Two-fer Meal Saves Pre-holiday Time

FAST LANE FEAST

December 18, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

One of the best presents you can give yourself during this hectic season is a meal you can get on the table quickly so there's time to do all the holiday have-tos -- from shopping to tree decorating to party going.

The following Thai beef salad from the Murphy-Goode Estate Winery in California's Alexander Valley is a great option for busy cooks because it tastes even better the second time around. Those with small families can serve half the food one night and the other half the next, after the beef has even more time to marinate in the wonderful combination of Thai ingredients.

A key ingredient that you should have in your pantry as a staple is Thai fish sauce, a protein-rich sauce that is often known as nam pla. The flavor is strong, fishy and salty when tasted by itself, but in combination with lime juice, garlic, cilantro and mint, it adds a distinctive and pleasing contrast to the salad dressing. Thai fish sauce can be found in bottles in most Asian specialty stores.

Serve the Thai beef salad with white rice and fresh seasonal fruits. Start the meal by putting the water for the white rice on to boil. Then start cooking the beef while you assemble the ingredients for the dressing.

Items you should have in you pantry include: garlic cloves, fish sauce, brown sugar, green onions, rice.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

* 2 pounds beef tenderloin

* 1 bunch cilantro

* 1 bunch mint leaves

* 1 large jalapeno pepper

* 1 lime

* 1 head butter lettuce

* 3 fresh tomatoes

* 2 cucumbers

* fresh fruit

Thai beef salad

Makes 6 servings.

2 pounds beef tenderloin, grilled rare

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon whole small mint leaves

1 large minced jalapeno, seeded and deveined

3 large garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

3 fresh tomatoes, quartered

6 green onions, sliced into rings

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed and sliced into half moons

Set broiler rack about 3 to 4 inches from the heating element. Cook tenderloin 5 to 7 minutes on each side for rare. Cut into strips about 1 inch by 1/4 inch and allow to cool.

Put together cilantro, mint leaves and minced jalapeno. Mix with beef strips and set aside.

To make dressing, mix garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and toss well with meat mixture.

Divide lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers on six plates. Top each with the beef and dressing.

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