Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ramp Chimichurri Steak & Heirloom Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

I'm in denial that spring has disappeared from NYC again as we are deluged with rain EVERY DAY this week. So I've been cooking up anything that can go on a grill this week! Making an appearance in my small New York kitchen this week is my version of a chimichurri steak.

 Instead of my usual frites (aka french fries), I decided to lighten it up with a gorgeous summer salad using some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil I had picked up this week. A classic combination for sure, but no less delicious when using great ingredients.
There are several fanciful stories for how chimichurri came into existence. One story claims that it comes from "Jimmy McCurry", an Irishman who is said to have first prepared the sauce in the 19th century while marching with troops in support of Argentine independence. Supposedly, Jimmy's sauce's name was corrupted to "chimichurri" because the natives couldn't pronounce his name.

Another variation has Argentinian gourmet Miguel Brascó claiming that the word chimichurri originated when the British were captured after England tried to invade Argentina. The prisoners asked for condiment for their food mixing English, aboriginal and Spanish (Castilian) words. Che-mi-curry stands for "che mi salsa" (dame condimento) or "give me curry". Later "che-mi-curry" corrupted to chimichurri.

I have no idea what's really true. But I am thankful that chimichurri was created. It is such a great marinade for meat, seafood and even vegetables! Typically made from parsley, garlic, red vinegar, oil and red pepper flakes, I made my own version using the ramp pesto I had leftover from my manic ramp cooking.

As soon as that marinated steak hit the sizzling pan, the intense smell of ramps, garlic and citrus quickly filled my studio and out into the hallway. I could barely contain my excitement! After letting the steak rest for a few minutes on the plate so it would be super juicy, I plated some of the heirloom tomato-mozzarella salad alongside.

It is the perfect combination since the sweet tomatoes cut through the fat if the steak. It's a sublime summer meal and great if you are only cooking for one. The fleur de sel on top of the salad provided a nice crunch at the end and really brought out all the flavors in the tomatoes and was a good seasoning for the mozzarella since it is not very salty.
The size of my steak allowed me leftovers for the next day which was even better! I could have easily cut the steak in half to make it into two steaks. If you have a big appetite, this will serve 1.

Marinate the steak before you leave for work in the morning, then all you have to do is throw the steak on and make the salad while you cook it. Less than half hour to put an extravagant steak house dinner out on the dinner table. The tomato-mozzarella salad is also great on it's own with as a light meal.

I hope you try any of these recipes! It is so versatile.  If you don't have ramps to make the pesto since they are seasonal, you can easily substitute this basic pesto recipe with basil or parsley.  Lactose intolerant or vegan eaters can also omit the cheese.  It is completely fine without!

Makes 2 servings

1 lb boneless rib eye steak, cleansed and patted dry
2 generous tbsp ramp pesto (recipe below) or any other pesto
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Place in a Ziploc bag and add pesto, lemon juice and oil. Seal and shake the bag around, massaging the marinade into the both sides if the steak. Marinade for at least 2 hours.

2. Remove the marinated steak from the fridge and let sit to bring to room temperature. When ready, heat a cast iron pan over high heat to give a nice sear and char on the meat. When the pan is hot, add the steak. Cook on each side for approximately 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Do not give into the temptation to cut into your meat to see if it is cooked because it causes juices to be released, resulting in a dry steak YUCK.

3. Remove from heat and put steak on plate to sit for several minutes. Remember that when you let the meat sit, it will continue cooking for a few more minutes.

4. Serve alongside tomato-mozzarella salad. Bon appetit!!

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups
2 bunches ramps, cleaned thoroughly
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Throw all ingredients in a food processor. On high, pulse for several minutes until it comes together. It should be slightly thick.

2. Taste the pesto and season accordingly. If you like your pesto more liquidy, add more olive oil.

3. Store pesto in a air-tight sealable container. Pesto should be refrigerated and will keep for several weeks.

Serves 2 as side dish, 1 as main dish

6 thin slices fresh mozzarella
1 cup small heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
2 tbsp basil, chiffonade
Drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel, to taste

1. Place mozzarella on plate, overlapping slightly. Top with halved tomatoes. Scatter basil on top. Lightly drizzle olive oil on top.

2. Season lightly with fleur de sel. That's it!!

3. The first step can be done the night before. Salt should be sprinkled on right before serving as it draws out the juices from tomatoes and makes the salad too wet otherwise.


  1. The ramp pesto sounds so fresh and delicious. I've really got to figure out the word for ramp in French and see if they have any at the market here this weekend.

  2. It is so good! It's really hard to explain why sometimes. It's not the really is just very tasty. I don't know if ramps are available overseas? It sounds like it might just be a North American product. You will just need to smuggle it back to Paris in next spring!

  3. The mix of flavours you have used here looks to compliment each other beautifully, rather than overpower. Bravo!

  4. Oh how I love pesto!!! Thanks for stopping by and all of the nice things you said :)