steak and cheese salad

Being, um, between jobs while living on the residential outskirts of a major metropolis has a few drawbacks. One of them comes in the shape of a lovely little restaurant and market, situated within walking distance of my house. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, hey, wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like a drawback! That actually sounds kind of nice!

But you didn’t let me finish, did you? Did you know that, every day, this restaurant has seasonal specials that they write on an adorable little chalkboard? Delightful things, like “kumquat and beet compote” and “broad bean slaw” and other stuff I don’t understand and can’t even begin to picture (though I know they will taste amazing)? And it doesn’t even end there! They have a glass-front fridge dedicated to local cheese and pickles! Cheese that came from the daily dairy output of fuzzy, friendly little goats that live not 200 miles from here!

Still not following? Okay, give me $40 and I’ll tell you. And no, that’s just for YOU – your kids will be $20 more. Each.

Damn you, lovely little overpriced farm-to-table-organic-local-seasonal-specials-on-the-chalkboard-handsome-waiting-staff-cheese-&-pickle-fridge-fresh-pastries-walking-distance-from-my-house restaurant! You so richly deserve my hard-earned money, but I cannot afford to give it to you at every meal! I know I should buy local and eat seasonal and give ample tips to the apron-wearing twentysomethings who make those things possible, but seriously. $10 for a small jar of pickles? Seriously??

With our neighborhoods increasingly overrun with alluring establishments that are rooted in age-old farming practices and nonexistent economic structures, what are regular people to do? My home cooking skills are being shown up by these folks every day, only blocks from my home. There has to be something I can do to keep up, right?

Indeed: I can steal their ideas. My favorite dish at the aforementioned restaurant is their steak salad, and I can totally make that at home.

All this dish requires is a smidge of ethically-raised beef and organically-grown arugula, a few organic cherry tomatoes thrown in for good measure, and a bit of lovingly-fermented dairy product. Oh yeah, and lots of garlic – that’s key. All of these things put together will run you about $20, and will feed you for days. And you’ll have your own little fridge-to-table-mostly-organic-handsome-cooking-staff-never-even-left-your-house private, invite-only dining establishment, and who will be laughing then? Your restaurant is so velvet-rope, no one has even heard of it.

Garlicky Steak ‘n’ Cheese Salad
Serves one hungry restaurant-goer

Ingredients:
-1 top sirloin or other thick cut of steak
-1-2 oz. blue cheese or cheddar (depending on your mood), crumbled or coarsely grated
-a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
-2 cups of arugula
-3 tbs of olive oil
-1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F, and set an oven-safe pan over a medium flame. When the pan’s hot, add a tablespoon of the olive oil. Season your steak with salt and pepper, and lay it in the center of the pan. It should sizzle immediately. After browning the steak on both sides (about 2 minutes per side), put the pan in the oven and cook it until the juices start to run (about 2-10 more minutes, depending on how well-done you want your steak to be and how thick the cut is). Remove the steak from the oven, and place it on a cutting board.

All right, act two: put your remaining olive oil in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and the crushed/minced garlic clove. Close the jar and shake. Boom. Drizzle this concoction over the arugula leaves and toss to coat.

Finally – assembly time! Lay down the dressed greens, and top with the tomatoes. Return your attention to the steak. It should be a bit cooler, and you can slice it diagonally to create a little horizontal stack. Place this stack on top of your salad, and sprinkle cheese over the top. Add a generous crack or two of pepper to add that extra zing.

The nice thing about this salad is that it takes very kindly to things like walnuts and cucumbers and citrus. I didn’t have any of those things when I decided to make my meal, but you can think ahead and plan accordingly. My home restaurant is really a let’s-use-what’s-in-the-fridge kind of place – in the same way that my blog is a hyphenate-things-for-comic-purposes kind of chronicle. It may not be as good as the joint down the block, but calling the shots is often worth its weight in goat cheese ($18.99 a pound?!?…).

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