California Cowboy Salad

Do you have a place where the simple thought of it causes you to slow down, breathe deeply, and smile?  The mere mental image of this space creates a warm calm within you?

For me, one such space is a walnut orchard owned and managed by good friends. The space would be considered non-descript to most folks.  But, they had not been there with good friends for many Octoberfest celebrations, sharing a lingering meal over conversations with life long friends.  Oh, and the zip line without safety equipment. And the hay ride over to the winery next door.  And the trips around the orchard by the tractor hauling the trailer with kids hopping on and off.  Kids climbing trees.  Playing tag with flashlights at night.  The bonfire, with guitars, with friends.  And this was the setting for the SubUrban Cowboy themed Gourmet Dinner Club evening.

Yee-haw!  Cooking over a fire, delicious steaks, beans, breads … all rolling over in my mind.  “Can’t wait!”  But, uh, what course were we to prepare?  Salad.  Really?  Salad!

It had to have some steak, and if there is steak on a salad there clearly must be blue cheese, and from there we went with ingredients that could be found locally, namely cherries and walnuts.  And then there’s the pickled shallot rings that have shown up on numerous dishes at home ever since making the most wonderful Tomato Salad with Pickled Shallots and Goat Cheese Croutons from the always enjoyable More Than Burnt Toast blog.  The California Cowboy Salad will certainly grace our family table this summer as it can be put together easily and each person can concoct their own proportions of veggies, meat, cheese, and fruits.  Yee-haw!

California Cowboy Salad

cherries from Chan’s, steak from Brentwood Fine Meats, walnuts from the local orchard


1 1/4 pound sirloin steak

2 heads butter lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 cups cherries, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1.  Spread chopped cherries on a parchment lined cookie sheet and set in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Cherries will be wilted but not completely dry.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Trim fat from steak and cut into 2 equal portions.  Reserve 1/3 cup of oil and vinegar mixture for salad dressing, and place the remainder in a zip lock bag along with both steak pieces.  Allow steak to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

3.  Combine shallot rings and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 1 to 2 hours.

4.  Set gas grill to medium high, remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels, and cook steak for 4 minutes on each side or until medium rare.  Let steak rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, then slice into 1/4 in strips.

5.  Gently mix lettuce and salad dressing in a large bowl.  To serve, place the lettuce on the serving plate, topped with the steak, blue cheese, drained pickled shallots, dried cherries, and toasted walnuts.


  • Dried cherries from the supermarket can be substituted for the home dried cherries.
  • The sweetness of the cherries, along with the savory steak and salty cheese are simply marvelous together!
  • Yes, some of these steps take some time, but think of it as productive puttering around time.

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