Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Dinner Salad, Part I

After a big pot of soup, the dinner salad is the easiest way to use up leftovers. Let's say it's Monday and you just got home from work. You open the fridge and see the chunk of flank steak and one ear of grilled corn from your weekend BBQ. You could either take it to work tomorrow and eat it for lunch -- a perfectly acceptable solution, saving you time and money and not wasting any food. But that's kinda boring - it's the exact same thing you ate when you made it the first time. Leftovers DO NOT have to mean repeats!

So what do you do? You make a dinner salad! You're using a fraction of the meat you'd normally need to feed the family (stretching the budget, and let's face it, saving wear and tear on your colon. We could all stand to eat less flesh.) Salads are a great way to use up cooked veggies, meat, eggs, cheese - almost anything can ride a salad and be the better for it.

The keys to making exciting (yes, I said exciting) salads are add-ins and dressing. The add-ins are your leftovers, nuts, raisins, croutons, cheese, herbs, etc. - anything that sits on top of your bed of lettuce. The dressing is what ties your creation all together thematically. The salad pictured above had some Mexican flavors going for it - the flank steak, the grilled corn - so I made a southwestern vinaigrette.

And that's all you need! Summer salads don't get better than this! Serve with whatever bread you have lying around (or mmmmm, cornbread!) or for a heartier meal, fry up some quesadillas. Que sabor!

Southwestern Dinner Salad

  • 1 bag of salad greens (I like Trader Joe's varieties)
  • 1 piece of leftover beef - flank, steak, whatever, sliced thin, or even a crumbled-up burger
  • 1 ear of grilled corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed well
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange, lemon or lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  1. Put the cumin seeds in a small pan and toast over medium-low heat. This will take 3 - 5 minutes - just make sure they don't burn. You want them darker and smelling wonderfully and just starting to smoke. Remove from heat. Ideally, grind finely in a mortar and pestle, or if you don't have one, put the cumin in your food processor and buzz until they are as finely ground as you can get them.
  2. Transfer the ground cumin to your food processor and add the oregano and garlic, and buzz again. Add the sugar, salt, juices and vinegars and process again.
  3. Add the olive oil to the food processor and buzz again. Taste for seasoning (more acid? More sugar?) and serve.

Serves two. You can make fancy platings for your salad, but I just lay the lettuce down and throw everything else on top. Other options for add-ins that go well with this dressing are avocado, chopped cilantro, and cotija cheese.

1 comment:

  1. We actually just did this the other day. We called it "refrigerator salad" - it was literally a bunch of leftovers that were just sitting in the fridge on top of some lettuce and it was really good. I can't wait to try your recipe for the vinaigrette.