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Main-dish salads might look easy—greens mixed with protein and a few vegetables—but there’s an art to creating entrée salads with staying power.
An array of textures and flavors are key to success. Pairing a soft cheese with crunchy veggies and smoky grilled ingredients can make a salad sing. Including sweet elements with spicy or tangy ingredients can add depth and interest to a main dish salad as well.
Even though they require a measure of planning and creativity, entrée salads are often easier to execute than grilled or sautéed items. They’re easy to plate, easy to make ahead of time, they don’t have to be kept hot and they’re visually appealing. If you blend your ingredients properly, you can even proudly serve salad, yes salad, as a main course when you have company over!
In that spirit, here is a salad that is perfect for just such an occasion. Pacific Rim cuisine is based on using flavors and ingredients from different Asian countries, such as Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and India, and combining them in innovative ways, often in a distinctly American context or style. This salad, with its delicious Asian nuances, is a fine example of this exciting style of eating. Enjoy!
Pacific Rim Beef Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Chinese plum sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne chile powder
2 boneless strip sirloin steaks, about 10 ounces each
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
3 T. crushed ginger
1/4 cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small head Bibb or butter lettuce, leaves separated
1 red onion, julienned
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
2 scallions, sliced on a diagonal
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced on a diagonal
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnish
Thoroughly combine the marinade ingredients (sesame oil through cayenne chile powder) in a large dish. Turn the steaks in the marinade and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour, turning the steaks once. Or, alternatively, refrigerate overnight (in which case, bring to room temperature before cooking).
To prepare the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients (rice vinegar through garlic clove) in a mixing bowl until emulsified. Set aside.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry. Heat a dry, heavy sauté pan or skillet and sear the steaks over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side, until just medium-rare. Remove the steaks from the pan and let rest.
Toss all the salad ingredients (lettuce through cucumber) together with the dressing in a large mixing bowl.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute, tossing continuously, until golden brown and shiny.
To serve, cut the steaks into thin slices. Place a mound of tossed salad in the center of each serving plate and top with the steak slices. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on top and serve.
Yields: 4 servings
Preparation Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
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