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A cool light in the pandemic tunnel

By JOHANNA GARCIA, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 22, 2021 5:00 am

What are you doing this summer? Where are you going? Do you remember when we all used to ask that? Not lately, though.

Instead, we wax nostalgic about summers past, beach volleyball, barbecues and bonfires, shopping and eating sprees, unforgettable sights and exotic locales spent with family and friends. And because the prospects of doing any of this stuff soon seem dim, we’ve been forced to explore other creative ways to relax and self-soothe.

Many of my friends have become excellent cooks, bakers and gardeners. I already cook for a living but have also finally climbed on the “plantita” bandwagon, growing herbs and looking for plants that can survive my spectacularly black thumb.

Fortunately for them, my plant-loving helper gives them a fighting chance. Thanks to her, my balcony, which I used to ignore because of all the nearby construction, is slowly becoming a cozy little respite where I can sit outside and enjoy the sun, the breeze and just enough greenery to help me get my nature fix.

Now, more than ever, we need to practice self-care. For me, that means taking my vitamins, playing with my dog and cats, reaching out regularly to loved ones, observing COVID safety protocols and, of course, eating right.

That’s important, because with the vaccination program slowly gathering traction, many of us are finally starting to see the light at the end of this seemingly endless pandemic tunnel.

So now, more than ever, we need to practice self-care. For me, that means taking my vitamins, playing with my dog and cats, reaching out regularly to loved ones, observing COVID safety protocols and, of course, eating right.

Tonight’s dinner is a summer steak salad. The sharp flavors and herbal notes are perfect for a sweltering summer day and require a minimum of cooking time on a hot stove.

The beauty of this recipe lies not only in its ease, but also in its flexibility. You can substitute shrimp, fish, chicken or even avocado for the steak, for instance. You can also add some cheese, if you like. A Mexican mix, some Monterey Jack, or even some feta would work great. And if you can’t find limes, use calamansi (which is what I did) or some lemon.

The recipe serves four, but since I don’t have any guests, I’m reserving another portion for tomorrow and then sending the rest to some equally overheated friends.

After that, I plan to find a community pantry that I can donate either goods or cash to, and I suggest you do the same. It’s a great reminder that we’re all in this together, and it will be all over one day. Until then, it’s vital that we stay cool, stay safe, take care of ourselves, and then each other.

 Steak Salad with Corn and Salsa Fresca

(Serves 4)

Salsa Fresca:

2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 11/2 cups)

1/2 large white onion, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 to 2 finger chilies, minced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Steak:

600-700 grams rib-eye steak

1 tablespoon neutral oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons butter

1 small bunch scallions, chopped

4 ears sweet corn, shucked

Grated zest of 2 limes

Procedure:

Make the salsa. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and let the flavors develop at room temperature.

Make the steak. Preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) until very hot. Add oil and wait until it shimmers. Place the steak in the pan and cook around 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare. Set aside the meat to rest.

Make the corn. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the scallions and cook until soft and some pieces are just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the corn kernels, and the butter. Cook, stirring often, until the corn is cooked through but not browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: Spread the corn on a platter. Slice the steak thinly and arrange over the corn. Spoon the salsa on top of the steak. Drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil and serve.