Monday, July 15, 2013

Lettuce-Tomato with Beef and a Lovely Vintage Dessert

One of my very favorite meals is Lettuce-Tomato with Beef.  It has a short window of time in late June when the summer tomatoes overlap briefly with the lettuce which is starting to bolt in the heat.  I make it every year.  The only reason I can think of that I have not blogged about it before is that I so fully enjoy this meal that I cannot be bothered to get out my camera.  For your sakes, dear readers, I tore myself away.

Lettuce-Tomato with Beef - from More with Less with some serious tweaks by me; it's a dinner salad meal from Vietnam

Stir together and marinate in the fridge, preferably for several hours:
1/4-1/2 lb. chuck or round steak, sliced paper thin
2/3 cup grated or pureed onion (I use my food processor)
2 garlic cloves, grated or pureed (food processor again)
1/2 tsp. fish sauce* (or 1/2 tsp. salt, if you must)
1/2 tsp. sugar
freshly ground pepper, several grinds

In a small jar, combine:
1/3 cup finely minced onion
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
several grinds of pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar

Shake together as dressing and set aside. 

Plan when to start your rice; I use jasmine rice or regular long-grain brown rice.  The secret to fluffy rice is to keep the water scant (so don't use the full 2 cups water for 1 cup rice) and let it sit with the lid on for about 10 minutes when the water is gone, to steam.

A short time before the meal, when the rice is planned or cooking, arrange on a beautiful platter with a small, empty bowl in the middle:
1 head lettuce or mixed lettuces, torn
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 cucumbers, diced, peeling optional
handful snipped herbs such as Thai basil, cilantro, or mint (Asian-leaning, you see)

Heat in heavy skillet until very hot:
1 Tbsp. oil

Add marinated beef and onions and stir fry quickly, just until beef loses red color, 1-2 minutes.  Frying it too long will make it tough, trust me (and I like my steaks medium-well, okay?).  Place beef in the bowl in the middle of the salad platter.  Add a Tbsp. water to the hot skillet, swish, and add the collected drippings/water to the salad dressing.

To eat this gorgeous meal, place a mound of hot, fresh rice on your plate.  Add some lettuce/tomato/cuke/herbs mixture, a smidgen of beef (the Vietnamese wisely use the meat sparingly, for flavoring), and drizzly lightly with the dressing. Keeping the dressing and beef separate from the vegetables means that leftovers will still be nice the next day.

*I love fish sauce.  It is an anchovy-based sauce that has the same umami POW that Worcestershire sauce has (which is also traditionally anchovy-based, did you know?).  Add fish sauce to Asian dishes that need a little boot, or add it to vinaigrette, soups, or meatloaf mix.  I'm trying to talk you into getting a bottle by illustrating that it's not a one-trick pony.  I buy mine at an Asian store, but I'm guessing most major grocery stores have it.

Okay, so the lovely vintage dessert was Orange Charlotte.  I adore pudding-y desserts and this one was fabulous and not very hard to make.  I want to make Charlotte Russe next and I have the ladyfingers to prove it.  I was so pleased with its cool, creamy texture and citrus punch after the Vietnamese salad meal.

Orange Charlotte - taken from a book at work which I cannot credit because I photocopied it months and months ago without noting the title (oops - bad editor)

In a mixing bowl, dissolve 1 envelope unflavored gelatin in 1/3 cup cold water.

Add 1/3 cup boiling water.

scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 1/2 oranges)
zest of one orange
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
pinch salt

Place in refrigerator.  When the mixture startes to gel in 20-40 minutes, fold in:

2 egg whites, beaten with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff
1/2 cup whipping cream, beaten until just beginning to form soft peaks

Pour mixture into lightly greased bowl or pretty vintage jello mold.  Cover.  Refrigerate for several hours until firm.  Unmold if you've used something pretty.  Otherwise, just dish it out.

Whew.  I don't usually publish two recipes in one post.  But you can see why, right?  Deliciousness.


Zoë said...

Oh man. You just made me put oranges on my grocery list. And I don't like to buy them in the summer!!

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

yummy.. both sound wonderful..
Ben really made it look delicious.. And Genevie looks like she is anxiously awaiting to serve..What adorable kids!!!

I love the blue check table cloth too.
Thanks for sharing your recipes.

Margo said...

Zoe, I know! But who wants a cool, creamy dessert in winter? I want it NOW, so I bought oranges :)

Julian said...

Both look and sound delicious for a summers dinner;).

Rachel said...

I just told peter that I really want him to make this beef dish NOW. it made me hungry.

jenny_o said...

What a beautiful meal! Thanks for sharing both recipes. I am so stuck in a rut of cold chicken and potato salad :)

Cute photo of Ben!

Mary Ann said...

The beef dish sounds amazingly good! Yum!

Nancy In Boise said...

I don't know f you'll see this- can you make the Orange Charlotte with orange jello instead, & if so do you know the proportions? Thanks! Gotta make that ginger beef :)

Margo said...

Hi Nancy, I don't see why you couldn't use a sweetened orange Jello here. I don't know how much sugar you would need to reduce in the recipe - I did a quick Google search and couldn't find any recommendations. Let me know if you come up with something successful!