THAI-STYLE BEEF SALAD
Several elements came together to inspire this dish: A huge crop of baby lettuces that are going to bolt soon now that hot weather is here -- too hot to cook anything fancy -- and too busy to go to the grocery, so I was stuck with the freezer's bounty, specifically a couple of small chunks of frozen flank steak.
The outcome: A sorta-Thai beef salad not based on anybody's recipe but just a throw-together thing aimed at roughly replicating the spirit of beef salads I've enjoyed at Thai restaurants.
It was simple and quick, took only about a half-hour to throw together.
Rinse and dry a big bowl full of mixed fresh lettuce. I used what we have: Oakleaf, arugula, bibb and frisee.
Make a dressing with 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce), 2/3 tablespoon white sugar and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
Slice 1/2 Vidalia or other sweet, mild onion paper thin, and chop three or four scallions. (Proportions not important, use what you've got.)
Chop together 1 jalapeno, 3 fat cloves garlic, enough ginger to roughly equal the garlic, and a shake of dried red-pepper flakes.
Coarsely chop equal amounts of fresh cilantro and fresh mint to make about 1/4 cup.
Slice about 6 ounces of flank steak (still slightly frozen) into very thin slices across the grain.
Fire up your wok over high heat and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon peanut oil. When it's almost smoking, throw in the garlic/ginger/jalapeno mix and toss-fry until it's aromatic; add the sliced beef and stir-fry just until it loses its raw red color; turn off heat.
Mix the lettuce, onions and about half of the cilantro-mint mix with the lime juice-nam pla dressing, and mix well. Arrange the stir-fried beef on top, and sprinkle with the rest of the cilantro-mint mix and a shake of red-pepper flakes.
The combination of flavors really pleased us, strongly evoking the smells and tastes of a Thai restaurant. I held back on the hot spices to make the dish somewhat wine-friendly, but if you like it hot, more jalapenos and more red-pepper flakes would certainly add authority, or you could toss a few dried Thai peppers or the equivalent into the stir-fry.
We only wanted a light meal, so we let this one stand on its own with a couple of warmed sundried-tomato rolls. 'twas enough for me!