sesame-ginger grilled steak
with an addictive cucumber pepper avocado salad
I shared this recipe for grilled chicken with a crunchy cucumber avocado salad a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The salad was inspired by a viral TikTok recipe, but, in true grand-millennial fashion, I never saw the actual TikTok, I just saw people remaking it on Instagram.
The textures and flavors come together in this absolutely addictive way — it’s light and fresh, but the flavor is a complete mouth explosion of tangy rice vinegar, rich extra virgin olive oil, salty soy sauce, creamy tahini, and fiery ginger.
You can make this a What To Cook When You *Really* Don’t Feel Like Cooking recipe by using a store-bought bottle of ginger dressing, but, I gotta say, whipping up this homemade marinade/dressing is far superior to the bottled kind. If you make a lot of salads (or want to incentivize yourself to make more…), double the dressing and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 10 days to up your salad game.
We’re using this marinade on steak here, but you can use it on absolutely any protein you already have in the freezer. Frozen shrimp, salmon, pork tenderloin, chicken — really, any of these would be delicious with it.
When I wrote the recipes for Eat To Beat Depression and Anxiety, the author, Dr. Drew Ramsey, taught me all about the incredible benefits of extra virgin olive oil. He kept pushing me to use extra virgin olive oil anywhere I needed to use oil.
Not all extra virgin olive oil is created equal, and this is one place that buying quality really matters. The really good stuff is cold pressed, untreated, and made from really young olives, making it rich in polyphenols, which are anti-inflammatory (aka they help reduce inflammation in the body). The monounsaturated fatty acids in high-quality EVOO have been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Also, the flavor difference is REALLY noticeable — high-quality EVOO tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the cheaper brands you find at standard grocery stores.
In short: invest in high-quality extra virgin olive oil and use it as much as possible. We are combining extra virgin olive oil with a neutral oil in this recipe, something I do often when I want the benefits of EVOO, but I don’t want its flavor to overpower the dish.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I am a HUGE Kosterina EVOO fan. I’ve subscribed to get monthly shipments of Kosterina for more than a year now, and get two bottles of white and two bottles of blue per month. I use the white bottle for “raw” uses (uncooked sauces, salad dressings) and I use the blue bottle, which is made from slightly more mature olives and is thus less expensive (riper olives have more juice, but less antioxidant superpowers) for sautéing and cooking.
I always have a Kosterina code (CAROLINE) for 15% off, but, as a reminder, MOTHER’S DAY IS NEXT SUNDAY! Check it off your list right now and buy mama, or the mama figure in your life, the best dang olive oil she’s ever had. Seriously. It’s next level!
Today’s recipe could have been four short paragraphs. Blend dressing, pour over steak, pour over chopped veggies. Grill steak. That’s the gist of it.
But grilling intimidates people, so I am really breaking the grilling process down in today’s recipe. Not just giving you the what to do, but giving you the why you’re doing it. Give a man a simple recipe and he has a meal for a night, give him a recipe with elaborate detail on how to prepare a grill for indirect versus direct heat, and he’s grilling everything with confidence all summer long!
In short: this recipe looks long, but it is really very quick and simple.
grilled sesame-ginger steak with a creamy crunchy cucumber and pepper salad
Cook time: ~1 hour (but if you’re able to, marinate the steak for up to 48 hours!)
Gallon-sized Ziploc, sealable container, or bowl topped with plastic wrap
Grill (see notes if you don’t have one)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup neutral oil (such as avocado)
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tahini
3 garlic cloves, peeled (or 3 frozen garlic cubes)
1 flank steak (1 to 2 pounds, depending on how much you want/need! Makes great leftovers!)
2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers (red are the most nutrient dense!)
1 English cucumber
2 large Haas avocados
1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning
Optional: flaky salt, chili crisp
Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of any neutral-tasting oil, 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons tahini, 3 peeled garlic cloves, a peeled 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to a blender. Blend until smooth.
Place a 1- to 2-pound flank steak in a Ziploc or sealable container. Add just enough of the ginger marinade to cover it. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours, or leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (but no more than 2 hours).
Meanwhile (up to 24 hours in advance), make the salad. Cut 2 bell peppers into bite-sized pieces and toss into a bowl. Peel 1 English cucumber like a zebra (make it have stripes), cut in half vertically, then slice into 1/4 inch-thick half circles. Throw them into the bowl with the pepper. Sprinkle with a really big pinch of kosher salt. Let the veggies sit for 10 minutes to draw some of their moisture out, then use a paper towel to dry out the bottom of the bowl and pat the vegetables dry.
You can skip the salting step if you’re pressed for time — but when vegetables are given a chance to release their moisture like this, they can then absorb the dressing.
Pour in about 1/4 cup of the ginger dressing, 1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to coat.
Preheat grill to 450°F. Half of the grill should have direct heat, and half should have indirect heat. If you have a gas grill, turn half of the burners on high and leave the other burners off. My grill has 2 burners, so I turn 1 on full blast, and leave 1 off. If you use charcoal, prepare the charcoal, then scooch it over to the side to leave one side with no direct heat source underneath the grates.
When the grill is hot, brush the grill grates until they’re totally clean. We do not need to oil the grates since the steak is already coated in an oily marinade.
