For many of us, the perfect summer meal is a simple grilled steak and a plate of sliced ripe tomatoes, dressed with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, maybe a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Round that out with a pile of steamed or grilled corn, maybe some greens with a light vinaigrette, and that is all we need.
And then there are other nights when you want to kick things up a notch. This is that steak dinner—all of the components you love from those simpler meals, but combined with a layer of seasonings on top, just for fun.
This rub is a lively combination of seasonings, with a Tex-Mex bent. You don’t need to rub the meat ahead of time if you are in a rush, but you can do so up to a day ahead of time and leave the steaks uncovered on a plate in the fridge until ready to grill. This will deepen the flavor.
The rub works on other cuts of beef, and would also be great on pork. If you want to make a bigger batch, it will keep for months. Store it in a little jar, and spoon out the rub as you need it for future grilled steak (or pork) dinners.
Grill Like a Pro
Most people agree that flank steak is best rare or medium rare, which is an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, or 130 degrees F for medium rare. That is the temperature you are looking for when you take it off the grill. There will be “carryover cooking” as the steak sits on the cutting board—this means that the internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise by about five degrees or so—so the idea is to take it off the fire just before it is done to your liking.
When you are cooking steaks of any type on the grill, but especially a thinner variety, don’t be tempted to flip them too frequently. Cook the steak over medium-high heat, don’t move them about too often, so that they get a chance to get those nice grill marks and dark brown, charred exterior. For a flank steak, flip it only once during the cooking, otherwise, the inside will become too cooked before the outside is properly browned.
Be sure to let the steak rest for five minutes after you take it off the heat. This allows the juices to regroup in the meat, and not run out onto the cutting board when you slice it.
Flank steak is best sliced thinly against the grain, on an angle if you like larger pieces. Leftovers make amazing sandwiches, or are great draped on top of a salad for lunch the next day.
A Summer Salad
As for the salad, it’s just the best of summer in one bowl. As long as tomatoes and corn are available, this is just one of the nicest ways to round out a meal.
The avocado lends amazing creaminess, but you could just stick to the corn and tomatoes if you wanted to simplify. Bump up the quantity of each by half if you skip the avocado. If you want to make this ahead, add the avocado, if using, right before serving so it doesn’t turn brown.
If you have larger tomatoes, just cut them into large dice and use them instead of the cherry tomatoes. Try basil or other fresh herbs instead of cilantro, if you prefer, and you’ll end up with a more Mediterranean salad.
You can play around with different herbs all summer, and toss in whatever other vegetables you have around: diced zucchini (if the zucchinis are small, they are lovely raw) or cucumbers, sliced radishes, some chopped arugula.
What the Kids Can Do
The kids can measure the ingredients for the rub and mix it together. They can also rub it on the steak, with the admonition to always wash hands with warm soapy water before and after handling raw meat.
For the salad, they can shuck the corn (I always make my kids shuck the corn—it’s one of the best reasons to have kids!). If they are older, they might be able to cut the tomatoes and avocados with an age-appropriate knife. Little kids can pull herbs off of the stems. And they can help mix up the dressing and toss the salad together.
Chili-Rubbed Flank Steak With Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad
Total Time: 40 minutes
For the steak:
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika, regular, hot, or smoked
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds flank steak
For the corn and tomato salad:
- 3 ears of corn, shucked
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup sliced scallions, white and green parts
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, salt, coriander, and cayenne. Rub the olive oil on both sides of the steak, then rub the spice mixture over the steak and set aside.
Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill the corn, turning as needed, until the kernels are lightly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Cool the corn, then slice the kernels off the cobs and place in a medium bowl.
Grill the steak for about 4 minutes on each side, until nicely marked with grill marks, and cooked to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes for the steak to reabsorb its juices. Thinly slice the meat across the grain.
While the steak sits, add the tomatoes and scallions to the bowl with the corn. Drizzle over the olive oil, lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, and toss. Just before serving, add the avocado and cilantro and toss again.
Serve the sliced steak with the salad.
Katie Workman is a food writer and recipe developer in New York City. She writes the popular blog TheMom100.com, contributes to many publications, and has written two cookbooks: “The Mom 100 Cookbook” and “Dinner Solved!”