegetables with a pinch of Kosher salt. This step brings out the bright flavors and makes them shine. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried this technique. I did not taste a strong vinegar flavor. Instead, the vinegar accentuated the natural flavors of the vegetables. How many times have you tasted homemade salad dressing and got hit in the face with an acid punch? It is not the case when you first add vinegar to vegetables. This is also a good lesson showing how adding additional seasonings and dressings change the flavors of the vegetables and fruit.
Joshua McFadden, chef/owner of Ava Gene’s in Portland Oregon, is considered a vegetable whisperer. He describes his salad making techniques in his cookbook, Six Seasons. I got the idea of adding the vinegar first to a salad after reading his book. Using this idea does make fixing a salad more hands on (literally), and the ingredient amounts somewhat vague. If you are just learning to cook, my advice is to start with less amounts of seasoning and dressings. You can always add more, but it is harder to fix over-seasoned and over-dressed food. Get your (clean) hands in there and add, toss and taste. Repeat until you believe it is perfect.
Do you have a local market where you buy your produce? Farmers markets are great, but around here they open one day a week on Saturday or Sunday. Having a local farm stand open six days a week in my hometown is a treat. I shop at big grocery stores as well, which are very convenient. However, I am grateful to live in an area where local farm produce is available to me.
What meal do you make using local and fresh ingredients?
Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing
- 1 TB fresh orange juice and zest from half an orange
- Juice from one lime and zest
- 1 TB honey
- 2 TB sherry vinegar
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 1/2 tbs Sriracha
- Kosher Salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper
Summer Vegetable Steak Salad
- 1 lb green beans ends trimmed
- 2-3 scallions
- 1 lb 450 g green beans, if a mix of colors are available use them.
- 1 ear of fresh corn
- 1/2 lb 225 g grape tomatoes
- 3 oz 40 g arugula
- 1 1/2 lbs 750 g steak, like shell steak, strip steak, or flank steak, your choice
- Pinch of Kosher Salt about 1/2 tbs
- 1/2 tbs crushed fennel seed
- 1/2 tbs ground coriander
- 1 - 2 nectarines or peaches sliced into wedges (If using peaches peel them first)
- About 5-6 basil leaves
- About 6 mint leaves
- About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- More Kosher salt and ground pepper
Prepare the steak
One hour before you cook the steak, remove the steak from the refrigerator and its packaging. Put the steak on a plate and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle Kosher salt, ground coriander and crushed fennel seed over both sides of the steak. Loosely cover the steak with plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
Spicy Citrus Dressing
Add the orange juice, lime juice, zests, honey, sriracha, a small pinch of Kosher salt, a couple of grinds of ground pepper, and smashed garlic clove to a small bowl. Mix until the honey is dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic and keep on the counter for later.
Prepare the vegetables
Trim off the ends of the scallions and thinly slice each scallion on a sharp diagonal. Add the scallion slices to a small bowl filled with cold water and ice. Let the scallions macerate in the ice water for 15 minutes.
Husk the corn and cut off the stem piece. Place the bottom of the corn in a mixing bowl and hold onto the tip. With a sharp knife slice off the kernels from the cob. Once the kernels are sliced off, run the back edge of your knife down the cob to press any corn milk out, catch the drippings in your bowl.
Make an ice water bath for the green beans. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside near the stove.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil on the stove. Trim the green beans. When the water boils add a large pinch of salt then the green beans and blanch them for one minute. Remove the green beans from the boiling water and quickly add them to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When cooled, take the green beans out of the ice bath and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Add the beans to the bowl with the corn.
Cut the grape tomatoes in half and add to bowl.
Add half the arugula. If the leaves are large, tear them in half.
Drain the scallions and dry them, then add to the bowl with the vegetables.
Add the sherry vinegar, a small pinch of Kosher salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper to the vegetables and toss to mix with your clean hands. Taste. You will taste the vinegar, but it will not be harsh. Set aside.
