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Give your summer salads some extra pizzazz

If you're planning a salad as part of a party or barbecue this summer, there are many easy and delicious ways to go beyond the standard fare of lettuce and tomatoes. Lauren Grovemen, author of "The I Love To Cook Book,” shares recipes to kick your rabbit food up a notch.Steak with Grilled VegetablesLauren GrovemanScore the steak by making long shallow diagonal slits on both sides using a sharp k
/ Source: TODAY

If you're planning a salad as part of a party or barbecue this summer, there are many easy and delicious ways to go beyond the standard fare of lettuce and tomatoes. Lauren Grovemen, author of "The I Love To Cook Book,” shares recipes to kick your rabbit food up a notch.

Steak with Grilled VegetablesLauren Groveman

Score the steak by making long shallow diagonal slits on both sides using a sharp knife. Place the meat in a 13x9-inch non-reactive dish and apply a generous amount of black pepper to both sides. Pour enough of the Robust Italian Vinaigrette over the meat to coat it well on both sides. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Alternatively, if the meat is refrigerator-cold, leave it out at a comfortable room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.

Liberally brush some of the remaining marinade on both sides of the mushroom caps, the onion slices, and the halved peppers and place them in another large dish. Refrigerate the vegetables for several hours or overnight, or leave them on your counter for an hour or so before cooking. Reserve any remaining dressing for basting. 

If the meat and/or vegetables have been refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat a gas grill to high or heat an ample layer of charcoal in a charcoal grill until hot. Regardless of the type of grill used, brush the hot surface with some oil (a branch of rosemary dipped in olive oil is a very fragrant way to do this) and let the newly oiled surface heat for a few seconds. If your grilling surface is large enough to grill the meat and vegetables together, do so; if not, then grill the meat first, since it needs to rest before being sliced.

Lift the steak and vegetables from the marinade, letting any excess drip back into the dish.  Lay the meat on the hot grill and cook until the meat is caramelized on the outside but still rosy within, or to your liking. (Press down on the top of the cooked meat, using your finger.  If it feels like your cheek, the meat is medium rare. If it feels like your chin, its medium, and if the meat feels firm as the tip of your nose, it’s well done.) Brush the meat with some reserved (never used) marinade after turning. (When grilling, the cooking time will vary, depending on the intensity of your heat source.)  Set aside.

Brush the vegetables with some of the reserved marinade. Grill them, turning as necessary, until tender and their edges are charred-looking, but not burnt. 

Place the grilled vegetables decoratively on a large serving platter, along with the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle on some salt, then scatter an assortment of olives all around, if using.  Mix the arugula with the Parmesan in a separate bowl.  Sprinkle the meat with salt, then slice next to the vegetables; if not, place on a separate platter.  Serve everything together, letting people help themselves. Pass the dressing at the table, with a loaf of hot garlic bread.

Stove-Top Variation:

If cooking on the stove, line a large, shallow baking sheet with aluminum foil (shiny side up) and place it on the center shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F for at least 30 minutes. Turn on your exhaust fan.  Preheat a large stove-top grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Sear the steak over high heat for 3 minutes per side, or until deeply caramelized. At this point the meat will be almost but not quite done, depending on overall thickness. Remove the pan from the heat and, using tongs, transfer the seared meat to the preheated baking sheet. Cook the meat 2 to 5 minutes, depending on how you like it.  Let the meat rest on a warmed platter, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

"The Bomb" Mustard Vinaigrette:

Whisk 1/2 cup Dijon mustard with 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 minced shallot, and 1/2 rounded teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk in 3/4 cup olive oil (pure and extra-virgin) and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. If desired, stir in 3 tablespoons drained capers and/or chopped fresh basil. Season liberally with black pepper.  Makes about 1 2/3 cups, without the optional additions. (This dressing is called "The Bomb" by my kids.  Apparently, this means "the best" in early 21st-century American adolescent lingo.)

Robust Italian Vinaigrette:

Mix 2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard with 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 rounded teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons pickling liquid from Giardiniera salad or jarred hot cherry peppers (found either on the condiment shelf or in the refrigerated section of your supermarket). Whisk in 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil (ideally a mixture of pure and extra-virgin). Stir in 1 rounded teaspoon crumbled aromatic dried oregano and black pepper to taste. Refrigerate for few hours, well covered, so the flavors can come together. Let the dressing sit out for 30 minutes to 1 hour before using. Makes about 2 cups.

91231196048154554flank steak2.5pound2 1/2 pounds flank steakblack pepperFreshly ground black pepper to taste"the bomb" mustard vinaigrette2tablespoonSuggested accompaniments: "The Bomb" Mustard Vinaigrette (see recipe below), adding 2 tablespoons drained capers, garlic breadportobello mushrooms64 large or 6 medium portobello mushrooms, stems removed and caps wiped cleansweet onions 22 sweet onions (like Vidalias), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick, keeping slices intactsweet bell peppers42 each red and yellow sweet bell peppers, halved and seededbeefsteak tomatoes22 or 3 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slicesmozzarella cheese11 generous pound fresh mozzarella cheese, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1/2-inch sliceskosher or sea saltKosher or sea salt to tasteblack and green olivesAssorted black and green olives (optional)arugula leaves8cup1/2 pound (8 cups) cleaned, spun-dry, and stemmed arugula leavesparmigiano-reggiano cheese shavings1cup1 generous cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavingsrobust italian vinaigretteRobust Italian vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Recipes excerpted from "The I Love To Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking For Family and Friends ” by Lauren Grovemen. Copyright © 2004 by Lauren Grovemen. Published by Clarkson N Potter Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.