Shake off any excess marinade, sprinkle the steak all over with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt (this will help it form a nice crust), then grill the steak for 3 minutes per side over DIRECT heat, until the steak has a really nice sear and releases easily from the grate when you try to flip it.
Transfer the steak to INDIRECT heat, then cook for anywhere from 4 to 10 more minutes, depending on the thickness of your steak, until it reaches 135°F internally for medium-rare, or 145°F for medium. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil for at least 10 minutes.
Resting meat is a very important step — if you don’t let meat rest, all of the juices will just flow out when you cut it, and it will be dry!
While the steak rests, cut the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces and gently toss it into the salad. Taste. Add some sriracha or chili crisp if you like a little heat. I add a lot more salt at this point. Continue seasoning until it’s perfect!
Thinly slice the steak against the grain. Look for the lines that run through the steak. Cut across them — perpendicular to them. Cutting against the grain makes each bite of steak more tender, because you’re cutting through tough tendons that would be difficult to chew, rather than leaving them whole. Sprinkle the cut steak with a nice pinch of flaky sea salt so that the inside of the steak is nicely seasoned.
Serve the steak with salad!
If this will be the first time you’ve grilled this year… Remember to clean your grill REALLY WELL and fill the propane tank! Click here and read the intro for a lesson I learned the hard way on why and how to clean your grill.
What to cook when you *really* don’t feel like cooking: Like I said in the intro, you can skip making the sesame-ginger marinade and use a bottle of store-bought ginger dressing instead.
Prep ahead: You can marinate the steak for up to 48 hours, and make the salad — minus adding the avocado and everything bagel seasoning — up to 24 hours before you plan to eat. Add them right before serving. Keep them stored in the fridge in airtight containers.
Love your leftovers: Sliced avocado will brown in the fridge, so, if you don’t plan to finish the whole salad tonight, only add it to the portion you’ll eat. Otherwise, the salad will keep well for days! If you have leftover steak, it’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days too. You could repeat this meal, make a steak caprese, some steak tostadas, a steak sandwich, etc. Leftover dressing will stay good in the fridge for up to 10 days!
I don’t own a grill: Use a grill pan if you have one. If not, use a cast-iron skillet! Heat it over high heat for 4-5 minutes so that it’s super hot. Lower the heat to medium-high and grease the skillet with oil like you would the grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and repeat. Keep cooking until it reaches the desired internal temp.
Gimme some greens: You can make the salad a big leafy green salad by simply tossing in some chopped crunchy greens (such as romaine) and a little more dressing.
I want a grain: Microwave some frozen rice and add it to the mix. Or cook quinoa or farro or whatever you’ve got in the pantry. Coconut rice would, duh, be delicious here.
Vegetarian: Pan-fried sesame-ginger tofu would be amazing with this salad. For that, press a cube of firm or extra-firm tofu to remove its excess water. Cut it into cubes, add them to a Ziploc or wide bowl, and add 1/4 cup or so of the marinade. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and let it marinate for 30 minutes (or up to a day), stirring every now and then so all the tofu gets marinated. When you’re ready to eat, heat a tablespoon or two of neutral oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet and add the tofu. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown, then flip and repeat. Keep stirring until it’s all crispy and golden on the outside.
Dairy-free: Already is
Gluten-free: Swap soy sauce for tamari or coconut aminos.
EVOO: Olive oil or use all neutral oil… but did you read my intro!? Try to use high-quality EVOO! The health benefits are countless.
Neutral oil: Avocado, grapeseed, canola oil — all are good options
Low-sodium soy sauce: If you have regular soy sauce instead of low-sodium, dilute it with water (so roughly half of the 1/3 cup should be regular soy, then fill the rest with water). Or you can use tamari or coconut aminos.
Rice vinegar: Another light-colored vinegar like apple cider or white wine vinegar. Or lime juice!
Honey: Maple syrup or brown sugar (stir the marinade enough for the brown sugar to dissolve, if using)
Tahini: Tahini’s made from sesame seeds, giving this marinade its “sesame” flavor, so aim for it! But if you’re out or can’t find any, you could either use sesame oil (2 teaspoons) to keep the flavor profile OR a different nut/seed butter to keep the creaminess.
Garlic: Fresh garlic or the frozen cubes are ideal. In a pinch, you could use 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
Ginger: Again, fresh or frozen will be best! Or 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, if needed.
Flank steak: You can use any cut of steak, just use that meat thermometer and pull it off when it’s finished (using the temperatures noted in the recipe). A New York Strip is a great option, but it will cook faster! You could also use fresh shrimp or thawed frozen shrimp (thread them onto skewers after they’ve marinated to make them easier to grill!), salmon, chicken, or pork tenderloin. Google the cook time and safe internal temperature for whichever meat you have when grilling at 450°F.
Bell peppers: In the dish that inspired this recipe, I used 8 ounces of mini sweet peppers. They were delicious, but you have to remove all the seeds before you thinly slice them into rounds, which is kind of annoying. But they’re a great option!
Cucumber: Persian cucumber, if you can’t find English. If you don’t like cucumber, use another bell pepper or swap for thinly sliced celery, carrot, or another firm-ish veggie you love.
Avocados: Omit (though the creaminess they add to the salad is amazing!)
Everything bagel seasoning: Sesame seeds or omit
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