In some ways, I prefer lunch to dinner — especially on the weekend. Making light food that’s incredibly tasty and serving it in the middle of the day sets the stage for great conversation. And with temperatures on the rise, take the midday meal outdoors for a picnic in a park or a barbecue in your own backyard.
Pan Bagnat is my take on a classic French make-ahead sandwich that travels well and is ideal for a picnic. Use good-quality tuna packed in oil, not water, or substitute in chunks of freshly grilled tuna. Make the recipe a few hours ahead, then cover in plastic and store in the fridge, allowing the flavors to meld before serving. But if you’re hungry and can’t wait, it’s delicious served straightaway. The tangy basil-lemony spread coupled with the salty capers folded into the tuna creates a bright balance of flavors that scream spring.
Fire up the backyard grill and add a little spice to the menu with Grilled Chili-Rubbed Flank Steak Tacos. Flank is a nice, lean cut of meat that grills quickly and is easy to dice or cut into strips for tacos. The marinade of cumin, garlic, and chili powders gives it a nice zip. Make it easy on yourself by placing the taco accompaniments — cabbage, carrots, scallions, and other seasonal vegetables — in bowls and let family and guests assemble their own. Interactive eating is always fun and takes some of the pressure off the host.
(Makes 6 servings)
½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
¼ cup low-fat sour cream
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 5-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained, chopped
1 14-ounce loaf ciabatta bread, split horizontally
2 cups (not packed) arugula leaves
1 cup torn radicchio leaves
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 small Persian cucumbers or ½ English (hothouse) cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
½ red onion, thinly sliced
In food processor, combine mayo, sour cream, basil, and half lemon zest and juice and process for 20 seconds, or until basil is coarsely chopped but not pureed. Season basil mayonnaise with salt and pepper. In small bowl, gently fold tuna, olives, capers, and remaining lemon zest and juice to combine, keeping tuna in large chunks as much as possible. Lay ciabatta cut side up on cutting board and spread basil mayonnaise over both pieces. Scatter arugula and radicchio over bottom piece. Lay slices of egg atop lettuces and follow with tuna mixture, cucumbers, and onion. Top with other piece of bread. Cut into 6 sandwiches and serve.
Make-Ahead: The sandwich can be made up to 2 hours ahead, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated to allow flavors to marry.
Total Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Sodium: 931 mg
Carbohydrate: 42 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 25 g
Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 2 ½ lean meat, 1 ½ vegetables, 1 fat
Grilled Chili-Rubbed Flank Steak Tacos
(Makes 4 servings)
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 16-ounce flank steak
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ head napa cabbage, halved lengthwise and shredded crosswise (about 3 cups)
1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch-long matchstick-size strips
8 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on sharp diagonal
½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
8 6-inch corn tortillas
Accompaniments: guacamole, lime wedges, hot sauce (such as Cholula)
To prepare steak: In small bowl, mix the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to blend. Generously sprinkle 4 teaspoons of spice mixture all over steak; reserve any remaining spice mixture for another use. Cover steak and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Prepare barbecue for medium-high heat. Drizzle oil over steak and grill until brown on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to carving board and let rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, to prepare tacos: In large bowl, toss cabbage, carrots, scallions, and cilantro together. Heat tortillas on grill, turning occasionally, for about 1 minute, or until hot. Transfer to serving bowl and cover to keep warm.
To serve, cut steak across grain into ¼-inch-thick slices. Transfer steak slices and any carving juices to platter. Let each guest fill two
tortillas with some steak and cabbage mixture and top with avocados, lime, and hot sauce.
Total Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Sodium: 572 mg
Carbohydrate: 32 g
Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 35 g
Diabetic Exchanges: 1 ½ starch, 4 ½ lean meat, 2 vegetables, ½ fat
Curtis Stone is the award-winning chef and owner of Maude and Gwen restaurants in Los Angeles.
Excerpted from What’s for Dinner? by Curtis Stone. Copyright © 2013 by Curtis Stone. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
This article is featured in the May/June 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.