Friday, January 23, 2015

Southwestern Beef Salad with Creamy Peppercorn Vinaigrette

Okay, now THIS was a shock to me.... This creamy peppercorn vinaigrette was a big hit at our house! I really thought that the majority of my family would be reaching for the standard ranch dressing, and that I was making this for myself; but as it turned out, even the kids loved it!  Whaaat?!  My six year old said "Oh mom, I LOVE this new ranch dressing you made!"  HaHa.... Well... Ummmm... Okay! Let's just go with that!  And the best part is that all you have to do is throw the ingredients together in a food processor or blender and give it a whirl until its all combined.  You probably have all these things in the refrigerator already.  After that, you can refrigerate it (covered) for about a week and it's still mighty delicious.  :)

My friend Barb was going out for her birthday a while back and we were discussing the restaurant.  I looked up the menu and saw a salad similar to this calling out my name from like 900 miles away. That didn't seem to be a viable option for me, so I set about the business of creating my own version. I love a good hearty hearty salad with a mix of lean proteins and lots of different flavors and textures. I get that trait from my mother, who is the best salad maker ever.  If you aren't a big salad fan, the marinated beef can be made into quesadillas (that's what my kids had), tacos or nachos, and the dressing can be used for as many things as you can dream up. 

What's great about this salad, is that it lends itself SO WELL to making up all the components ahead of time, and then putting them all together when you are ready for a pretty quick dinner.  


Ingredients:  

Creamy peppercorn vinaigrette
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1/3 c freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • ~ 1 medium lemon
  • 2 Tbsp milk (full fat)
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Southwestern beef salad 
  • grilled, chimichurri marinated flank steak (or skirt steak)
  • black bean and corn salsa (follow link)
  • grated pepper jack cheese
  • roasted red pepper peppers and onions 
  • creamy peppercorn vinaigrette 
  • Romaine salad blend
Argentinean chimichurri sauce* (see food nerd notes)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 6 - 8 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 of 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Step-by-Step:
Vinaigrette - 
Add everything to a food processor or blender and combine.  You can make this ahead of time and have it ready in the refrigerator.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 c freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano
 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 
 2 Tbsp milk (full fat) 
 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
2 medium garlic cloves, rough chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
 Mix to combine.
And here it is!  So creamy... All you need is a lovely veggie tray and you could be all set for dipping!
Chimichurri - 
We are going to use this Argentinean "sauce" as a marinade for our beef.   The directions are the same as the vinaigrette.  Add everything to a blender and give it whirl until it is combined to your satisfaction.

If you aren't a cilantro fan, feel free to use all parsley rather than half and half cilantro and parsley.
1/2 bunch cilantro 
6 - 8 cloves garlic
(oops!  Forgot to photograph.... 1/2 bunch parsley as well as cilantro)
 2 Tbsp diced red onion 
You will get more juice from that lime if you heat it up first in the microwave for about 15 seconds and then roll it under firm pressure on cabinet before cutting it.
juice from 1/2 of 1 large lime
1/4 c red wine vinegar 
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil 
1  tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper 
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Now blend.....
Note - If you are going to use the chimichurri as a condiment for your meat, and NOT a marinade, I would not blend it.  I would put it in a food processor and just pulse it until you get it to a sort of chunky salsa consistency.  But that was not my intended use here.  

Marinate the flank steak in the chimichurri in a ziptop bag for at least an hour or so.  You can definitely leave it in there for more.  Now just wait a second, dang it!  If I had intended upon someone coming in and picking up the camera, I would have at least NOT used a autumn leaves apron in the Winter! ... I could have at least made an attempt to MATCH or something!  ... but this is just a regular, after work day.  This is how we roll, folks!  :)
Add the chimichurri sauce to your flank steak to get this party started.  The great part about putting it in a zip top bag is that it's easier to ensure it is contact with all the meat at the same time.  And then when you're done, you just toss it out!
You'll want to make sure you squish out all the excess air from the bag before putting it in the fridge.
Here we go.  Just throw it somewhere in the fridge.  The other great thing about the bag is that is squishes in tight spots (as opposed to a bowl).
For the salad - 
Make a quick black bean and corn salsa.  Yum!  This is one of my favorite snacks... and it's super healthy!  Follow the link provided.  This one is also best if you do it ahead of time, which would be a time saver for you when it comes time to put dinner together. 

