If you want to add great flavor to foods without using the usual tricks — fat and salt — just head to the grill.
The high and dry heat created by the grill does an excellent job at searing food surfaces and locking in natural flavors, while also adding that unmistakable charred, smoky flavor. And this all comes at no cost in terms of fat and calories.
Typically, we think of the grill as the way to cook the main course — the burgers, some chicken or a steak. But you also can take advantage of this healthy cooking technique to make other parts of the meal, including the sides, breads, even fruits for dessert.
This composed salad of steak and spring vegetables uses the grill to cook and flavor the meat as well as many of the other components of the dish.
The natural sweetness of asparagus is enhanced when caramelized over high heat, and the woody flavor of the smoke is a perfect match for the slightly grassy taste of the stalks. Similarly, canned artichoke hearts (you can use fresh if you have them) have an earthy, almost nutty flavor that is teased out even more when they are charred.
The salad includes cherry tomatoes, which aren’t cooked, but if you like, you also can throw them on the grill until they soften and get a bit wrinkly.
We’ve chosen to use sirloin steak, which is not only a budget-conscious option, but also falls in the extra-lean category of beef. But it still has enough fat that it won’t dry out on the grill (as long as you don’t cook it past medium).
For all the good flavor the grill brings to these foods, you still want a tasty dressing. Our bright, lemony vinaigrette calls for a little less oil than a traditional recipe but uses some grated Parmesan cheese to help give it body and keep it emulsified.
To round out the meal, brush some slices of crusty whole-grain bread with extra-virgin olive oil and grill until crisp and browned. Before serving, rub each toast with the cut edge of a clove of garlic for an added burst of flavor.
GRILLED STEAK AND SPRING VEGETABLE SALAD
For the dressing:
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
For the salad:
1 pound sirloin steak, 1- to 1 1/4-inches thick, trimmed of fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound asparagus, bottoms trimmed
14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 cups arugula
Shaved Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
Heat a gas grill to high or light a charcoal fire.
To make the dressing, in a blender combine the lemon juice, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Blend until emulsified. Set aside.
Season the steak on both sides with the salt and pepper. Grill the steak, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare, 6 minutes per side for medium. Remove and let rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, grill the asparagus and artichoke hearts, turning occasionally, until slightly charred and the asparagus spears are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces and the artichoke hearts in half. Place the vegetables in a large bowl with the cherry tomatoes.
Thinly slice the steak across the grain and add to the bowl with the asparagus and artichoke hearts. Toss with half of the dressing.
In a large salad bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining dressing. To compose the salad, place some of the arugula on each serving plate and arrange the grilled steak and vegetables on top. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serves 5.
Nutrition information per serving: 309 calories; 17 grams fat (4 grams saturated; zero trans fats); 52 milligrams cholesterol; 15 grams carbohydrate; 26 grams protein; 5 grams fiber; 928 milligrams sodium.