Sear the seasoned steak on a hot grill, grill pan, or skillet. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to your pan or grill. Add the steak and sear for about 2- 3 minutes per side depending on the cut of your steak. My steak was very thin, about an inch, so very little time was needed to cook it. Flank steak will take longer. Aim for rare to medium-rare steak, or how you prefer your steak. The internal temperature for rare steak is 125°F (52°C). Medium-rare is 130 - 135°F (54 - 57°C). Remove the steak from the heat and rest on a carving board, and grind a couple of rounds of fresh pepper over each steak. Let the steak rest for 10 - 15 minutes.
When you are almost ready to eat, cut the bone off the steak (if there is one), and slice on a diagonal and across the grain into thin, 1/4 inch (.5 cm) slices. Drizzle about half of the citrus dressing over your steak slices on the cutting board then drizzle 1 TB of extra virgin olive oil over the steak.
Slice the nectarines and add to the vegetables. Add the remaining arugula. Drizzle the remaining citrus dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat and taste the vegetables for seasoning. Add more lime juice, sriracha, or other seasonings if needed. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Tear or snip the herbs over the bowl of the vegetables and toss. Taste and correct seasoning.
I like to serve the steak and vegetables side by side, not all mixed up like a traditional salad. This way if you have any leftover steak, you can store it separately and make steak sandwiches the next day. On a large platter spread out your vegetables and drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs. Arrange the sliced steak to the side of the vegetables and pour any accumulated juices from the cutting board over the steak. Lightly drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the steak and a light sprinkle of sea salt flakes if you have them, and fresh ground pepper. Garnish the steak with chopped herbs. If you prefer, mix the vegetables and steak together in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Up until recently lamb was a special occasion meal that was right up there with crab for my requested birthday celebration. I love lamb, but it can be pricey, especially for a family of 5. My five are not your average eaters, 3/5 of them are big, athlete, hungry eaters who devour their meal in half the time as everyone else. Needless to say, we did not serve lamb on a regular basis when my sons were all living at home.
Now that we are two serving lamb, especially lamb chops, is more affordable and we do not have to wait for a special occasion to have a treat. At my grocery store the rib lamb chops come already cut up into single rib pieces and will cook in less than 5 minutes on the stove. To make delicious lamb chops all you need is a small amount of preparation and a couple of standard ingredients. The lamb chops are so delicious very little needs to be added in for flavor. Do not be intimidated, believing that lamb chops are “gourmet” and will be difficult to prepare. They are little gems and so easy to prepare.
How to make lamb chops
First take the lamb chops out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to cook them. Take them out of the packaging and arrange on a plate. Blot both sides of the lamb chops with a paper towel, then sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt lightly but evenly over the lamb chops on both sides. At this point you can decide how “fancy” you want to get. I like to sprinkle ground sumac and a bit of chopped fresh rosemary, but you can decide what, if any herbs and spices you would like to add. If you do not have sumac, salt and rosemary will be just fine. I do not apply ground pepper at this time because when I cook meat with ground pepper, the pepper can burn in the pan or on the grill and have a bitter taste.
Let the seasoned lamb chops rest on the counter for one hour. The meat will come up to room temperature, which is what you want. Beginning the cooking process with meat that is at room temperature vs 40° F, means less cooking time. There is no need to cover the lamb with plastic wrap, just keep them undisturbed on the counter. If you are nervous about having uncovered meat on your counter, loosely cover the lamb with plastic wrap.
When you are ready to cook the lamb chops, use a skillet, cast iron pan, or grill pan, and heat the pan on the burner on high heat. Add a drizzle of oil (canola or olive oil) to the pan, just enough to lightly coat the bottom. You are ready to cook the lamb chops when the pan is hot and the oil will be shiny and just about to smoke. Arrange the lamb chops on the pan, turn the heat down to medium-high heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes undisturbed. Be careful not to crowd the pan by adding too many lamb chops. Depending on the size of your pan and how many lamb chops you are cooking, you may need to cook the lamb chops in a couple of batches. In my 12-inch cast iron skillet, I can cook 5-6 rib lamb chops at a time.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
The middle of the summer is here and the farmers markets are overflowing with a variety of fruit and vegetables. At last zucchini and corn are announcing their presence. Don’t let these “common” and affordable vegetables fool you, both offer a wide choice of preparations and pair beautifully together. Raw zucchini and corn tastes so fresh, you will think you are sitting outside in a vegetable patch with a fresh summer breeze.
