Hearty and loaded with lots of smoky, southwestern flavor, this delicious steak salad with its zesty cilantro-avocado dressing sure hits the spot!
Steak Salad, My New Favorite Hearty Salad
For someone like me who develops recipes for a living, part of the fun of a little getaway is finding cool little places to eat in order to try new things and gain some fresh inspiration.
And during a recent little two-day trip with my husband in Cambria—a quaint, sea-side town several hours north of us here in Los Angeles—we stopped at a cute little family-run restaurant for dinner before we hit the road to make our way back home.
But after a few days of consecutive restaurant meals, I was craving something fresh and healthy, and a bit lighter.
I had a taste for a nice hearty salad, one with crisp greens, lean protein, and a nice bold dressing...
And upon perusing the menu at this precious place, my little eyes spied a steak salad offering that I knew would be right up my alley, and perfect for my craving.
Now, I've enjoyed a steak salad or two in my day of course, but this one really hit the spot!
It not only made my mouth water as I enjoyed bite after bite of its zesty flavor; but it also got my creative juices flowing to come up with my own version, one with my own favorite add-ins, and a recipe for a zippy dressing to offer up here on The Cozy Apron for you to enjoy!
And thanks to our recent little trip, this steak salad recipe has quickly become my new favorite!
Flavorful Ingredients Make for the Best Steak Salad, and Dressing!
The wonderful restaurant version of this steak salad actually used a locally smoked tri-tip steak as the protein, and WOW was that extremely delicious, tender and smoky!
But in order to make this at home in a slightly simpler way, I've opted to use lean and tender flank steak seared in my cast-iron pan as the star ingredient for my recipe.
I like to marinate the flank steak in a bit of lime juice, olive oil, salt, cumin and smoked paprika for a some spice and that “smoky” flavor; and then, I simply sear it for a few minutes on each side for a nice medium-rare (my preferred doneness), and slice the meat against the grain—a must for tender strips!
As for my greens, crunchy chopped romaine does the trick, along with a bit of spicy arugula; and to that I add some fresh red bell pepper slices, avocado, fresh corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, black beans, tortilla strips, and cotija cheese as the light topper.
And of course, the dressing is a huge part of this delicious steak salad, and I like mine zesty with a generous amount of cilantro and creamy avocado!
I simply process an avocado along with lime juice, garlic, cilantro and green onion, a touch of olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and a hint of agave.
This steak salad is hearty, healthy, and loaded with lots of wonderful flavors, and I really do hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Tips and Tidbits for Steak Salad:
- Flank steak, perfect for steak salad: Flank steak is juicy and tender, and takes on a marinade wonderfully. The key is to slice it against the grain into strips once it's seared, and this way the meat is easy to cut, tender and delicious!
- A job for the cast-iron pan: If you have a cast-iron skillet, it's perfect to sear off the flank steak in. You can also use a grill pan or a heavy-bottom pan, or even an outdoor grill.
- Make ahead: You can easily prep your ingredients ahead of time (chop your greens and prep the add-ins, sear the steak and slice it, and prep the dressing as well); and keep everything cold in the fridge, then simply assemble the salad when ready to serve. Or, you can sear the steak the day of, and serve it while still slightly warm.
- Fresh corn kernels, or canned: I love the sweet crunch of using fresh corn kernels cut from an ear of corn; but feel free to use good quality canned corn.
- Crispy tortilla strips, or crunched up tortilla chips: This ingredient is totally optional, but because homemade tortilla strips are so quick and easy to prepare, I like to make mine homemade and toss them into my salad; but if you can find store bought for convenience, sub those. Or, simply crush up some tortilla chips instead!
- Cilantro-Avocado Dressing: The recipe for the dressing yields 1 ¼ cup, so there will most likely be some leftover; just keep it cold in the fridge in a mason jar or covered container—it'll stay fresh for about a week. (It's great as a dip, too!)
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes (for steak)
Cilantro-Avocado Dressing Ingredients:
• 1 avocado, roughly chopped
• Zest of 1 lime (about 2 teaspoons)
• ¼ cup lime juice (from about 2 very juicy limes)
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
• 4 cloves garlic
• 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
• 1 green onion
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon agave or honey
• 1 tablespoon roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
• ½ cup avocado oil or olive oil
Steak Salad Ingredients:
• 1 pound flank steak
• Avocado or olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
• 1 teaspoon lime zest
• Squeeze of lime juice (about 1 teaspoon)
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
• 2 hearts of romaine, chopped
• 2 cups arugula
• ½ cup sliced red bell pepper
• ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• ¼ cup sliced red onion
• ¼ cup black beans
• ¼ cup corn kernels
• 1 avocado, sliced
• 2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese
• 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
• ¼ cup tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips (optional)
• Cilantro leaves or micro cilantro, for garnish
-Begin my preparing your dressing: place all of the dressing ingredients up to and including the roasted pumpkin seeds into the bowl of your food processor, and process until smooth and well-combined; with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until well-blended, then give it a taste to make sure it has enough salt to your liking; pour the dressing into a mason jar or a covered container and place into the fridge to keep cold.
-To prepare your salad, place your flank steak into a bowl, and drizzle over the tablespoon of avocado or olive oil, the lime zest and juice, the salt, cumin, and the smoked paprika, and rub the seasoning into the meat.
-Place a cast-iron skillet (or use your grill, whichever you prefer) over medium-high heat, and once it becomes very hot, add the steak in and allow to sear until a nice crust forms on the outside, about 4 minutes; then, flip and sear for another 3-4 minutes (for a total time of 7-8 minutes) for medium-rare.
-Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to rest on a cutting board for about 10-15 minutes.
-In the meantime, you can compose your salad on large platter by adding the romaine and arugula greens first, then sprinkling over top the sliced red bell pepper, the cherry tomatoes, the sliced red onion, the black beans, corn, and sliced avocado; sprinkle over some of the cotija cheese, pumpkin seeds and tortilla strips (if using) as well, then cover and keep cold until you're ready to add the steak.
-To finish the salad, slice the flank steak against the grain, and add the slices to the top of the salad; add the rest of the cotija cheese and pumpkin seeds, along with some cilantro leaves or micro greens, and serve with the dressing on the side.
Craving more salad recipes? Check out this Avocado Salad, this Greek Salad, or this Honey Mustard Chicken Chopped Salad!
That dressing sounds light and refreshing. What a great summer meal when you are craving something on the grill, but also want some veggies!
I live in Cambria. It sounds like you visited Main Street Grill. All your ingredients are the same, except for the dressing. The Grill offers southwestern dressing & calls their salad The Southwestern. Everything on their menu is scrumptious.
The Cozy Apron
Hi Benni, that is wonderful! What a beautiful town you have, and what a pleasure for us to come and visit. We were planning on coming back up about a month ago, but had to postpone it for a bit, but look forward to coming again soon!
You know, it was actually Linn's that inspired this salad, funny enough. Mine is quite different, I know, because I can't help but put my own spin on things that I enjoy; but it is in the "spirit" of it! 😉
Thanks so much for sharing your comment with me, and here's to a beautiful (soon to be) fall there in Cambria!