Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer Dinners: Thai Beef Spinach Salad

Hi all! Noele here, Ken's daughter, in for a guest post. I'm closing out my first year as a public school teacher in New York City and getting ready for the ultimate teacher job perk: summer off! Cooking is one of my favorite things to do with my downtime, and I thought I'd pop in this summer and share some of the meals I make and enjoy on my patio. I hope you enjoy what is hopefully the first of a summer dinners series!

Thai Beef Spinach Salad 

I was inspired to make this Thai Beef Spinach Salad by this awesome restaurant in Redhook that I went to recently with my boyfriend. We had a dish called Muu Paa Kham Waan -- thin strips of boar that were limey, garlicky, and so spicy that they came with a palate cleanser/cooler (mustard greens served over crushed ice) in case you couldn't take the heat! I loved the concept of the dish and wanted to come up with a weeknight dinner version of it that would be easy for a home cook to tackle. 

My version of this dish swaps in eye of round steaks for boar, is served over a bed of spinach, and features quick-pickled cucumbers and red grapes. It took about an hour of "on" time to make and could feed two hungry people or three or four as an appetizer or light dinner. 

Here's what you'll need: 

1 thumbs length of ginger, minced and separated (about 2 tbsp) 
1 bunch cilantro, washed, roughly chopped, and separated (about 1/2 cup chopped) 
10 cloves of garlic, more or less, minced and separated
Juice from 3 limes, separated
1/4 cup soy sauce, separated 
2 tbsp sesame oil, plus a little extra for cooking 
1 tsp honey 
red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp-2 tsp 
1 tbsp sesame seeds

2 pickling cucumbers
1/2 lb eye of round steaks, boar, or other red meat of your choice 

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1/2 cup red grapes, halved 
To start, I prepared a marinades for the steaks and the cucumbers. 

1. This should go without saying, but you can really use as much ginger, garlic, or cilantro as you like. I like all of these ingredients quite a lot and wanted them to really coat the meat, so I went ham and used as much as I could before it got ridiculous. If you're one of those "cilantro tastes like soap" people, I can see this recipe being still delicious if you swapped in the cilantro for some thai basil. Chop everything up so that it's pretty fine, especially the ginger -- you're not going to get the same effect with big hunks of ginger in your marinade. 
Now that you have your garlic, ginger, and cilantro chopped up, get two bowls handy so that you can make the two separate marinades at the same time -- they share a lot of ingredients. Put all the cilantro, 2/3rds of the garlic, and 2/3rds of the ginger in one bowl. This is the start for your meat marinade. Shake some red pepper into this bowl to taste. (I held back a little bit and only used about a teaspoon because my sister Anna who doesn't love spicy food was coming over.) Put the remaining 3rd of the garlic and ginger in the second bowl (no big if some cilantro clings on). This is the start of your pickling juice for the cucumbers.
This is probably a good time to open up a beer and pour it into a frosted glass. I chose Cisco Brewer's Summer of Lager and poured it into one of my belgian beer glasses. Yum. This meal pairs great with a light ale or lager. If you can get it, drink Singha (thai beer)! Anna was drinking Sixpoint's Sweet Action, which is always a good summer choice. 

Squeeze the juice from two limes and add it to the meat marinade (bowl with cilantro & red pepper flakes). Squeeze the juice from the remaining lime and add it to the cucumber marinade. Put 2 tablespoons of soy sauce into each bowl. Add the honey to the cucumber bowl and the sesame oil to the meat bowl. Add the sesame seeds to the cucumber bowl. 

Stir them both up. Add the meat to the marinade, make sure it's fully coated on all sides, cover it, and put it in the fridge to chill for a while. I left mine for about an hour and it was delicious, I'm sure more or less time would be fine too. 

Cut up the cucumbers as shown below: into little half moons. Or really, cut up the cucumbers however you want to cut the cucumbers. Toss those cucumbers into the pickling juice, cover them, and put them in the fridge with the meat. 

Go chill in your backyard, drink some beer, read a book, or whatever while your cukes and meat soak up the marinade. 

When you deem it time, take the meat out of the fridge and drain it through a fine sieve so that it is free of excess liquid but still has all the goodies (ginger, garlic, cilantro, red pepper) clinging to it. Be advised that the meat will no longer be pink because of the lime juice. Heat some oil (I used sesame, vegetable would be fine) in a small frying pan until it's sizzling. Lay the steaks in the oil and give them about a minute on each side. My steaks were relatively thin, so this was the perfect time to keep them a little pink on the inside. Use your discretion if you have large steaks or like your meat more or less well done. I served my meat cool/room temperature, but you could certainly serve it hot or even completely chilled. In any case, when you're ready to serve, slice up the steaks into thin strips. 

To serve, put a bed of spinach on the bottom of a plate. Sprinkle the red grapes on top of the spinach, followed by the pickled cucumbers. You can use the remaining pickling juice as a light dressing. Finally, lay your steak over the salads. I also made scallion pancakes using this recipe, which is surprisingly easy and really rounded out the meal. 

Enjoy with loved ones!