Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Vacation Inspiration...Mango, Avocado & Corn Salad…with or without Steak

During almost every summer in recent memory I have been able to spend a week with my best friend from college.   It is a lovely break for both of us.  We let go of most of our commitments for a week…and spend our time doing whatever we like.  Most of our time is spent talking.  And of course, we cook too.

Since I am constantly behind on my cooking reading, I always take a stack of current and recent magazines, as well as a cookbook or two.  We often prepare our meals from the inspiration I find in my reading materials.  This gives me a chance to try new things….and she gets a break from planning meals for her family (and her family is the happy recipient of our efforts).

This year was a little bit different in that I didn’t spend too much time in my reading materials.  I’m not sure why.  But we still cooked almost every day.  For the most part we just cooked things that were familiar to me…but new for my friend:  A pizza with garlic cream (topped with roasted zucchini & potatoes—and olives—instead of asparagus and mushrooms)   The  BLAT salad with torn croutons from earlier this month  And a Beef, Mango & Soba Noodle Salad that I hadn’t thought about in a few years (I had forgotten how delicious it is!).   

Because we don’t want to spend all our time cooking, lunch is leftovers of whatever we have been cooking up during the evenings.  This year (for reasons that are still a mystery to me) we kept eating everything we prepared for the evening meal and there were rarely leftovers.  This made it so we had to get a little more creative with our lunches—which was just fine with me.    

One day I opened the fridge and spotted a mango and some limes (left from our purchases for the Soba noodle salad), an avocado, a bowl full of roasted corn and a little arugula (from the BLAT salad) and a wedge of Ricotta Salata.   I thought this looked like the makings of a pretty delicious salad.  And it was delicious.  Tangy, sweet, and salty…refreshing and not too filling…  Basically an ideal summer lunch. 

When I got home from my vacation I was still thinking about it.  Because I was also thinking about how delicious the steak had been with the mango (in the soba noodle salad), I decided to make the salad again—only this time I served it with steak…and we had it for dinner.  I am happy to report that it was equally delicious with the steak…thus making an ideal summer dinner too.  However you choose to serve it, I think you will find it to be perfect summer food.

Mango, Avocado & Roasted Corn Salad

1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 t. ground cumin
6 T. Olive oil
2 ears of corn, in the husk
2 strip steaks, about 12 oz. each and 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch thick
Kosher salt
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. ground chili powder (ancho, chipotle, or a favorite blend)
4 or 5 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves picked
2 small to medium ripe mangoes
2 ripe (but firm) avocados
2 or 3 scallions—white and a few inches of green, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced on a long diagonal (you should have about 1/3 to a scant 1/2 cup)
2 handfuls of arugula
2 oz. (more or less) ricotta salata, crumbled

 Place the lime juice and garlic in a small bowl; whisk to break up the garlic.  Let sit for five to ten minutes.  Add the cumin and a generous 1/4 t. of kosher salt.  Add the olive oil in a thin stream while whisking constantly.  Taste for salt, adding more if necessary.  Season with freshly ground pepper.  Set aside.

Place the corn, in the husk, in a preheated 400
° oven.  Remove after 20 minutes.  When the corn is cool enough to handle, remove the husks and silks.  Slice the kernels away from the cobs.  Use the back of the knife, or a spoon, to scrape the cobs.  Add the scrapings to the kernels.  You should have about 2 cups of kernels.  Set aside.

If time permits, salt the steaks ahead of time (earlier in the day or the day before).  About an hour before you are ready to cook the steaks, remove them from the fridge. Combine the oil with the cumin and chili powder.  Rub the seasoned oil and the oregano leaves all over the steaks.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. 

You may cook the steaks on the grill or in a cast iron pan.

For Grilling:
Heat grill to high (you will only be able to hold your hand 2 to 4 inches above the grate for a count of 2 or 3 seconds). Place the steaks on the grill.  After 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, rotate the steaks a quarter turn (this will create attractive “crosshatch” grill marks). After another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, turn the steaks over and cook for a total of 3 to 4 minutes, rotating the steak one quarter turn half-way through the cooking time.  Finally, using a tongs, sear the edges of the steaks—about a minute for each long edge. This steak should be more or less medium rare. For a slightly more well done steak, increase the grilling time slightly. For a substantially more well done steak, it may be necessary to reduce the temperature in addition to increasing the time over the flame. When the steaks are done to your liking, transfer them to a plate and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes.

In a Cast Iron pan:
Heat the pan over high heat until smoking hot.  Make sure your exhaust fan is on…and perhaps open a window.  If your smoke detector is near the kitchen, you might want to disable it (make sure you reconnect it when you are done).  Add the steaks to the pan.  You don’t need to add any oil to the pan—you have already put the oil on the steaks.  Turn the steaks occasionally, aiming for a nice char/sear on all the surfaces, including the narrower edges.  If the char is too dark, reduce the temperature slightly.  Total cooking time will be about the same as on the grill….about 8 minutes total for medium rare…another minute or two for medium, and etc..  (If you don’t have an exhaust fan that works well, I have found that if I start the sear on the stove and then transfer the pan to a 425° to 450° oven that I can contain the smoke a bit (don’t forget to turn the steaks occasionally so they will cook evenly).  When the steaks are done to your liking, transfer them to a plate and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes.
While the steaks are resting, peel the mangoes and cut the flesh away from the pit in thick slabs on all sides.  Cut the slabs into rough, 1/2-inch pieces.  Place in a large bowl.  Halve and pit the avocados.  Cut the flesh of each of the halves before removing the skin.  Holding an avocado half in your non-working hand and your knife in your other hand, slice the flesh length-wise at half inch intervals, cutting all the way to, but not through, the skin.  Repeat this slicing action cross-wise.  Then, using a large spoon, scoop out the flesh in one motion while holding the half over the bowl of mangoes.  The avocado should fall into the bowl in a rough dice.  Repeat with all four halves.  Add the scallions and the corn.  Season to taste with salt & pepper and drizzle with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat everything.  Toss gently to combine.

Slice the steaks thinly and fan on one side of a large platter…or divide among four dinner plates.  Place the arugula in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a small amount of the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Scatter the arugula over the platter…or plates.  Mound the salad over the arugula and on part of the sliced steak.  Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over all.  Scatter the ricotta salata over all and serve right away.

Serves 4 generously

Temperature Guidelines for determining “Doneness”:

Rare (cool red center)  —  120°
Medium Rare (warm red center)  —  125°
Medium (rosy center)  —  130°
Medium well (pink center)  —  135°
Well done (no pink)  —  140°

Remember to remove the meat from the grill/pan/oven when the temperature in the center is about 5° lower than the desired final temperature—the meat will continue to cook as it rests

Notes & Variations:
  • Omit the steaks for a light lunch…or a vegetarian meal. 
  • Replace the strip steaks with flank steak. 
  • Substitute Feta for the Ricotta Salata
  • If you want a super quick version of the salad, you can skip the vinaigrette and simply dress the avocado, corn and mango with a generous squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil. Don’t forget the salt & pepper! 
  • For tips (including pictures) of how to cut a mango, check out the post for the Soba noodle salad
Printable Version

It's delicious with cold, leftover steak too!

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