The Minnesota Edition: I’ve Had This Meal Countless Times (aka the “Classic Summer Supper” Post)

photo-5Dinner salad.
Corn on the cob.
Twice-baked potatoes.
Steak on the grill.

This is a meal that I’ve had dozens and dozens of times, probably even hundreds of times, over the years — Quite simply, this is Minnesota in the summer.

The cut of meat may change, but it’s always grilled. Tonight it was choice New York strip steaks from Cub Foods, a regional grocery store chain.

photo-1photo-2The style of potatoes may change — potato salad, baked potatoes, boiled baby potatoes tossed in fresh herbs and butter are other regular options — but the potatoes are always there. Twice-baked potatoes — potatoes baked in the oven, innards scooped and blended with such goodies as bacon bits, sour cream, green onion and shredded cheese, and then finished off in the oven again — are a personal favorite and a Grandma specialty.

photophoto-6Every Minnesotan will tell you there’s nothing better than sweet corn bought off the back of a farmer’s truck, although methods of buttering the corn do vary. This household uses a corn dipper, a tall, cylinder-typed glass beaker that is filled with hot water to a certain line and topped off with butter, which melts and floats on the top — ensuring a perfectly evenly-coated cob of corn every time.

photo-3The salad, too, is always there, although sometimes it can be an afterthought. Not when I make it: chopped romaine lettuce garnished with julienned carrots (from a bag), sliced red bell pepper, a tomato wedge, bacon bits, green onion, sunflower seeds, prepared tableside; add dressing of choice.

The timing of it all — so that dinner begins with the sun still well above the horizon, and isn’t over until the sun sets over the far lake shore — well, that’s intentional every time.

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Dinner: The Simple Steak Dinner Post

Q: Do you want steak for dinner?
A: Who doesn’t want steak for dinner?

photo(8)photo(10)And just like that, dinner plans fell into place. I was responsible for the salad: a butter lettuce mix and ultra-thin slices of red onion, so thin they were translucent, tossed in Goddess dressing and topped with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, a little lemon zest and some shaved parmesan.

The steak was sourced from Ottomanelli and Sons, a fantiastic Greenwich Village butcher shop. An hour-plus marinade in some olive oil, salt, pepper, lime juice, before being thrown onto a flat grill pan, which is responsible for those gorgeous char lines.

Like I said: Who doesn’t want steak for dinner?

Lunch: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Now that’s a steak salad.

As promised, a how-to guide to make the most brilliant salad in the most uninspired settings: at the office.

First, prep the night before: Cook the steak. Slice the steak. Slice the red onion. Boil, peel and slice the beets.

Second, package separately everything which will bleed, taint, or otherwise blur with the smells, tastes and textures of others.

photo315I wrapped up the sliced beets and onion in the same saran wrap, but still separately, folding in the onion first and the beets second. Blue cheese? Definitely separate. I placed the steak right on the greens because a) spinach is sturdy and I knew it could handle it and b) I wanted those flavors to “get to know eachother” as much as possible. Fraternizing encouraged.

Third, anticipate dressing needs at work. No one likes a dry salad. I keep a bottle of not bad olive oil (white truffle infused at the moment) in my desk drawer. Yes, I’m that much of a food geek.

photo221Fourth, assemble at work just as you would at home, none of this dumping everything in at once. So in this case, first toss the lettuce in the olive oil/dressing. Second layer the onions and beets. Third, bleu cheese and fourth, steak.

Fifth, utilize the microwave, if you so desire. I micro’d the steak for about 20 seconds just to take the chill off. Give it a little glisten. I guess I could have thought ahead a little more and just pulled it out of the fridge to let come to room temperature.

One thought I had, maybe next time I’ll throw the whole finished salad in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Nothing wrong with giving the spinach a little wilt or the bleu cheese a little soften.

Sixth, presentation counts. Make it pretty and it’ll taste pretty damn good.

PREVIOUSLY: If you’re just going to eat something small, it may as well be … (Dinner: Tuesday, April 28, 2009) Steak salad prep

Dinner: Tuesday, April 28, 2009

photo-45If you’re going to have just a little something to eat, it may as well be a salad of greenmarket spinach, beets and red onion, plus the fringe of a prime cut of steak from Whole Foods (saving the rest for basically a larger redux of this meal tomorrow), plus some blue cheese and balsamic vinigarette. 

It’s the miniature salad of the one I *think* I’m taking to work to eat tomorrow; that’s the tentative plan. The only variation might be that I tossed the greens I used tonight in the hot, fatty cracklings in the pan I fried the top loin steak in for just that little extra bit of goodness. Mmm … goodness. 

I realized I have some very nice before and after pictures from the prep. Here are the ingredients as I first laid eyes on them yesterday: 

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Below: After I got my hands on them this evening. Could be a scosh pinker, but overall not a bad pan-fried steak. I seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil and gave it a good rub before throwing it in a really hot pan. I don’t cook protein much and was vaguely worried I might somehow mess it up, but it ended up being fairly intuitive. For someone who likes her meat on the rarer side of things, there really isn’t too much of a worry of pulling it off too soon. 

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Coming up tomorrow: Steak salad at the office. How to make the most beautiful of salads in the most unglamorous setting. Hint: It involves prepping for travel. 

COST: Market vegetables (spinach, beets and red onion) $3.75; steak at USQ WF $8.49; cheese and dressing I had on hand. 
PREP TIME: I spent less than an hour in the kitchen. But let’s not talk about the line at Whole Foods last night at about 7 p.m. That place is a cash cow.