This has been the Summer of Salads. We've been eating salads for dinner at least once a week, and oftentimes more than that. Now, before you roll your eyes at me for getting excited about salad, let me clarify that we've been eating ridiculously amazing salads. Like this chopped grilled summer vegetable salad. And it's chicken fajita counterpart. And a balsamic steak and tomato salad with bacon and blue cheese. And a Georgia-style caprese salad. And a shrimp and okra po' boy salad. And last but not least, this Thai Grilled Steak Salad.
When I was young and hip and lived in the city, there was a gourmet grocery store/take out place called Eatzy's. They had a glorious selection of all sorts of snacks, cheeses and meats, prepared salads and dinners, and an amazing deli. It was right across the street from my gym, so I used to treat myself once a week to their Thai steak salad. I'm quite certain it wasn't authentic, but I just loved it so much.
This salad is reminiscent of that one, and dare I say even better? Being that this is a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, there are of course a few offbeat methods and steps. Their goal for this salad was to be able to make it completely from ingredients found in the grocery store. Therefore, a few creative substitutions and steps were taken to avoid a trip to an Asian grocer. So while making your own toasted rice powder may seem a little strange, and toasting spices may seem like too much work, trust me on this. Those little things just take a few minutes; they really elevate the salad to the next level, and are well-worth your time.
The dressing hits the usual Thai flavor points of hot-sour-salty-sweet-bitter, and the savory steak and crisp and refreshing cucumbers and herbs play so nicely off of it. This was a really great dinner served simply with some fresh fruit and grilled corn, and the leftovers were stellar as well.
The Summer of Salads. It's a thing. What's your favorite salad?
Thai Grilled Steak Salad
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbs long-grain white rice
- 3 Tbs lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 Tbs fish sauce
- 2 Tbs water
- 1/'2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 lbs flank steak, trimmed
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (Thai basil, if you can find it)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 3 shallots, sliced into thin rings
- 1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced into thin rings
- 1 seedless English cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible (use a vegetable peeler or mandolin)
In a small skillet, heat the paprika and cayenne over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl. Be very careful and run the fan over your stove if you have one as you toast the spices, because the toasted cayenne will burn your eyes and throat if you're not careful!
Return the now-empty skillet to medium-high heat, add the rice, and toast, stirring frequently, until it's a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small food processor or spice grinder, and allow to cool 5 minutes before grinding the rice to a fine meal. You should have about 1 tablespoon of powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, water, granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the toasted spice mixture. Set aside.
Season the steak liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the steak on the grill and cook until it's just beginning to char, and beads of moisture appear on the outer edges, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the steak and continue to cook until the steak reaches 125 degrees (for medium-rare), about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes. Slice 1/4-inch thick on the bias, against the grain.
Toss the cucumber slices, shallots, and serrano rings in the bowl with the dressing, then use a slotted spoon to remove them and arrange on a serving platter. Toss the steak and herbs in the bowl with the dressing, then place on top of the cucumber slices. Sprinkle the toasted rice powder over the top, and pass the toasted spice mixture at the table for those who want more heat. Serve warm or at room temperature.