You don’t need a huge number of ingredients to cook well. Think of the iconic food duos — peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese and tomato soup, coffee and doughnuts — and how perfect they are together. Adding other flavors would only muck up the complementary beauty.
There’s definitely a time and a place for trying out a recipe with a two-page-long ingredient list. Maybe you want to cook a proper bowl of pho or re-create a dish you loved eating in a restaurant. I sure know the feeling. In my work as a food writer, I collaborate with major chefs to create cookbooks. I have written recipes for ling cod brandade, hand-rolled gnocchi with saffron-tomato sauce, and ballotine (twice). I relish the challenge of tackling a weekend project such as shrimp-and-pork dumplings. But after many years in the kitchen, what I’ve come to love most is cooking simply, with only a handful of ingredients. My favorite recipes are the kind that grow with you, teach you something new, and have emotion and subtlety. Every so often, I am caught breathless at the discovery of a recipe that miraculously checks all the boxes: simple, rewarding, doable on a busy weeknight, elegant, and most importantly, incredibly delicious.
The following recipes are those kinds of gems. Each has bold, interesting flavors and fewer than five ingredients. Salt, pepper, and olive oil don’t count because they’re pantry staples in most kitchens. I suppose you could argue with my math, but why bother? In the same amount of time, you can grocery shop (now’s your chance to breeze through the express lane) and cook something unexpectedly wonderful.
Use paper towels to pat the steak completely dry. Generously season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper, then rest the steak at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small pot over low heat, combine the cherries, sherry vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Warm for a few minutes, then remove from heat and set aside to soak while you cook the steak.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s so hot it’s nearly smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the steak in the skillet and cook until browned on the first side, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side to your preferred doneness, 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare, depending on thickness. (If using a thermometer to check doneness, 130 degrees is medium-rare.) Use tongs to hold the steak on its side and crisp any strips of fat for another minute or so. Transfer the steak to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.
Scatter the arugula across a serving plate. Using a fork, stir the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the sherried cherries. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and place the slices on the arugula. Drizzle any juices from the cut steak over the top, then spoon the cherries and their sauce over everything.
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