Can you feel it? Optimism is in the air, those spirit-lifting feelings that become more recognizable each day. In Florida, baseball is in full swing and my Atlanta neighborhood anxiously awaits the new season opener with high expectations for the home team Braves. My earliest Florida Grapefruit League (what spring training baseball is called) memories recall enjoying Atlanta Braves games in West Palm Beach. The Dodgers with Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre’s Yankees, Tom Seaver, Eddie Mathews, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax and Phil Neikro. Baseball was 100 percent day games showcasing green grass under clear Florida skies with the serenade of laughing children.
After the games, dinner was special at my father’s house, a short drive from the ballpark. These recipes are inspired by those magic moments.
Home Plate Steak Salad
8-12 ounces NY Strip, flank, or skirt steak
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups of your favorite lettuces chopped bite-size
1 red bell pepper, sliced very thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced very thin
1 cucumber, seeded (if desired), sliced very thin1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 avocado, sliced thin or cut into small pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/4 – 1/2 cup cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette
Steak Cooking Instructions-
Remove steak from the refrigerator about 90 minutes before grilling. Steak should be at room temperature before it hits the grill. Preheat the grill on high heat to make sure it is hot before grilling the meat. Rub a crushed garlic clove onto all sides of the steak. Crack fresh pepper all over the steak and rub it into all sides of the steak. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.
Place the steak on the grill at a 45-degree angle for 2-3 minutes, then use tongs to rotate 45-degrees and cook 2-3 more minutes. Flip the steak over and repeat. Check the temp to avoid overcooking – aim for 140°F for medium rare, as it will increase a few more degrees once removed from the grill.
Based on how done you would like your meat to be, reduce heat to low and grill for an additional 3-5 minutes with the lid closed. A 1 1/2″ thick steak should be about medium rare now, but again, this depends on thickness. Remove steak from the grill and place on a platter. Rest the steak on the platter for a full 5 minutes prior to cutting. This allows the juices and flavor to develop more fully.
Layer the lettuce, peppers, cucumber, onions, avocado, and cilantro onto individual plates or a large serving platter. Slice the beef thinly and then cut the strips into bite-size pieces.
Top the salad with the steak and then sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle or toss with a Chipotle Vinaigrette just before serving.
Springtime Strawberry Shortcake
2 1/2 cups (325g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (112g) unsalted Challenge butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (300ml) milk
1 pound fresh strawberries
3 tbsp (39g) sugar
2 1/2 cups (600ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
1 1/4 cups (144g) powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Prepare three 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
3. Add the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract to and large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time. You should visibly see a change in color and texture.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
6. Slowly add the milk and mix until well combined.
7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
9. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
10. To make the strawberries, wash them and cut the stems off, then slice them.
11. Add the sliced strawberries and sugar to a large bowl and toss together. Set in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours to let the sugar bring out the juices from the berries. The longer it sits, the more juices you’ll have.
12. When you’re ready to put the cake together, make the whipped cream. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and whip on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form.
13. To build the cake, place the first cake layer on a cake plate or other serving platter. Add a layer of whipped cream. I used Ateco tip 808 to pipe dallops around the outer edge of the cake, then filled it in. You could also just spread a layer of whipped cream.
14. Add about half of the strawberries on top of the whipped cream.
15. Add the second layer of cake, another layer of whipped cream and another layer of strawberries.
16. Add the final layer of cake, then finish it off with some whipped cream swirls and fresh strawberries. If you have any leftover juices from the sliced strawberries, you could also drizzle that on top or serve it with the cake slices.
17. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. The cake layers and strawberries can be made up to a day ahead, but the cake is best if layered together the day it’ll be served.
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestion: A red burgundy. 2018 Vielles Vignes, Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Be happy. Bonne dégustation. Love one another.