Setting the Pace.

Remember the weather two days ago? When it was perfectly warm and sunny with a beautiful breeze just barely rippling through the air? In case the chill and drizzle of the past forty-eight hours have clouded your mind, let me refresh your memory: It was ideal for barbecuing.

Thank goodness said weather coincided with the holiday that, for me, marks the beginning of summer.


Growing up, this was the weekend that the pool opened. My mother, sister, and I would cross our fingers and hope for clear skies all week; if we were lucky, we’d spend as much time as possible swimming. My dad would stay home and watch the Indianapolis 500, with the television on and the sound off. (He preferred the radio commentary, which was invariably cranked up so loud you could hear it a block away. It had to be blasting to approximate the noise level at the Brickyard for full effect.) Dinner was something easily thrown together after a day spent working up an appetite, eaten outside with twilight encroaching.

Things are very, very different now, but I still like to spend Memorial Day outdoors, usually soaking up vitamin D in the park while playing soccer. I speak from experience when I say that there’s nothing like a meal from the grill after an afternoon in the sun, especially when that something is at once hearty and refreshing.


This salad isn’t anything fancy, but it is highly satisfying. Marinate the steak before you leave in the morning (or when you get home, if you’re pressed for time), then throw it on the fire for ten minutes or so. Give the onions a quick turn on the grill until they’re pliant and sweet inside and nicely charred around the edges, and toss both together with escarole, for a slightly bitter counterpoint, and a tangy Dijon-based dressing, to bring it all together. Add some fresh fruit for dessert, and you have seasonal simplicity at its best.

Before the green flag comes out to signal the start of the Indy 500, a pace car leads the field of drivers on their first few laps around the track; wheels are tested, systems are monitored, and, if all goes well, the decibel levels go through the proverbial roof and the race begins.

If this dish is the pace car of the summer, we’re in for a great ride.

Flank Steak with Bitter Greens and Charred Red Onion
From Melissa Roberts; Gourmet, May 2009
For steak:
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound flank steak (3/4 inch thick)

For salad:
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 very large red onion, halved and sliced 1/3 inch thick
3/4 pound bitter greens such as escarole or frisée or a combination

1. Whisk together Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, oil, garlic, and sugar in a shallow dish. Add steak, turning to coat, and marinate at room temperature 15 minutes.
2. Whisk together shallot, vinegar, mustard, 3 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Toss onion with remaining tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
3. Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Oil grill rack. Grill steak, covered, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare.

4. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest, uncovered, 5 minutes.

5. While steak rests, grill onion in grill basket (I don’t have one of these, so I grilled the onions directly on the rack. I lost a few of the tiny interior rings, but overall, it was fine.), covered, stirring occasionally, until charred and tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Thinly slice steak across the grain. Toss greens, onion, and steak with dressing and salt to taste.

Cooks’ note:
Steak and onion can be grilled in a hot lightly oiled 2-burner grill pan over medium-high heat, 9 to 11 minutes.
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2 thoughts on “Setting the Pace.

  1. marsha says:

    You went swimming but not me, in that cold water!

  2. maya says:

    Creative license!

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