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.
There is no denying it, the heat is turned on and the leaves are turning and dropping. Summer is over. Fall has established itself and cast a deciduous mosaic of red, orange, yellow, brown, and green leaves gleaming across the hillsides. Along with the change of season, the tempo has picked up. The quiet and relaxed pace of summer is replaced with back to business with intense purpose. No more half days on Fridays.
Despite the hurried tempo, cooler temperatures, and reminder that winter is not too far away, I love fall. It is a great time to play outside, hiking, gardening, sightseeing and foraging the last of the season’s bounty. Even though the growing season is ending, there continues to be an ample selection of vegetables and fruits to buy at the market before everything dies down for the winter. Fall belongs to apples, winter squash, pears, persimmons, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and so much more.
Recently, I visited a local apple orchard, Stuart’s Fruit Farm. It was heartwarming to see many couples, families, or just friends walking around the orchard picking apples, enjoying a crisp and sunny fall day. Children’s laughter and the excited child pitch, “I got one!” echoed across the orchard. Glee, family love, activity, and the sweet aroma of fermenting apples with trampled grass enveloped me as I walked about. I saw in the faces of the playing children the reflection of my own children as preschoolers, running and climbing around the same trees. When you are surrounded by your history, it is easy to see how simultaneously time stands still and moves forward.
I am grateful that Stuarts Fruit Farm is still here. A lot of apple orchards sold off their land to developers in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. The land is very valuable and farming work is difficult to make profitable. Stuart’s Fruit Farm recently received grants and secured a conservation easement from The Westchester Land Trust. These combined efforts will protect the farm land from development and allow the Stuart Family to own the land and continue to farm there. Stuarts has been an operating family farm since 1828, and is the “oldest working family farm in Westchester County,” (LoHud July 11, 2016).
I went to Stuarts with two purposes, take photographs of the apple orchard and buy apples. I feel so fortunate to be able to drive 6 minutes and step out on farm land. It is so close to home, I could ride my bike, or walk to the farm if I was so inspired. I love being able to go out in my neighborhood buy fruit and vegetables grown on the very same land. It is amazing to me that I live in a suburban NYC metropolitan area and have an apple orchard in my neighborhood. The additional bonus is it is not the only family farm in the Somers/Yorktown area.
I returned home with a memory card full of images, a bag full of apples, and a desire to make apple pie. Being that it was late in the afternoon, I did not have enough time to prepare a pie crust, so I decided on one of my best and easiest dessert recipes I have, Swedish Apple Pie. It is the perfect recipe for any last-minute impulse bake or invitation to dine. Swedish Apple Pie is more like a cake in texture, but because apples are the main ingredient, it satisfies like a pie.
I first discovered this dessert staying at the home of a college friend. Fortunately, her mom gave me the recipe and I have made Swedish Apple Pie for over 30 years. All you have to do is peel and slice apples, mix together flour, sugar, egg, and butter, then pour the batter over the apples and bake. It is that easy. For people who say they cannot bake, this dessert is for you. You mix it by hand without any special equipment, just a pie pan. Even if you don’t own a pie pan, just buy the aluminum pans available at the grocery store. The pie will taste just as delicious. You can make this recipe with confidence knowing it is a delicious and easy dessert that all will love.
Swedish Apple Pie is a family favorite dessert that I can practically make in my sleep. My family loves this pie so much, one of my sons asked to have it as his “Birthday Cake.” Making Swedish Apple Pie will not interrupt your play time during this gorgeous fall season. You can spend the day outside and have time leftover to bake Swedish Apple Pie. Fill your home with the aromas of baking apples and cinnamon and a reminder of a beautiful fall day well spent.
Best Apples to use for baking pie: Serious Eats recommends Braeburn and Golden Delicious apples for making pie.
I have also had good results with Granny Smith and Cortland. You want to use a crisp and drier apple, one that will not turn into applesauce when baked.
Swedish Apple Pie
- 5-6 apples Granny Smith, or other crisp and not too sweet apple *see notes
- 1-2 Tb granulated sugar
- 1-2 tea ground cinnamon
- 1 cup 4 oz/ 117 g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup 7 5/8 oz/ 218 g granulated sugar
- 1 stick (1/2 cup/ 4 oz/ 113 g) butter
- 1 egg
- Zest of one lemon or juice of half a lemon (optional)
- Heaping 1/4 tea of freshly grated nutmeg. If you own ground nutmeg just use a level 1/4 tea (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a 9-inch pie pan (Pyrex or metal pans are preferred)
Melt the butter set aside to cool.
Peel, core and slice each apple and put into pie pan. Slice the apples no bigger than 1/2 inch across the bottom of each slice. The size of your pan and the size of your apples will depend on how many apples you will need. If you have a regular 9-inch pie pan start with 5 apples. You want the apples to fill the inside of the pie pan and have a slightly rounded top. Add more apples if it looks flat and you see bare spots. Optional - squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Toss to mix.
In a small bowl mix the 1-2 Tb of sugar with the cinnamon. The amount of sugar depends on the type of apple you are using. If you are using Granny Smith Apples you should use the full amount of sugar because they are not that sweet. All other apples are sweeter and might require using less sugar.
Sprinkle the sugar cinnamon mixture over the top of the apples in a nice even layer.
In medium size bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, ground nutmeg, and lemon zest until just combined. Add the cooled melted butter and egg, then stir until the batter is thoroughly mixed. Make sure you scrape down the sides and across the bottom of the bowl to mix in all the flour.
Spoon the batter over the apples starting at the center and working your way around the pan. The batter will be thick but still fluid, and will slightly ease over the apples and into holes. Try to evenly spread the batter in an even layer all around the apples, then spread it into any holes. The batter should read as one smooth top.
Put the pie pan on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Bake, checking to see if it is done beginning at the 45-minute mark. The cooking time will vary depending on the number of apples you have. For me, it has consistently baked at least an hour and often a little longer. The pie is done when the crust is golden brown all across the top, and none of the crust looks uncooked. You will get some crispy crust along the edges and a cake-like middle, not mushy, or too moist.
When it is done baking, take the pie out of the oven and let it completely cool to room temperature before serving.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or creme anglais. Caramel sauce is a delicious addition with the ice cream.
When testing this recipe I used Cortland Apples. Over the years I have used many different types of apples, but the best ones are apples that are well suited to baking. Some good examples are, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Cortland apples. You want very crisp apples that are not too sweet. You can even use more than one type of apple. McIntosh apples and Red Delicious apples do not work well because they are a softer apple and your pie will become apple sauce.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.