It’s farmer’s market time here in New England, when the rich, colorful, and plentiful bounty of our local farms and gardens are lovingly displayed in quaint wooden boxes and cartons and coolers under sun-blocking canopies arrayed throughout various well-placed urban spaces all over town. Harvard has it’s own market on Tuesdays, a really lovely affair parked right in front of the Science Center, with vendors hawking everything from teas to chocolate to baked goods to grass-fed beef to fresh goat cheese to honey to vegetables and seedlings, and everything in between! My hungry hungry hands clamped onto a thick steak and a knot of cheese to bring home to fashion into some dinner. Clayton was at the Lexington Farmer’s Market yesterday, where he picked up some lettuce, tomatoes, and a loaf of bread. And our own garden yielded super-sweet blackberries and a heady supply of flavorful herbs. With that cornucopia of fresh ingredients at my disposal, I created a delicious dinner of grilled steak, sliced thinly and served with a crisp Boston Bibb lettuce salad topped with homemade herb ranch dressing, blackberries, and burrata cheese. Orgasmic organica!
Farmer’s Market Summer’s Night Salad with Grilled Steak, Burrata, Boston Lettuce, and Blackberries
1lb grass-fed fresh ribeye steak
1 boll fresh burrata cheese
Boston Bibb lettuce
basil, tarragon, rosemary, cilantro, and oregano
white balsamic vinegar
half & half (or milk)
sea salt, black pepper
fennel salt (optional)
arrowroot (for thickening)
Today’s grass-fed ribeye beefsteak hails from Groton’s John Crow Farm. It was at least an inch thick, beautifully marbled, and tender to the touch. At $17.99/lb, it was comparably priced to Whole Foods and Savenor’s, and I felt a little happy inside knowing I was supporting a local organic farm directly, sans middleman.
Our garden in the sky is bursting with verdant herbage, and here are just a few snips off each planter: oregano, cilantro, basil, tarragon and rosemary. These last two flavors will be perfect for my steak, and the rest I’ll use for my homemade ranch dressing.
Since what I want here are the purest and most honest flavors I can get (I want to taste that steak, and not just a bunch of Montreal seasoning or anything), I merely douse my beef with EVOO, a sprinkling of pepper and sea salt, and two washed sprigs each of rosemary and tarragon, which I rather press hard into the meat to make them stick there.
Little Red has been heating up for a while now, and it’s ready to sear off my steak. I place the beef in the middle of the rack, making sure my herb sprigs stay put on top and underneath the slab of yum. I lower the lid and walk away for 10 minutes.
I admit it: I love ranch dressing. There — I’ve said it. But I didn’t have any in the house, although I did have an almost empty jar of mayo (there was about 3 tablespoons left). That got me thinking: ranch dressing is usually a mix of mayo, buttermilk, and sour cream with garlic and fresh herbs. I had the fresh herbs, plenty of garlic powder, and mayo and cream, so I thought I could make a pretty good facsimile of a ranch dressing that would compliment my salad. I stripped my basil, tarragon, cilantro, and oregano leaves from their stems, chopped all that up really well, chucked it all into my jar (why dirty a bowl?) with a few glugs of half n’ half and about a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. I added some salt, pepper, fennel salt, and garlic powder, then put the lid on and shook the whole thing until everything was well mixed. I totally eyeballed this, which is why I don’t have measurements here, but I kept tasting as I went until I had the flavor profile I wanted: creamy, with a little tang, and a lot of blended herb flavor. If it is too thin (as mine was, slightly), add a little bit of arrowroot as a thickening agent, shake well again, and then place in the fridge to chill and mix.
This loaf of bread from Hi-Rise Bread Company, given gratis to my husband at the Lexington Farmer’s Market (thanks, folks!), was so big I could barely fit it into my camera’s viewfinder (without also picking up ugly details of my kitchen in the background which I aim to keep hidden from you, dear readers).
We split the loaf into large slices, and shove plenty o’ butter pats between them, before wrapping the whole loaf in foil paper so we can heat it up on the grill.
Speaking of which, it’s time to check the steak! Oh baby, it smells amazing, and given the lovely grill marks already charred into the down-side, it’s time to flip my meat so it can sear on the other. We had to rather place the herb sprigs on the grill face and flip the steak over on top of them, to keep them in place so they’d continue to scent and flavor my meat, but that was easy enough to do, and totally worth it when we finally dug in.
Since the steak is so thick, and since Little Red’s heat maxes out at 375° (read: not as hot as a real fire-fed grill), it will take another 7 minutes or so for this to cook to medium rare. I put the bread onto the grill so it can warm up and butter melt, then I lower the lid and head inside to make the salad! (Although it is a beautiful day in Cambridge, it’s HOT AS HELL, so we’re hiding inside tonight. Our old broken down air-conditioner has suddenly decided to start working again, giving us an option we rarely have. I expect it will fall through the floor or spontaneously combust or something else equally tragic any day now, but until then Clayton and I are sending our thanks to the gods of Freon and enjoying a cool(ish) indoor experience.)
Clayton picked this head of lettuce and all these perfect little tomatoes at Busa Farms in Concord several hours before they headed to the Farmer’s Market in Lexington. Talk about farm fresh – these beauties were so much more than the leaves of grass and spheres of flavorless nightshade on sale at the grocery store. The Boston Bibb required a very good washing, tho – a little more than I gave it, since I admit to tasting a bit of grit when I finally forked my first bite.
Anyone who follows my blog knows I have a perpetual hard-on for burrata cheese, and any time I see it any where, I can’t resist buying it. This little boll of Fiore Di Nonno hand-made cheese purchased at the Harvard market set me back $6.50 – a good deal more than the $3 for Trader Joe’s double sized offering, my regular go-to burrata. It is also much more dense, with considerably less filling. The ingredients are much finer, and the hand-pulled quality of the cheese much more artisanal, and it makes me happy to support this very local company.
I wasn’t as thrilled by the density of the product as I’d hoped; I like my burrata to split open like a cracked soft-boiled egg, whereas this cheese was more like a hard-cooked egg. But it was quite good, and a perfect compliment to my sweet sweet fresh-from-my-backyard blackberries. These two items will form a sweet side next to my salad; a dessert course, if you will.
The steak is perfectly cooked, so I yank it off the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into it so the juiciness will settle and not drain off when the knife pierces the whole. When it does, I slice this very thinly against the grain.
Fanned out across my plate, just touching my dressed lettuce leaves and flanked by my berries and burrata, my steak surrenders its pink to my lascivious gaze. The meat is so tender, it falls apart at the sound of my voice whispering dirty words about what I’m going to do it.
Locally harvested, locally grown, organic, fresh, seasonal, and absolutely delicious! Steak salad never tasted so good: the meat is fragrant, beefy, and earthy (by virtue of the rosemary), the dressing is creamy and mild, perfect to cool the meat and coat the salad, the tomatoes have been split and salted, and the berries and cheese bring a sweet balance to the plate. With hot buttered bread on the side, Clayton and I dive into our dinners happy to have such excellent fare to enjoy from our friendly neighborhood farmer’s markets.