When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

My kids won’t touch this with a ten-foot pole, so I have to make them something else the nights we eat this (one of my few exceptions to my “I am not a short order cook” rule) but it’s worth it. This salad has the perfect combination of spicy, sweet and sour in the dressing and the mint adds a refreshing bite. It’s not quite a true Thai Beef Salad, but it’s close enough for me. And besides, the beef salad recipe in my Thai cookbook has 5 more ingredients than this one, including Roasted Rice Powder. Come again? Maybe when the kids go off to college I’ll find the energy to figure out what that is. For now, Bittman’s yankified version will do.

Beef Salad with Mint (courtesy How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

1 piece o’ meat (about 10oz., we used leftover ribeye last time or you can cook something up from scratch)
4 cups torn and rinsed lettuce (Boston, romaine, mesclun, whatever)
1/4 cup chopped mint (or parsley or basil or cilantro or all of the above)
1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 small cucumber, preferably unwaxed and unpeeled, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce (I’ve never used the soy sauce, because fish sauce is of the stinky smelly Gods)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar

If your meat is raw, grill it or broil it like you like it. We like medium rare usually, but for a salad medium is better unless you want blood-covered greens. Yum.

Toss the lettuce, mint, onion and cucumber. Combine all the wet ingredients for the dressing, then toss salad greens with the mixture. Thinly slice the beef and serve it on top of the greens. Eat.