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Grilled Steak Salad with Chile & Brown Sugar

Grilled Steak Salad with Chile & Brown Sugar

In mid-summer, when we are loathe to be inside, and most especially to perch in front of a hot stove, a heavy meal never sounds good — and salads often do. But there are times when our cravings for cool and light conflict with some deep, primal need for rich and hearty. That’s when a grilled steak salad is the perfect gustatory compromise.

This recipe is especially well-suited to such moments because the steak marinade has a kind of wintry heat and comfort. It’s ancho chile, brown sugar, oregano, garlic, and sesame oil. On the grill, the brown sugar caramelizes a little, so the meat develops a lovely crust — sweet and spicy with just a hint of smoke.

A large, red onion also goes on the grill with the steak. We love how it chars up on the outside but stays creamy and soft on the inside. It tastes so sweet and intense, and with a bite of steak, it reminds us of other classic beef and onion combinations, like bœuf bourguignon or beef stew.

All that rich flavor calls for a lively companion. Enter the salad, with its green onions, spicy greens, peppery radish, and citrus dressing. It adds some nice texture, too, between the crisp radish and the soft, creamy avocado. A chunk of juicy steak, a sliver of silky grilled onion, a lime-coated radish — few bites are as satisfying.

Servings: 4


1 Tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 tsp ancho chile powder

1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled between fingers

¼ tsp toasted sesame oil

¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

¼ tsp ground cumin

2 garlic cloves, minced, divided

1 ½ lb flank steak

1 large red onion, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

5 cups spicy greens

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 avocado, diced


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, ancho chile powder, oregano, sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, cumin, and half of the garlic.

  2. Add the steak, and thoroughly coat it with the marinade; marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

  3. Heat the grill to medium-high, or preheat the broiler.

  4. Grill or broil the steak and onion slices, about 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare steak. If onions aren’t charred, give them another minute or two while the steak rests.

  5. Transfer the steak to a cutting board, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then, slice it thinly against the grain (save the juices). Chop the onions into bite-sized pieces.

  6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, remaining garlic, a large pinch of salt, and the remaining olive oil. Drizzle a little of the juice from the steak into the dressing.

  7. In a large bowl, gently toss the spicy greens, radishes, and scallion with just enough dressing to coat them. Gently add in the avocado.

  8. Transfer the salad to serving plates, and top with the steak and onions.

Recipe adapted from: NYT Cooking