Up until last summer, the local corn was not impressive. Unfortunately, the corn I bought at the grocery store was bland, getting sweet fresh corn was the exception not the rule. Even corn bought at a farm stand was just ok. Fortunately, last summer with a new season, the corn was outstanding. Every market I went sold delicious sweet and crisp corn. As a result, I discovered eating corn uncooked, just scraped off the cob. Fresh corn just scraped off the cob, is corn at its sweetest and crunchiest. Raw fresh corn became my not so secret, secret ingredient that changed a salad from being “good” to extraordinary. Raw corn is the essence of summer – simple, carefree and bright.
These hot summer days require food that helps bring the heat down and keep the stove off. Fresh zucchini and corn salad will do just that. The sweetness of the corn adds depth to the zucchini with crisp texture and bright and fresh flavor. Add lemon vinaigrette, fresh herbs, avocados and pistachios and this salad will satisfy all cravings with crisp, crunch and creamy textures and flavors. Most importantly you do not have to turn on the oven.
My recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe of Patricia Wells, Zucchini Carpaccio from her book, Salads as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season. The paper-thin sliced zucchini paired with avocado, pistachios and a lemon dressing was elegant and inspirational. Now, I do not see this as a salad entrée. I would be prowling in the pantry for munchies a couple of hours after dinner if it were. So, I adapted this salad to serve as a vegetable side dish and added corn.
To prepare the zucchini I used a Spiralizer and cut the zucchini noodles into smaller pieces. This made the salad easier to mix and eat. If you do not have a Spiralizer you can julienne the zucchini, or slice across the zucchini as thin as possible then, cut each slice in half or quarters. The point is to have the zucchini in extra thin pieces to reinforce zucchini delicate flavor. No big chunks in this salad.
Fresh herbs are another key ingredient in the salad and lemon thyme is a stand out feature. If you do not have lemon thyme, substitute basil or other fresh herb that pairs well with lemon. But use fresh herbs, dried herbs will not do the salad justice.
Fresh Zucchini and Corn Salad with Avocado and Pistachio
- 1 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Zest from half a lemon
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tea sea salt
- 2 medium fresh zucchinis
- 1 ear of fresh corn husked
- 1/2 ripe avocado chopped
- 1/4 cup pistachio nuts ruff chopped
- 1 TB fresh lemon thyme minced
For the Salad Dressing
In a small jar with a lib, or small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest and sea salt until just combined. Add the olive oil and vigorously shake the jar with the lid tightly screwed on, or whisk with a fork in a bowl, until the salad dressing is well incorporated. Set aside.
Zucchini and Corn Salad
Clean and trim the ends of each zucchini. Use a Spiralizer to spiral cut the zucchini into noodles, or very thinly slice the zucchini across the zucchini then cut each piece in half or julienne the zucchini. If using the Spiralizer, cut the zucchini noodles into smaller lengths. Put the prepared zucchini into a medium mixing bowl.
Hold the ear of the corn at the pointed end and rest the stem end on a cutting board. (Cut the stem off so you can have a stable surface to rest the corn on.) Take a sharp chef knife and starting at the top of the corn cut down the length of the corn, scraping the knife against the cob, to cut off the corn kernels. Rotate the corn around and continue to cut the corn kernels off the entire ear of corn. Put the corn kernels in the bowl with the zucchini.
Add the chopped avocado and chopped pistachios to the bowl and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Add the fresh herbs and salad dressing and mix to combine. If not planning to serving the salad right away, do not add the avocado and pistachios. Add these ingredients just before serving. Serve at room temperature.
If you do not have lemon thyme you can add basil or thyme. Any fresh herb that pairs well with lemon will work.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.