Call me crazy, but when the weather heats up, I don't feel like eating big hunks of meat. Slow and sluggish might work for winter when everyone is half-hibernating anyway, but in the summer, salads like this are what I want to eat — full of freshness and crunch, with a salty-tart lime dressing and just the right amount of juicy grilled steak.
This is my take on the classic Thai salad yam neua, which is the dish I suggest to friends who are looking to escape from the usual pad Thai rut at Thai restaurants. The dressing, a mixture of lime juice and fish sauce, looks thin and plain when mixed, but it is actually a puckery, umami bomb that transforms salad into more than just ... salad.
Traditional yam neua is usually more about the beef than the accompanying vegetables. But here I use the meat as more of a garnish, which is a great way to make the most of good-quality — and typically more expensive — grass-fed beef.
Don't let lack out outdoor space keep you away from this recipe; I grill my steaks on a grill pan indoors. Let your pan get very hot before throwing on the steaks, open some windows to let out the inevitable smoke, and you'll be rewarded with beef that is crusty on the outside, and almost as good as outdoor-grilled.
Thai Grilled Steak Salad
1 1/2 pounds rib-eye steak
1/4 cup lime juice
2 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small head lettuce
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Season the steak with salt and set aside. Heat a gas or charcoal grill, or grill pan, over high heat until very hot. Brush the steak with oil and grill to desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, and sugar. Dip a piece of lettuce in the dressing and give it a taste; add more fish sauce or other ingredients to taste.
Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Roughly tear the mint and cilantro and add to the bowl. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion.
Trim away any excess fat from the steak and thinly slice across the grain. Pour the accumulated juices into the lime-fish sauce dressing and mix. Drizzle 4 tablespoons of dressing over the lettuce mixture and toss. Taste a lettuce leaf and add more dressing if needed.
Divide the salad between four plates and top each serving with the sliced steak. Drizzle a little more dressing over the steak before serving. (There will most likely be some dressing left over.)
Feel free to add 1 or 2 minced chilies (Thai bird's eye or serrano) to the dressing if you want some heat.