Back when I started dreaming up a cookbook I would one day write, all I knew is what I didn’t want: I did not want to work every weekday, weekend and evening on it, I did not want to set an insanely close deadline and then have to hastily throw together a book I wasn’t pleased with and above all else I did not want the time I had to devote to this web space to become squeezed, although I understood that there would probably be a harried point right near the end that all three rules could be suspended for a good cause. And indeed, they have been. I hope to deliver my manuscript in August and it’s pretty all-consuming right now — in a good way, because I’m finally starting to see the whole thing coming together. So, if things are a bit slow between now and then, do understand that I cannot wait until late summer when my attentions can be what they were before my son was 4 months old, and instead of doing normal New Mom things like catching up on sleep or rounding up preschool applications (ha!), I decided that at my earliest convenience, I would write a book instead.
Nevertheless, not a day goes by when I do not cook and this past weekend, it was my favorite kind: the lazy kind, mostly whims. On Friday, well, Friday was a crazy day and I’ll tell you about that real soon. It involved a cake I’m auditioning for the cookbook and a late summer dish I’ll tell you about even sooner. Also: photographers. It was a little scary, but it ended with some Vermontucky Lemonades, so I didn’t mind. On Sunday, I caved to the blueberries and peaches and decided to make two pies, but left one with my in-laws and delivered another to friends at their new house and can’t tell you how they came out because I wasn’t there when anyone cut into them. But warm pie fresh from the oven? I’m going to assume nobody complained. On Monday, I made a slaw and baked America one of those goofy berry-topped birthday cakes before heading out to watch the sun set behind Manhattan and catch the faintest glimpse of the
New York Fireworks West Side of Manhattan and New Jersey Fireworks with friends.
But Saturday, I can tell you all about Saturday: I spotted a recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit that we absolutely had to make for my husband’s family, who love Bloody Marys. I prepared the salad in my kitchen and hightailed it out to the ‘burbs where there are things like patios and open air grills. In the past, I’ve never been much of a steak person. Even the best ones, perfectly cooked, rarely charmed me but something shifted when I discovered skirt steak, and how easy it is to make, on or off the grill. It’s thin and quick, not terribly expensive and when properly seared on both sides, gives off the crisp edge/soft interior I think all great foods have in common. Plus, it is absolutely lovely draped over a summery salad. I was informed that this salad of tomatoes, celery, olives and vinegar-tossed red onions with a funky-fascinating dressing with horseradish, Worcestershire and celery seed “tastes exactly like a Bloody Mary” and yet it did not freak out the Bloody Mary wary (sheepishly raising my hand) at the table. It made a ton of food, too, so much that the next day we made steak sandwiches a la Ina Garten and had the leftover salad on the side which earned it an immediate place in the file I’m building of summer meals for lazy evenings.
Skirt steak salad, previously: with Blue Cheese
One year ago: Sour Cherry Pie with Almond Crumble and Porch Swing
Two years ago: Watermelon Lemonade and Light Brioche Burger Buns
Three years ago: Project Wedding Cake: Ta-Da!
Four years ago: Israeli Salad + Pita Chips and Roseanne Cash’s Potato Salad
Skirt Steak with Blood Mary Tomato Salad
Adapted, only barely, from Bon Appetit because Sarah Dickerman writes consistently awesome recipes
I realized a bit after the fact that I’d used skirt steak when the recipe called for flank steak. Actually, no, I indeed used a flank steak. D’oh! They’re virtually interchangeable, however. The flank steak is cut from a little further back on the cow, and is a thicker and bit leaner. If using flank steak, I’d add two minute’s cooking time to each side.
I wanted more spice rub for the steak than the recipe had provided, so I’ve doubled it, below.
2 1 1/2 pound skirt steaks
4 teaspoons (packed) brown sugar, light or dark
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil (for brushing)
1 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, divided
2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (from about 3 pints or 10 ounce containers)
1 cup chopped celery hearts (inner stalks and leaves; from 1 bunch)
1/2 cup chopped brined green olives plus 2 tablespoons olive brine
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare steaks: Arrange steaks on large rimmed sheet or cutting board. Mix 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, dark brown sugar, paprika, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper together in a dish. Rub all over steaks and let them marinate in this rub for 1 to 3 hours, covered in the refrigerator. Remove steaks from fridge 1 hour before you’re ready to cook them, to bring them to room temperature.
Prepare salad: Pour 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar over onions in the bottom of a large bowl and let them sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will temper the onion’s bite. Add tomatoes, celery and olives. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, reserved olive brine, horseradish, Worcestershire, pepper sauce and celery seeds in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly until combined. Add to tomato salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed, and up to 4 hours in advance, if covered and refrigerated.
Cook steaks: Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-high or a gas grill to the highest heat. Brush grill grates with oil. Grill steaks for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4-inch thick slices, against the grain.
Alternately, cook the steaks inside: Heat a large cast-iron skillet on medium-high to high and coat bottom with oil. When oil begins to shimmer, place steak in skillet and do not move it for 5 minutes. Turn it once, and cook for another 3 minutes for medium-rare. Repeat with second steak. If your steaks are too large to cook in one piece, you may halve them to fit. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4-inch thick slices, against the grain.