Cooking Light (July 2012)
We very much enjoy reading chef memoirs. It's always interesting to see the factors that shaped well-known foodies, and there are usually several good tips and pieces of advice that you can carry into your own kitchen and your own life at large.
We recently both read Marcus Samuellson's new book "Yes, Chef." It's a nice look into the background and mindset of a chef whose extraordinary life trajectory -- born in Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents and raised in Sweden, and now trying to remake the food scene in Harlem (anchored by his restaurant Red Rooster, where we actually had brunch several months back) -- has given him an extremely unique outlook on food.
One of the ideas that Samuellson talks about is the notion that food isn't just something to be tasted. You have to think about presentation, about how the food looks on the plate. You have to think about color.
It's certainly not the first time we've ever thought about that idea. But we definitely had that idea in mind as we made this Spicy Basil-Beef Salad.
But as we said, you eat with your eyes. And that's what really elevates this salad. Using different varieties of heirloom tomatoes and different kinds of basil -- Italian, Thai, purple -- gives you a salad that's really a work of art.
We can usually find Thai basil at the grocery store nowadays, although we actually have some growing in our window boxes. And we consistently see purple basil at the farmers market. If you can't find those more exotic varieties, don't worry. As the recipe notes below, you'll still end up with a delicious summer salad.
But if you can -- and if you can pick up some different-colored tomatoes -- you'll have yourself a salad that's as much as feast for the eyes as it it for the tastebuds.
Yield: Serves 4
If regular Italian -- or Genovese -- basil is all you can find, it'll work fine. However, it's worth searching out a few varieties, such as purple, Thai, or lemon basil. Using a mix of varieties improves the salad by adding visual interest and nuanced flavors. If you can't find hanger steak, substitute flank instead.
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces hanger steak, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons chile paste (such as Huy Fong sambal oelek)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 425°.
Heat a large ovenproof stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle both sides of steak evenly with salt and black pepper. Add steak to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Turn steak over. Bake at 425° for 8 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of steak registers 135° or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak from pan; let stand 10 minutes. Slice across the grain.
Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through sambal), stirring well. Combine basil and remaining ingredients. Drizzle dressing mixture over basil mixture; toss gently. Divide salad mixture evenly among 4 plates; divide beef evenly among salads.