RECIPE: Celebrate strawberry season with a savory steak salad

Sweet tart strawberries are paired with grilled skirt steak, Vidalia onions and balsamic vinaigrette for a hearty salad supper.
(Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Sweet tart strawberries are paired with grilled skirt steak, Vidalia onions and balsamic vinaigrette for a hearty salad supper. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Spring is peak time for local strawberries in the Southeast. The popular fruit is common in desserts, but strawberries are a wonderful addition to savory dishes, too.

One classic example is the Italian combination of strawberries, seasoned with freshly ground pepper and drizzled with dark, rich balsamic vinegar, often served in place of a traditional dessert. It may seem like an unexpected marriage of ingredients, but a taste test tells the true story. The citrusy flavor of black pepper elevates the sweetness of the strawberries and the mellow, caramel-like tartness of the vinegar enhances their fruity flavor. Use this incredible combination of strawberries and balsamic in a simple supper by adding it to a steak salad with grilled onions, whole-grain mustard and spicy arugula.

Most of us are accustomed to cutting the top off of strawberries before eating, but the entire berry, leaves and all, is edible. To lean into the savory side of strawberries, leave the leaves on the strawberries when slicing for the salad. Not only does this make prep quicker and the sliced berry more visibly enticing, but also the leaves add a grassy, herbaceous flavor.

This salad can be served while the steak is hot off the grill, and makes for an exceptional cold supper, too.

Peppered Steak Strawberry Salad

Skirt steak is thin, cooks quickly and is a fantastic choice for a busy night when you don’t have much time or energy to cook. “Against the grain” is a phrase used when cutting meat. Meat is made of bundles of long muscle fibers aligned parallel to one another. The term “grain” refers to the direction of the muscle fibers. Skirt steak has visible, thicker fibers and a coarser grain. For the best texture, it is important to cut the skirt steak against the grain, slicing across the short end.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated on a rasp grater

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1 pound skirt steak

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 Vidalia onion, sliced into rings

5 ounces arugula

1 pound strawberries, sliced

Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, oil, garlic and mustard. Set aside.

Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spray a grill pan with nonstick spray and heat the pan over high heat. Sear the first side until browned, about 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. Flip and cook another 2 to 4 minutes. For medium-rare doneness, cook steak until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Transfer the steak to a cutting board. Tent with foil to rest until the internal temperature rises to 130 degrees and the juices redistribute, about 5 minutes.

Spray the grill pan with additional nonstick spray. Lower the heat to medium-high. Add onions and cook until charred with grill marks and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat.

Slice meat on the diagonal against the grain and transfer to a shallow plate. Tip any accumulated juices back onto the steak. Pour the balsamic vinaigrette over the steak, spooning to coat.

Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add the warm grilled onions and strawberries. Toss to combine. Serve salad topped with strips of steak, drizzled with the vinaigrette and juices from the shallow plate.

Serves 4.

358 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 26 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams total sugars, 4 grams fiber, 21 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 74 milligrams cholesterol, 321 milligrams sodium.

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