Saute the onions and red bell peppers.  
You can save some time by using roasted red peppers from a jar.  TaDA!!  After your onions are mostly cooked down, add them together and let them finish heating up and caramelizing.  
On a screaming hot grill, remove the marinated flank steak from the chimichurri and grill on both sides until you achieve your desired level of doneness.  My husband grilled ours, and we generally prefer a medium amount of doneness on ours.  When you take your steak off the grill, you will want to let it rest several minutes.  This will give you an opportunity to start assembling your salad.
Let them REST!
Assemble your salad as you wish, but I started with a bed of romaine lettuce, shredded pepper jack cheese, grilled onions and peppers, your thin slices of grilled beef, some of that beautiful black bean and corn salsa, and finally - the creamy peppercorn vinaigrette.  

With flank steak or skirt steak, it is very important that you cut very THIN strips of meat, and that you cut them AGAINST the grain of the beef.  If the meat is running top to bottom, you want to cut left to right.  If you cut in the same direction as the meat is running, you will probably not be able to chew it!  Also, I recommend that you not cut with your knife straight up and down, but at about a 45 degree angle.  You want the fibers of the meat to be very short.  This is an inexpensive, tough cut of beef that we are trying to trick into being tender.  :)

THAT, my friends, is ONE HECK of a salad!  We've got crunch, creamy, smooth, smoky, sweet, oh my!! This one will never be considered "rabbit food" by any one's stretch of the imagination.


Food Nerd Notes - Chimichurri.
Chimichurri is one of the most delicious and most versatile sauces around.  It is an sauce or condiment of Argentinean origin similar to pesto that is similar throughout South America.  The basic version uses fresh parley (although cilantro is often found as well), oregano, garlic, oil and vinegar and a little bit of chili pepper, though the variations on the theme are endless.  In Argentina it is used both as a marinade and a sauce for grilled steak, but can be used with fish, chicken or even pasta. The flavor has been described as "like running your steak through a fresh garden" and is absolutely delightful.


I hope you enjoyed this amazingly delicious recipe!
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Vinaigrette - 
Add everything to a food processor or blender and combine.  You can make this ahead of time and have it ready in the refrigerator.

Chimichurri - 
We are going to use this Argentinean "sauce" as a marinade for our beef.   The directions are the same as the vinaigrette.  Add everything to a blender and give it whirl until it is combined to your satisfaction.  If you aren't a cilantro fan, feel free to use all parsley rather than half and half cilantro and parsley.


Marinate the flank steak in the chimichurri in a ziptop bag for at least an hour or so.  You can definitely leave it in there for more.  Add the chimichurri sauce to your flank steak to get this party started.  The great part about putting it in a zip top bag is that it's easier to ensure it is contact with all the meat at the same time.  And then when you're done, you just toss it out!  You'll want to make sure you squish out all the excess air from the bag before putting it in the fridge. Just throw it somewhere in the fridge.  

For the salad - 
Make a quick black bean and corn salsa.  (Follow the link provided.)  This one is also best if you do it ahead of time, which would be a time saver for you when it comes time to put dinner together. 

Saute the onions and red bell peppers.  You can save some time by using roasted red peppers from a jar.  After your onions are mostly cooked down, add them together and let them finish heating up and caramelizing.  

On a screaming hot grill, remove the marinated flank steak from the chimichurri and grill on both sides until you achieve your desired level of doneness.  We generally prefer a medium amount of doneness.  When you take your steak off the grill, you will want to let it rest several minutes.  This will give you an opportunity to start assembling your salad.

Assemble your salad as you wish, but I started with a bed of romaine lettuce, shredded pepper jack cheese, grilled onions and peppers, your thin slices of grilled beef, some of that beautiful black bean and corn salsa, and finally - the creamy peppercorn vinaigrette.  

With flank steak or skirt steak, it is very important that you cut very THIN strips of meat, and that you cut them AGAINST the grain of the beef.  If the meat is running top to bottom, you want to cut left to right.  If you cut in the same direction as the meat is running, you will probably not be able to chew it!  Also, I recommend that you not cut with your knife straight up and down, but at about a 45 degree angle.  You want the fibers of the meat to be very short.  This is an inexpensive, tough cut of beef that we are trying to trick into being tender.  :)

THAT, my friends, is ONE HECK of a salad!  We've got crunch, creamy, smooth, smoky, sweet, oh my!! This one will never be considered "rabbit food" by any one's stretch of the imagination.

2 comments:

  1. Just tried this recipe tonight. I really loved all those fresh, delicious veggies paired with the steak and peppery sauce. I would definitely say this one is on the time intensive side, though. I didn't have any sour cream, so I just stuck with the half cup of mayo, added a little extra milk, and halved the pepper. The dressing still turned out yummy, but just a little too peppery. I should have just put in 3/4 tsp. of the pepper. Overall though, great healthy and satisfying recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, while it is quite multistep the nice thing is that you can re-use the components for other things afterwards. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. :) - Julie

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