Grilled meats are a brilliant partner for the ambrosial flesh of stone fruits. The pairing is especially good when the subtle acidity of the fruit is enlivened by a punchy lime-and-vinegar dressing, as in collaboration they work to underscore the protein's resolute char.
I've used peaches, but plums or nectarines would be equally good; look for ripe but firm fruit. And while the mood was steak this time around, pork is just as good a choice. I've served the combination on slices of grilled bread for a casual appetizer, but turn to it most often in a September salad.
I use a generous cupful of greens per person, which gives you the option to bulk out the meal if you've got more guests at the table. A mix of lettuces and sprouts is my recommendation; some watery, tender ones like butter lettuce or leaf, then fiery strands of arugula or a handful of cress or radish sprouts, plus shredded cabbage or kale for weight.
An additional joy of this endeavor is the confetti of toppings that make one bite bracing and fresh, the next surprisingly full of saline crunch. I often toast my own so they are hot and crackling in the salad. To do the same, add the peanuts first to a skillet with a thin sheen over oil, set over medium heat. Toss those for 30 seconds or so, then scatter the pepitas into the mix, and toss again for another half a minute. Pull from the flame and sprinkle in the sesame seeds along with a healthy pinch of salt.
I've included the full roster of my ideal toppings, but feel confident to use what you have in the pantry, swapping in similar ingredients (say, cashews for the peanuts, fried shallots instead of seeds). The whole point here is to embrace the adaptability of the framework, one that maintains a balance, but allows a loose guide to a rather spectacular dinner.
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Servings: 4 to 6
For the steak and salad
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp brown rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 1/2 tsp hot mustard, preferably Chinese
1/2 cup neutral oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
1 1/4 lb flank steak, lightly scored across the grain.
6 cups mixed lettuces, see note
A large handful cilantro, leaves and tender stems
A large handful mint leaves
A large handful basil, ideally Thai, roughly torn
1 Persian cucumber, ends trimmed, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 peaches, sliced or cut in chunks
1 cup snow peas, sliced on bias
1/2 cup toasted pepitas
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle, or chopped
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Thai bird chile, minced
In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, ginger, tamari, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and mustard. While still whisking, pour in the oils in a thin, steady stream until the dressing has emulsified. Set aside three-quarters of the dressing for later, covered and refrigerated. Set steak in a baking dish or self-seal bag, and pour the remaining dressing over top, and cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to three.
Preheat a grill or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Use tongs to lift steak from marinade, allowing excess to drip back into the dish. Grill, turning as needed, until charred and cooked to medium-rare (130-135°F internal temperature), around 10 minutes. Move the steak to a cutting board and rest for 10 minutes while you get the salad together.
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter, or divide between two. Scatter the herbs on top, followed by ruffles of cucumber, the peaches, and snow peas. Drip spoonfuls of dressing over the salad. Slice the steak thinly against the grain, and tuck slices into the greens. Bedeck the platter with the pepitas, peanuts, sesame seeds and chiles, then gild with a bit more dressing. Serve immediately, offering additional dressing on the table.