A Salad Primed for the Grill

A Salad Primed for the Grill

Some cooks — those rugged types flipping burgers in ski gloves — grill outside no matter the weather. Still others live in temperate climates (all of you with lemon trees, you know who you are).

The rest of us have to wait for those softly balmy nights that make going inside seem like a defeat, those evenings when grilling a steak and eating it on the deck is the sweetest reward for a punishing winter.

A grilled steak salad, with charred onions and plenty of greens, is made for those summer nights. It’s the kind of recipe you can vary endlessly, always falling back on the time-honored combination of juicy beef and leafy greens, with a piquant citrusy dressing to pull it all together.

In this version, a flank steak is marinated in a mix of ancho chile for heat, brown sugar for caramelization, and dried oregano and toasted sesame oil for complexity. The result is sweet, spicy and a little smoky from the grill.

A lean cut, flank steak can dry out if overcooked. Grill it rare, and slice it thinly against the grain. This will give you tender meat with plenty of juices that will puddle as you carve. Be sure to pour those beefy juices into the salad dressing for even more depth — they add a lot of flavor.

With any steak salad, the vegetables should be a cooling, lighter element next to the meat. Here, I particularly like the way spicy lettuces (arugula, watercress, baby kale and the like) contrast with the marinade’s sweetness. For textural diversity, I also toss in some radishes and avocado.

As the summer progresses, you can replace the vegetables with others coming into season — just as long as you have a combination of greens and crunchy add-ons (cucumber, slivered bell peppers, jicama, fennel, baby turnips, carrot, raw corn kernels) to keep things balanced.

Last but not at all least are the charred onions. Blackened on the outside, compote-like on the inside, they are wonderfully concentrated and silky-soft on the tongue. When eggplants and peppers start appearing in August, you can char those instead; they’ll add the same kind of richness to the plate.

Open a bottle of rosé or a chilled light red, and breathe a sigh of relief. Summer’s made it at last.

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