A perfect summer salad; it’s fresh, healthy, hearty, and super delish!
Although I’m not super crazy about the weather we’ve been having, (a string of hot, hot, hot days, with temps in the upper 90’s, yikes!) I’m totally in love with the flavors of summer, and this fabulous Grilled Steak Salad with Sweet Cherries and Lemongrass Basil Dressing is what I call the essence of summer – all dressed up on a pretty blue and white plate!
Each time I grocery shop during this time of the year, I get excited about the counters mounded high with beautiful seasonal produce. This week it was fresh corn and sweet cherries. I quickly bagged some up and was on my way. When I passed through the meat section, I saw that they had both flat iron steak and beef tenderloin on sale. With Father’s day coming up, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with either one, so I took one of each.
I had also thrown a few bags of baby arugula in my cart, and when I got home and was unpacking the groceries, an idea for a summer salad was beginning to spin around in my head…
My husband, Scott sealed the deal when he came in from outside with a huge bunch of fresh basil. Basil loves to be pruned and he had given my plant friends some serious haircuts. Seeing all that beautiful basil got me thinking about an all-time favorite salad dressing of ours, my Sweet Basil Vinaigrette. It calls for two cups of packed basil which is a LOT of basil. I decided it would be fun to give the delicious dressing a new twist for this salad, so I made a few modifications, cutting back a bit on the sweetness, omitting the mustard and adding ginger and lemongrass for a fresh, new flavor.
That evening, we grilled the fillet and tried out my summery salad idea. I took one extra step with the dressing this time, blanching the basil in boiling water for 20 seconds, then draining and showering it with cold water. This intensifies the flavor and color, and also kills the enzymes which causes basil to discolor. After that, all the ingredients are just thrown in the blender and whirled to a silky smooth emerald green.
Scott took one bite of the pretty salad with fresh corn, sweet cherries and lots of sliced steak and said, “This is fantastic”! He loved the new dressing version and, I must say, he’s a great sport as I served the same salad (with a few tweaks here and there) to him two additional times this week. Each time he gave it rave reviews and left nary a kernel of corn on his plate.
He calls it “A hearty man’s salad!” and said it would be perfect for Father’s Day. I must say though, I loved it as much as he did, and think it would be just as popular for a ladies lunch or a girl’s night get-together.
Serve the steak and corn warm or at room temperature, either way it’s great. If you’re one who doesn’t like to fuss at the last minute, everything for this salad can be prepped ahead of time*** and plated right before serving.
If you like meals light and lean, but bursting with fresh, fabulous flavor, I think you’ll love having this Grilled Steak Salad with Sweet Cherries and Lemongrass Basil Dressing in your summer recipe arsenal – Bon Appetit from The Café!
Tired of hand pitting cherries?
P.S. I used to think it was a pain in the neck to pit cherries. I only bought them for eating, as it was too much work to pit them for recipes; plus I hated that my fingers were always stained red after the tedious process. No more! A few summers ago, I discovered this inexpensive cherry pitter and now I use cherries in lots of recipes! I even make cherry jam, which takes a lot of pitted cherries (you can pit enough cherries to make a batch of jam in 5 minutes!). Oh, and when the grandchildren are around, they think it’s really fun to help and actually fight over who gets to pit the cherries!
- For the dressing:
- 2 cups about 1/4 pound tightly packed fresh basil leaves*
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh, peeled lemongrass
- ¾ cup sunflower rapeseed or canola oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the corn:
- 3 ears fresh corn unhusked
- For the steak:
- 1 ½ pounds beef tenderloin or flat iron steak**
- kosher salt
- garlic powder
- freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad:
- 6 cups baby arugula
- 1 cup sweet cherries pitted and halved
- corn (see instructions below)
- grilled sliced steak (see instructions below)
- Lemongrass Basil Dressing (see instructions below)
- ½ cup salted cashew halves
- For the dressing, bring a medium-large pot, 2/3 full of water, to a rolling boil. Add basil and push on basil with a large spoon to submerge. After 20 seconds, drain basil and rinse with cold water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Gather basil in your hand and squeeze as much water out as possible.
- Combine basil with all other dressing ingredients in a blender container. Cover and blend on high till dressing is bright green and silky smooth. At first dressing will be flecked with bits of basil, but keep going and it will smooth out. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.
- Prepare corn by placing the three ears in the microwave, unhusked. Cook on high power for 12 minutes. Remove from microwave with a clean kitchen towel or oven mitt to a cutting board. Holding the corn with the towel or oven mitt, cut off 2 inches at the bottom of each ear. Hold corn at the silk end and push the corn out of the husk. The corn comes out perfectly cooked and free of silk! Here's a video demonstration of the technique.
- For the steak: Heat a gas or charcoal grill on high for 20 minutes. Clean the grill grate thoroughly with a wire grille brush and wipe it with a paper towel soaked with cooking oil. Do this with a long handled tongs.
- Remove steak from refrigerator 45 minutes before grilling.
- Just before grilling, sprinkle steak generously with kosher salt, garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place steaks on the grill and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, or until meat reaches 130˚F (for rare) 135˚F (for medium rare) or 140˚F (for medium) If meat is deep golden brown on the outside, but has still not reached the desired internal temperature, move meat to indirect heat to finish cooking.
- Remove from grill and tent meat with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes or longer. (This allows the juices to return to the meat.) Slice thinly just before serving.Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper, if needed.
- For the salad, arrange arugula on four dinner plates. Divide the cherries, corn and steak between the plates. Scatter with cashews and drizzle with dressing. Pass extra dressing at the table.
* This is a lot of basil. It's perfect for a bumper crop of basil but if you only have one cup or just a packet from the grocery store, go ahead and make it, it will still be very good.
** I've made this salad with beef tenderloin and also with flat iron steak. They are both delicious. Flat iron steaks are more economical and have great flavor.
*** To make ahead:
Dressing can be made a day or two in advance and will keep for 3-4 days. Steak can be grilled several hours in advance. Tent steak and bring to room temperature, then wrap in foil and refrigerate. Slice and warm slightly before serving either in the oven or on power level 2 in the microwave. Corn can be cooked early in the day. Slice kernels off the cobs and refrigerate. Warm before serving, if desired, or just bring to room temperature.