Even though my husband is totally on board with including "salad night" in our meal plan, he still approaches it with a very skeptical eye. His worry is that salad for dinner isn't going to be filling enough — even though it always is! To convince him once and for all, I combined a super-fresh panzanella with strips of seared, juicy flank steak. It's a quintessential summer dish fashioned from day-old bread, sweet tomatoes and cucumbers, the peppery bite of arugula, and a sprinkle of salty Parmesan, all tossed with a simple vinaigrette. Add it to your meal plan as the easy dinner that celebrates the season, and watch it satisfy even the biggest (and most skeptical) of appetites.
Steak Makes Panzanella a Meal
While panzanella can certainly be considered a meal in itself, a little extra nudge to make it more filling doesn't hurt — especially when it comes in the form of flank steak, a cut we love that delivers with both flavor and a low price tag. It's seared on the stovetop for ease, but you could grill it too. Either way the meat helps to make this salad a hearty meal.
Flank Steak Panzanella
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
12 ounces flank steak
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds tomatoes
1 medium English cucumber
2 ounces arugula
1/2 cup thinly shaved Parmesan cheese
Make the vinaigrette: Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
Make the salad: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F.
Cut or tear the bread into rough 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups total). Place the bread cubes in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, stirring halfway through and rotating the baking sheet, 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool completely on the baking sheet.
Place the onion in a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the dressing, and toss to combine; set aside while you make the rest of the salad.
Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking a bit (it may take up to 10 minutes). Meanwhile, liberally season the steak with the salt and pepper on both sides.
Add the steak to the skillet and sear for 7 minutes per side for medium-rare, or about 9 minutes per side for medium. Transfer the steak to a cutting board.
Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into large bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl with the onions. Add the arugula, bread cubes, and 1/2 cup of vinaigrette and toss to combine.
Slice the steak across the grain. Add the steak and Parmesan to the salad, and toss to combine. This salad is best when served the day it's made.
- Make ahead: The vinaigrette can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. The bread can be toasted up to 3 days in advance and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.