Monday, August 22, 2011

Mexican Steak Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinagrette

I'm not a big salad-guy. While Tricia absolutely loves salads and raw veggies of all kinds, I have a hard time dealing with what I consider rabbit-food (or to make it more Ithaca-appropriate: deer-food). Even so, for a recent cookout, I thought that a salad might be appropriate as an opening course. I was also making fish tacos, so I wanted my salad to keep with a sort of Baja-Mexican theme. Since I had my charcoal grill out and hot, I figured that I'd like to incorporate a grilled element into the salad as well. In the end, I settled on a marinated flank steak as a grillable item for the salad, to go with cotija cheese, corn relish, and a lime vinaigrette. Check it out:
For this salad, I used two bags of fresh romaine lettuce. You can use your favorite greens, of course, but I find that romaine has decent crispness and isn't as watery as iceberg lettuce. 

First, I made a marinade for the flank steak with the following ingredients:

- 2 tsp chili powder/cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic
- 1 tbsp granulated onion
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil

I marinated the steak for about an hour in the fridge, before taking it out to warm up for grilling. As with any steak, bringing it to room temperature before putting it on the grill is important to promote even cooking throughout.

Corn Relish

- 1 jalapeno, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 a small bag of frozen corn, defrosted and drained of excess moisture

While the steak is marinating, I made the corn relish. I heated the olive oil (you could also use butter) in a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat. When the oil was hot, I add the garlic plus the red peppers and jalapenos. When the peppers soften just a bit, I add the corn. I let this cook for a while, until the corn kernels actually started to brown a bit. Cooking it this long gives the corn an even sweeter flavor. When the corn is done, take it off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.


- 1.5 cups olive oil
- 6 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste

As with any vinaigrette, just whisk to mix. This can be prepared any time. I would wait until the end to add it to the salad greens though, to avoid wilting of the lettuce.

After preparing the relish and dressing, and finishing up the marinating, it was time to grill. Get your grill as hot as possible (charcoal or gas), and cook the steak on each side for 6 minutes for medium rare (flank steak has very little fat inside, so beyond medium rare makes it incredibly tough; even if you like good steaks more than medium rare, flank cannot really be done more than this).

This should give you nice grills marks and a good seared crust on the meat. When the meat is done, put it on a cutting board and loosely cover with foil for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, slice the meat into strips, against the grain.

Now to arrange the salad, toss the greens with the vinaigrette, then add the relish. I crumbled some cotija cheese on at that point. Cotija is a cow's milk Mexican cheese. It is crumbly and salty, like feta (made from sheep's milk), but it doesn't have as much tang as feta. It also has less residual moisture than feta. It compliments the sweetness of corn extremely well. Toss all of these ingredients together. Finally, put the slices of steak on top for presentation. (I also added some extra cotija on top.)

Now this is a salad that everyone, even salad-haters like myself, can enjoy!


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