Do you like to push your culinary boundaries? I do. I get excited by new recipes, new ingredients, new cookbooks…you know what I mean. I’ve always loved to cook, but a few years ago it really became a passion. On a whim I entered a local cooking contest and I ended up a finalist. Even though I didn’t win (that year), the contest made me realize how much I enjoyed being creative in the kitchen. It was a time in my life when things were going on that were out of my control, but the power that I felt in my kitchen grounded me. It was like a voice in my head was telling me, “You can do this. Maybe it will be great, maybe it won’t, but who cares? If you screw up dinner, what’s the worst that could happen? You order takeout? So just go for it.” That little voice gave me the confidence and the strength to push through hard times, and take some rewarding culinary risks too.
I spent the year after my first entry into the cooking contest trying a new recipe (almost) every day. I was determined to not cook the same thing twice for a whole year. I pored over my cookbooks and wrote down all the recipes that I had been meaning to try. Instead of being an ephemeral wish list, they became my to do list. I discovered food blogs and was really inspired by all the like-minded foodies out there. Some of the recipes I tried were flops, but some were really great. All of them–the successes and failures alike–taught me something about myself as a cook. After my cooking equivalent of a “big year” I entered the contest again, and this time I won.
While winning certainly felt great (and the trip to New Orleans was a lot of fun), the thrill of competing was really my favorite part. To keep that feeling going I started this food blog a little over a year ago. (I know, I missed my “blogiversary!” I should have made you a cake or something, but it slipped my mind. I offer you steak salad instead.) My most recent culinary adventure was joining a CSA. I thought I was pretty well versed in ingredients, but last week’s offerings in my box–lambsquarters, purslane–have left me a little perplexed but still excited. The lambsquarters ended up in a lentil curry with homemade paneer (which was yummy) and I have plans to add the purslane to my family’s traditional potato salad recipe (we’ll see how that one goes).
Each week’s CSA box has also brought lots of delicious lettuce, which means getting creative with salads too. The one I’m sharing with you here is nice because you can do all the cooking outside and you end up with a main course, not just a side dish. What has sparked your creativity in the kitchen lately–new ingredients, new cookbooks? Please share in the comments!
Southwestern Steak Salad (adapted from Everyday Food magazine)
- 1 half-sirloin steak (approximately 3/4 pound)
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 teaspoon sauce from a can of chipotle chiles en adobo
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons sour cream
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for grilling the steak & onions)
- 2-3 handfuls spring mix (or other lettuce mix)
- half of an avocado, diced
- 1 small jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 2 Tablespoons pepitas
- salt & pepper
- Season the steak with salt & pepper. Cut the onion into large rounds and season with salt & pepper. Brush the steak & onion rounds with olive oil. Grill the steak until it is medium-rare (or however you like it). Let the steak rest. Grill the onions until they are soft and slightly charred.
- In a small bowl whisk together the chipotle adobo sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sour cream, and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.
- Divide the spring mix between two plates. Thinly slice the steak and separate the onions into rings. Divide the steak slices, onion rings, diced avocado, jicama sticks, & pepitas between the two plates. Drizzle each plate with the dressing.