Steak on Arugula with Parmesan and Balsamic

steak on arugula with parmesan and balsamic

Few folks know their beef like they do in Argentina. On a family trip there a few years ago I was talking to a local about the famous Argentine cattle. When I asked him what makes the beef so delicious, wondering aloud what the cows eat, he looked at me like I was nuts. “What do you think they eat?” he said in his heavily accented English. “They are cows. They eat grass.”

I felt like a bozo. But I was coming from the U.S. where the notion of cows feeding on grass was a trendy new idea. At that time, “grass fed beef” was a term just starting to find its way into the American lexicon.

In the few years since then, I’ve become a lot more thoughtful about the meat I choose to eat. Recently, Sam Mogannam, who owns Bi-Rite here in San Francisco, arguably one of the best small markets in the country, graciously agreed to be a guest teacher for one of my middle school cooking classes. The topic was beef, a subject about which he waxed so passionately I thought I might cry. The take away: know what you are buying.

The best case scenario is to purchase meat directly from the rancher, which you can do sometimes if you go to the farmer’s market. Barring that, know your butcher and where he or she gets their meat. Organic, grass fed, sustainably and humanely raised are all good things.

None of this, of course, comes cheap. Good quality meat, like good quality almost anything, is pricier, which perhaps isn’t such a bad thing because when it comes to meat, less is more. Raising cattle is hard on the environment, and meat is better for your body in small doses. I approach eating meat no different than eating ice cream. I’d rather have the good stuff less often than the junky stuff all the time.

This Steak on Arugula  is part of the 15 Minute Meal series: Dinners that go from stove to table in no time. Blow in from work at 6:00 p.m. and be sitting down to a steak dinner by 6:15. You can use either skirt or flank steak: Both are more economical than many cuts, and are thin so they cook quickly. Flank steak is the leaner of the two. This recipe is quick enough for a weekday supper, but decadent enough to save for Saturday night. Invite your Argentine friends over. They might like it too, particularly if the beef is grass fed.


The key with this recipe is to season the meat well, not overcook it, and use great ingredients. If you can swing it, invest in a quality, aged balsamic vinegar. It’s delicious on these greens. Not so sure about the arugula? You might be surprised to find your kids like it, but if that’s too much of a stretch, feel free to substitute baby spinach. If you have a few slices of steak left over, incorporate those into a lunchbox sandwich the next day.
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 ½ pounds skirt steak or flank steak
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus more for cooking
  • 5 cups gently packed baby arugula , washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small chunk Parmegiano Reggiano cheese


  1. Get out a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan or grill pan. If your steak is longer than the pan, cut it in half crosswise so it will fit. Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Set the pan on the stove over high heat and get it good and hot. Turn the heat down to medium-high, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and lay the steak in the pan. Cook to desired doneness; the time will vary depending on the thickness of the steak. Three minutes per side is a fair estimate for medium-rare. You can always remove it from the heat, cut into it with a paring knife and have a tiny peek to see if it’s done enough.
  3. While the steak cooks, put the arugula onto a large serving platter and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to coat the greens. Add more oil and vinegar if the greens seem underdressed. Season with a generous pinch of salt and arrange the arugula on a platter.
  4. Take a vegetable peeler and peel paper thin slices of Parmesan onto the arugula. Shave as much cheese as you like.
  5. Once the steak is done, set it on a carving board. If you have the luxury of a few minutes, let it rest for a good five. Cut the steak across the grain into ½-inch thick strips. Lay the steak on top of the arugula.
  6. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Speedy Side Dishes:

--Asparagus roasted in the oven
--Blanched green beans or broccoli served with lemon and olive oil
--Crusty whole grain Italian bread
--Boiled or roasted baby potatoes
--A salad of thinly sliced fennel and oranges
Pre-packaged polenta, sliced and browned in a pan


04.11.2011 at3:20 PM #


Thanks for this one! A reminder about choosing meat that has been raised with care is important,,,yes, eat less but buy the best.
Any hints on good balsamic?

04.11.2011 at3:20 PM #


Good question. There is a huge range in quality and price. True balsamic vinegar is aged for upwards of 25 years in wooden barrels and rivals the finest French perfumes in price. Most standard supermarket brands are really red wine vinegar that has been doctored with carmel coloring and sugar. I’ve found a happy medium with balsamic vinegars that are aged for a couple of years and take on a distinctive, smooth, almost syrupy quality. The Fini brand offers a range of products and prices and is pretty widely available, as is Lucini Grand Reserva.

04.12.2011 at5:20 AM #

Kelly Dozois

with my non meat eater out of town and not having planned anything for dinner…I ran to my local Italian meat market and bought the meat and a very spendy bottle of Balsamic Vinegar and whipped this up tonight for my two meat eaters…it was fast, easy and tasty! I am not a meat lover …but the combination was great and I even devoured it!

I have to say I never understood the difference in quality vinegar until I tried it tonight on the greens…amazing..I got a bottle from Italy “Aceto Balsamico”…I’m guessing it’s about $3-4 a tablespoon… but really so worth it! And shaving the parma with a vegetable peeler…I always wondered how they got the cheese so thin…yes, some of us are really beginners 🙂

04.12.2011 at2:45 PM #


Kelly, that made my day!

04.12.2011 at11:16 PM #


Can’t wait to make this one. But what I also love about the gift of this blog happily landing in my inbox a few times a week, is how engaging your writing is. Your line about Sam waxing on so passionately about the beef so much so you almost wept…you brought us to that moment. Thanks.

04.27.2011 at3:57 PM #

Cynthia Jones

I made this dish last night, along w/some roasted asparagus and my family licked their plates it was so good! I put a dry-rub on the flank steak and left that to marinate for about an hour before cooking then grilled the meat – one less pan to wash.
Thanks Katie, I am really appreciating these healthy and quick meal ideas, perfect for working moms!

04.27.2011 at3:57 PM #


I like the idea of adding a dry rub. Thanks for sharing.

08.13.2012 at4:51 AM #

Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

A perfect easy and incredibly delicious salad! Juicy meat and arugula are a favorite of mine.

08.13.2012 at4:51 AM #

Katie Morford

It is such a tasty combo and so easy.

01.29.2016 at10:47 AM #

Christine | Mid-Life Croissant

Totally agree. Meat should be a treat and priced accordingly. Beautiful dish you made here!

01.29.2016 at10:47 AM #

Katie Morford

Thank you Christine!

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