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LOST ITALIAN: Say goodbye to summer with two favorite flavors: grilled steaks and fresh tomatoes

Grilled New York strip is seasoned with toasted spice vinaigrette atop a bed of fresh sliced tomatoes. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 3
Spices can be toasted on the stove. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 3
A tomato knife is useful in slicing fresh tomatoes. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service3 / 3

Three summers ago, our son Gio and I were visiting my parents at Lake Sallie in Becker County. Before I could even unpack my car, my dad approached me, waving a copy of a magazine open to a page of mouth-watering steak and tomatoes. "Can we make this together, Sarah?" he asked. Confronted with such enthusiasm, how could I say no?

With fall just around the corner, it's time to fire up the grill and bid a proper farewell to summer. This week's recipe combines two of summer's best flavors: grilled steaks served over large slices of tomatoes fresh from our garden, rounded out with a toasted spice vinaigrette.

The original recipe featured flat iron steak, but this particular cut of meat can be difficult to find in our local stores, so I use New York Strip steaks instead. This cut comes from the short loin of the cow and is one of our top choices for summer grilling. The New York Strip has great flavor that comes from a lovely marbling of fat — more than a tenderloin but less than a ribeye — and it is thick, tender and juicy.

Make sure your grill is hot, clean and lubricated. Heat the grill on high and coat a thick towel on one side with vegetable oil. Once the grill is hot, wipe it with the oiled towel - the combination of heat and oil will easily remove any charred bits from the grill, leaving your grill lubricated and ready to use.

For this recipe, I grill the steaks over high, direct heat until they reach a perfect medium-rare temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit, about 8 minutes total. Once the steaks have finished cooking, it's important to let them rest for at least 5 minutes before carving to prevent the juices from running out. So many people want to skip this step, but the wait is worth it. For this particular recipe, it's essential to keep the steaks as juicy as possible, as the juice will spill onto, and flavor, the fresh tomato slices.

The toasted vinaigrette is the key to this dish and can be made up to four days in advance. It's an unusual recipe in that it features the seeds of three spices: coriander, cumin and fennel. I've tested the recipe using ground versions of each seed, but it's just not the same. The seeds are toasted lightly over medium-low heat until fragrant and then carefully chopped into small pieces before being added to the vinaigrette.

To serve, the tomatoes are sliced thick and placed on a platter. Once carved, the steak should be immediately placed on top of the tomatoes, so that the juices can meld with the tomatoes and add even more flavor. The toasted vinaigrette is spooned over the entire dish, and I like to save a little to serve on the side.

It is rare to find a dish that is as succulent as it is beautiful, especially one this simple. But this one hits that mark, every time. Happy Labor Day!

Grilled New York Strip Steak with Fresh Tomatoes and Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

Serves 4 to 6

2 10-12 ounce New York Strip steaks

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 large garden tomatoes, sliced ½-inch thick

Toasted spice vinaigrette (see recipe)

Prepare grill for high heat.

Coat steaks in olive oil, then rub ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper on the top and bottom of each steak.

Once the grill is hot, rub a cloth with vegetable oil and lubricate the grill. Grill for about 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown and slightly charred.

Turn steaks over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium rare (135 degrees F), 5 to 7 minutes for medium (140 degrees F) or 7 to 10 minutes for medium-well (150 degrees F). To ensure accuracy, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of each steak.

Remove steaks from grill and cover lightly with aluminum foil; let rest for 5 minutes before carving to prevent the juices from spilling out.

As the meat rests, line a platter with the sliced tomatoes. Carve each steak into ½-inch thick slices, then place the meat on top of the tomatoes. Liberally spoon the vinaigrette over the entire platter, saving some to be served on the side. May be served warm or chilled.

Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine

Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small, dry pan, toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds over medium-low heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Use a sharp knife to gently chop the seeds into small pieces, being careful not to grind them too fine.

In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine the chopped seeds with oil, vinegar and mustard; taste and add season as desired, starting with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.

May be prepared up to 4 days in advance of serving and refrigerated until ready to use.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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