After tasting many of the Puglia’s big, herbacious olive oils on a recent trip to Italy, I was keen to use them at home in New York. In the heat of the summer, with the arugula in my garden ready to pick, an Italian-inspired beef salad seems just right for a one-dish meal that is satisfying, easy and shows off the oil in a simple dressing.
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From steak au poivre to steak salad
Now, when I want to be grilling outdoors as much as possible, I am reminded of steak au poivre, which today seems out of fashion. (It’s a recipe with a fiery kick, so easy to make that I once cooked it regularly in the galley of a sailboat.) The French original is pan-roasted in butter, treated to cream and cognac, and ignited. This slimmed-down version, seared over charcoal and sliced thinly, is layered over a bed of greens and boiled potatoes and dressed with the oil, lemon — both juice and zest — and the requisite dollop of Dijon. The perfect natural green is arugula, with its peppery bite. For a soft contrast, use a layer of buttery-fleshed fingerling potatoes. Then, capers with their spikes of flavor are scattered over all.
These bold extra virgin olive oils, with their scents of chicory and marjoram, temper the sting of the pepper, the acidity of the lemon, the tang of the mustard, the briny bursts of the capers, and bring the components together in a dish that gives new meaning to meat and potatoes.
- 3 tablespoons, or to taste, whole peppercorns
- 1 pound flank, strip, shell or other boneless steak, whole, about 1-inch thick
- 1 pound small fingerling, Red Bliss or new potatoes, scrubbed
- 4 ounces fresh arugula, washed
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 generous teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed
- fine sea salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon drained small capers, or coarsely chopped large capers, or 12 caper berries
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley or chives, minced (optional)
- On a cutting board, spread out the peppercorns between two pieces of wax paper. Use the dull side of a meat mallet, or a rolling pin, to gently crush them. The peppercorns should be cracked, not ground. Press them into both sides of the steak.
- Prepare a charcoal or a gas grill, or preheat a broiler. Sear the meat well on both sides, cooking it through to the desired doneness. Transfer it to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut it across the grain into very thin slices.
- While the meat is cooking, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until tender but not mushy. Drain and immerse in cold water to cool. Drain well and slice into approximately 1/8-inch rounds.
- Blend all the dressing ingredients. Toss the arugula lightly with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and arrange the greens on a shallow serving platter. Arrange the sliced meat and potatoes over it, and dab with a little more of the dressing. Scatter the capers on top. If you are using parsley or chives, sprinkle 1 teaspoon over the potatoes. Pass the remaining dressing and additional olive oil at the table.
Main photo: Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad, adapted from “Antipasti: The Little Dishes of Italy” by Julia della Croce. Credit: Nathan Hoyt