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Lost Italian: Guilt-free Mediterranean steak salad

For best results allow the sirloin to rest for 5 to 10 mintes before carving.David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
Top sirloin is marinated in a red wine vinaigrette then grilled on both sides.David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Mediterranean Steak Salad features marinated grilled top sirloin atop a bed of romaine lettuce with feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onion, cucumber, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and Greek dressing.David Samson / The Forum3 / 3

Summer is just around the corner, and that means the season for shorts and swimsuits is almost here. While we love pasta and potatoes (and you know we do), this spring we're turning our focus to recipes that will pack a big punch of flavor without pinching our waistline. Transforming a salad into a main course is a great way to achieve big flavor and healthy results, and our Mediterranean Steak Salad will do just that.

Eating is a sensory experience, one that we believe should always be satisfying no matter what you're eating. Building flavor is important. You can enjoy lighter meals while still eating well if you take time to consider your ingredients.

Grilling is an easy way to add flavor to your food, and for main course salads, we choose savory proteins that can stand up to the grill, such as steak, chicken, pork, lamb, and fresh fish like salmon, halibut or tuna, and shellfish like shrimp or scallops.

We typically use 3 to 5 ounces of protein per salad serving, and for this recipe we bought a 22-ounce top sirloin steak—enough for about four salads, depending on serving size. When eaten in moderation, beef is an excellent choice for a healthy diet as it is low in carbohydrates, rich with B vitamins and minerals, and high in protein. Sirloin is lean and contains all the amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. This is important because protein has a satiating effect that helps you feel full for longer.

A liquid marinade adds flavor and helps tenderize leaner cuts of meat, and plastic zipper bags work great for this purpose. The steak should be marinated for at least 2 to 24 hours in a Mediterranean mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, dried oregano, lemon zest, crushed red peppers, salt and pepper.

The protein you choose will help determine what other ingredients should be added to your salad. Romaine lettuce works particularly well for hearty proteins like steak, while mixed greens and spinach work well with more delicate proteins like salmon or chicken.

Pre-packaged lettuce works great for side salads, but for a main course you'll get more value and nutrition from buying a whole head of just about any kind of lettuce. If you don't already have a salad spinner, we highly recommend you get one because fresh lettuce must be washed and dried before it can be consumed.

We rounded out our salad with ingredients to complement the Mediterranean flavors of our sirloin, like kalamata olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and cucumbers. We tossed the salad in a simple dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice and dried herbs, and the result was a savory, fragrant and filling mix of healthy, fresh flavors that we gobbled up, guilt-free.

Mediterranean Steak Salad

Serves: 4

For the Steak:

1.5 pounds top sirloin steak, fat trimmed

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Dash of crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Pinch of sugar (about 1/16 teaspoon)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients, except the steak, and whisk until well combined. Place steak in a large plastic zipper bag and cover with all of the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Before grilling, remove steak from bag and let the meat come to room temperature.

Grill the steak over high, direct heat, for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until desired temperature is achieved, 135 to 140 degrees for medium-rare. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.

When meat is ready, remove from grill and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Use a sharp knife to thinly slice the sirloin. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

For the Salad:

1 head Romaine lettuce, or 2 Romaine hearts, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped into pieces 1-inch long and ¼-inch wide

½ red onion, thinly sliced

Half and English cucumber or two mini cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then in half-moon slices ½-inch thick

1 small jar (7.5 ounces) artichoke hearts, quartered, marinated or plain

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

10 small-medium cocktail tomatoes, quartered

½ cup kalamata olives

Mediterranean dressing

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Directions:

Lightly toss the chopped Romaine lettuce in ½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil until evenly coated. Sprinkle lettuce with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and toss to combine. Transfer lettuce to serving plates or platter.

Place the remaining ingredients, except the avocado, in a medium bowl and gently toss with half of the dressing until well coated. Serve remaining dressing on the side.

To assemble the salad, evenly distribute the dressed ingredients over the Romaine lettuce, then top with 3 to 4 ounces of sliced sirloin. Garnish with sliced avocado.

For the Dressing:

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, water, oregano, basil, salt and pepper until combined. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified. Taste and add more lemon juice and seasoning as desired. Makes about half a cup.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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