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A Summertime Steak Dinner

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Juicy grilled steak, fresh summer salads, and a homey berry buttermilk cake star in this easy outdoor menu

When I left the restaurant business five years ago to become the chef at our family winery, I left behind a kitchen full of sous chefs, prep cooks, and dishwashers. With my new staff of one—me—I dove into entertaining for both business and pleasure with relish. I assumed that my guests expected grandiose dinners from a professional, so I’d spend days preparing lavish five- and six-course meals. As my husband entertained our guests, I would run, breathless, back and forth from the kitchen to the table. By the end of the evening, as I waved goodbye to the last guest, I’d realize that I hadn’t had much of a conversation with anyone, much less a bite to eat—and then I’d turn and face the dishes!

Times have changed when it comes to entertaining in our house. With two young children under my feet and a full-time career that begs for my attention, planning a summer meal takes the path of least resistance. I assemble a succession of dishes that can be prepped in advance and that don’t require eagle-eyed attention, yet that still remain graceful and delicious. Enjoy the meal. Enjoy the summer!

Menu Timeline

Up to one week ahead

  • Make the almonds.
  • Make the crumb topping for the cake.

Up to two days ahead

  • Marinate the skirt steaks.
  • Slice the olives for the tomato and olive salad.
  • Toast the nuts for the salsa verde.

One day ahead

  • Make the lemon vinaigrette.
  • Wash the romaine.
  • Bake the cake.

Two hours before serving

  • Cut the tomatoes, assemble the tomato and olive salad, and keep at room temperature.
  • Make the salsa verde and keep at room temperature.

One hour before serving

  • Bring the lemon vinaigrette to room temperature.
  • Whip the crème fraîche.

25 to 30 minutes before serving

  • Grill the steaks.
  • Open the wine.

A few minutes before serving

  • Toss the romaine with the vinaigrette.

Shopping List

Meat, Eggs & Poultry:

  • 4 pounds skirt steaks
  • 3 large eggs

Fresh Produce:

  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, assorted colors and sizes
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 3 small hearts of romaine, or 3 head of baby romaine
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, raspberries, or a mix
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley (1 cup packed leaves, and another Tbs. chopped)
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 small bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage

Other Groceries:

  • 1 package blanched almonds (enough for 2-1/4 cups)
  • 1 container of sea salt
  • 1 bottle sherry vinegar (1 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives
  • 1 block Parmigiano Reggiano (need 1/2 cup shaved)
  • 1 carton buttermilk
  • 1 pound (2 cups) creme fraiche

Pantry Staples:

  • Kosher salt black pepper
  • 2-1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. white-wine vinegar
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. dried red chile flakes
  • about 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • about 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (about 16 Tbs) unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

The Menu

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