So, it’s the middle of January which I’m guessing means most of you are either on a diet or a new exercise kick or both. Sound about right?
I don’t get why January-March is the high season for the fitness industry and weight loss initiatives in general. It’s January. It’s cold and dark and we’re just trying to get through the winter until the real rebirth happens in the spring. I mean, don’t get me wrong – as a fitness professional I’m always glad to see paying customers coming in our doors with determination on their faces and water bottles in hand.
What irks me is the annual eventishness of it. I mean, I think we all recognize this time of year as being the time we “get back on track” and join a gym and start eating healthy. But all that enthusiasm goes hand in hand with the shrug and a laugh knowing all too well that it will be over in a few weeks and we will all go back to life as usual until next New Year’s resolutions roll around.
That being said, I’m still game for lighter entrees as long as they’re satisfying in the mental/emotional arena. So today we have a salad – a filling, satisfying, not totally non-caloric salad. It could be really light fare, if you really wanted it to be. But take away the (really good for you) avocado, the (already lite) sour cream and the fried tortilla and you’ve lost the appeal of the salad. And without the appeal you have lost the mental game entirely. And the game IS mental. Try to lose weight while feeling like you’re depriving yourself all the time. It doesn’t work.
This salad is (relatively) healthy while still being completely mouth-wateringly awesome. Can’t ask for more than that.
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love a great taco salad? No? I didn’t think so. This isn’t exactly taco salad. Not what I think of as “traditional” taco salad anyway. It’s so much better.
First we’re going to start with a marinade. In a food processor combine 4 cloves of garlic (one of mine came from a jar – shhh!), 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (the kind you get in a can in the Latino aisle), a handful of fresh cilantro, 2 Tbsp lime juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Pour the marinade into a ziplock baggie with 1 lb of well trimmed sirloin steak. Make sure the entire steak is covered in marinade and set in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
I just had to show you. I got a NEW KNIFE!!! A genuine Wusthof! This is really big exciting stuff (for me). It’s soooo much sharper than my old knife it makes me giddy every time I use it.
Get your steak out of the fridge and let it sit while you prep your vegetables. With your chef’s knife, chop up some green bell pepper and some onions. I used cooking onions but Spanish Onions or any sweet onion would be awesome too. I think I’ve got 2 peppers and 3 onions there. I was going for equal parts of each.
Heat some oil in a large skillet over Medium-High heat. When the oil shimmers add your vegetables and cook…
…until they look like this. Soft and lovely. Season with kosher salt and remove from the pan.
While the peppers and onions are cooking we can start prepping our other salad ingredients. Roll up some romaine lettuce and slice it into thin ribbons.
Chop up some more cilantro.
And slice up an avocado. Isn’t my avocado perfect? I love it when I open them up on their perfect day. To easily remove the pit, carefully whack your knife into the pit, exert a little pressure and rotate it out. Then use a spoon to carve the avocado out of it’s skin.
Shred up some Monterrey Jack cheese. Obviously don’t shred your cheese like this. I need a third hand.
Add to the list some jarred salsa and lightly salted sour cream and our salad is almost ready to be assembled!
But of course we can’t forget our steak! This is best done in a cast iron skillet if you have one. They retain heat better than any other type of pan and are awesome for searing meats. On Medium High heat, sear your steak for 3 minutes per side. Turn off the heat and let it sit in the pan. 8 minutes will get you a perfect medium rare. At least, in a cast iron pan it will. If you’re cooking your steak on a different surface that time might need to be extended slightly. And of course, if you prefer your steak more well done, leave it in longer. Never cut into a steak to check for doneness, that causes all the juices to run out everywhere. I always use the thumb test to test meat’s doneness. Here is a video showing the technique. Lastly, once you’re satisfied that your steak is done to your liking, leave it the heck alone! For 10 minutes to rest that is. Again, so all the juices don’t run out all over the place leaving you with a dry steak.
Now, while the steak is resting, grab a small pan and fill it with a puddle of oil. I’m not sure how much I have in there. Many several tablespoons, put it that way. Enough to make a shallow pool. Heat the oil over Medium High heat until shimmery. Grab some corn tortillas and place one in the oil. The oil should bubble excitedly when you introduce the tortilla. If it doesn’t, the oil isn’t hot enough yet. Fry each tortilla about 45 seconds to a side, or until it gets to be a nice golden brown.
Oops. Don’t walk away and tend to children during this part. It’s not difficult but you really can’t walk away for two minutes in the middle of it.
There, that’s better.
It’s been 10 minutes so I’m thinly slicing up my steak now. Eeeee! I left mine in for about 9 minutes and it came out somewhere between medium rare and medium.
To assemble, place some lettuce on a plate, then your fried tortilla…(or you could totally reverse these two and put the tortilla on the bottom…I just thought it looked cool this way)…
…then pile on some of the onions, the peppers, and the steak. Eeeeeee! Can you tell I LOVE steak?
Sprinkle on some of the cheese.
And top with a couple slices of avocado, a dollop of sour cream and salsa, and some cilantro (if you’re not a zombie like me and forget to put it on). An alternative to the sour cream and salsa is to mix the two and use that as your dressing. Or mix ranch and salsa to make a southwest dressing. All good options. Mmm. Just writing about this makes me want to fix it for dinner again tomorrow night! Soooooo ridiculously yummy. The garlic/chipotle/lime/cilantro marinade packs a punch and puts the whole thing over the top.
Steak Fajita Salad
For the steak:
1 lb Sirlion Steak, well trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
4 cloves garlic
1 handful fresh cilantro
2 chipotle peppers in adobo
For the salad:
1 Romaine heart, sliced into thin ribbons
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 green bell peppers, sliced (about 2 cups)
3 cooking onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 cup jarred salsa
4 corn tortillas
Oil for frying
In a food processor puree garlic, chipotle peppers, the handful of fresh cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil until smooth. Pour into a ziplock baggie and add sirloin. Put in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Remove steak from refrigerator and set out while you prep your other ingredients.
Prepare onions and peppers. In a cast iron pan, heat oil over Medium-High heat until the oil shimmers. If it begins to smoke the oil is too hot. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and set aside. Wipe out pan.
On Medium-High heat, add steak to pan and sear on each side for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave steak in the pan 8 minutes longer for medium rare. About 10 minutes for medium. Use the thumb test to check for doneness. Don’t cut into it yet! When steak is done to your liking, remove it from the pan to a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the lettuce, cilantro, cheese, avocado, salsa, and sour cream. You can mix the sour cream and salsa to make a dressing or just leave them separate. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt to the sour cream (optional).
Heat a shallow pool of oil in a small pan over Medium-High heat. When the oil shimmers, place a corn tortilla in the oil. There should be just enough oil in the pan for the tortilla to float and the oil should bubble excitedly when you introduce the tortilla into it. If it doesn’t get excited it’s not hot enough. If you notice that your tortilla is getting very dark very quickly or you’re getting smoke the oil is too hot. Cook for about 45 seconds on each side or until tortilla is a nice golden brown. Repeat with the other 3 tortillas. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Slice up your steak thinly.
Assemble salad. Lettuce, tortilla, peppers and onions, steak, cheese, avocado, and cilantro to garnish. Serve dressing or salsa and sour cream on the side.
Makes 4 main dish salads.