This is tagliata. It's essentially Italian steak salad. If your jaw just dropped because you are thinking, "How can a health coach eat beef?" well, then, let me tell you. It turns out that my body does well on red meat and gets a bit of energy from it. I do well with this kind of protein. I only eat red meat, on average, every four to six weeks, so not often. However, when I travel, when I go to a restaurant and every dish except the steak has gluten in it, something I absolutely cannot eat for medical reasons, then beef it is.
And so this past January, when Brian and I were visiting Bracciano, Italy, and we couldn't find lunch because places were closed on a Monday or they didn't have a table for us, we found ourselves violating a rule of travel: do not eat at restaurants off a public parking lot. But it was 2:30 p.m., and we had exhausted lunch options in two nearby towns. And I was starving, and I can be very unpleasant if I am allowed to get hungry. So we parked at the carpark in Bracciano, and went into the restaurant off the carpark. And immediately we became deflated. It had TV's on, only one table of customers, and half of the restaurant lights were turned off. But we were hungry and determined. I asked the waitress what dishes didn't have gluten (senza glutine) and she pointed out exactly one: tagliata. She said it's just beef with some arugula. I don't like to eat beef if I don't have to, but I was hungry, our options had run out, and so with some hesitation I ordered it. I calculated that for less than 10 euros, if I didn't like it, I wasn't losing much money. Brian had great options and went with lake trout.
You can imagine our surprise when a platter, not a plate, of various pieces of steak, all measuring about the size of a deck of cards, was presented to me. The pieces of steak were buried under a mountain of raw arugula, wilting from the heat of the meat, topped with shaved Pecorino Romano cheese. On the side were some lemon wedges and a bottle of olive oil to drizzle over what amounted to be a steak salad to feed a whole family. In our surprise and hunger, we forgot to take a picture of it, and also we forgot the name of the restaurant. And, you know where this is going, it was so simple, so delicious, so satisfying, that if I recall correctly, we ate the whole platter.
And since that trip, we've been making it about once a month, often for guests, and sometimes because it's Wednesday and we're tired, and it takes less than 30 minutes to throw together.
I've debated whether to write the recipe for one serving or four servings because it's not an exact science, and you cannot screw it up as far as I am concerned. I've written it for four servings, planning on four ounces of meat per serving, but you certainly can scale it down or scale it up as needed. And vegetarians/vegans, read through the recipe to see how it can meet your needs.
Tagliata, Italian Arugula Steak Salad
1 pound of thin steak, such as flank steak or skirt steak*
5 ounces of fresh arugula, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup or more Pecorino Romano cheese, grated**
1 lemon, washed, and cut into wedges
Extra virgin olive oil**
Freshly ground black pepper
*Our supermarket usually has thin cuts of steak that are labeled for stir-fry or for carne asada. The key is you want a thin piece of meat. Thin pieces of inexpensive meat tend to be tough so it's key to slice it against the grain.
**You want quality over quantity when it comes to the cheese and the olive oil. This is a characteristic Italian recipe in that there are few ingredients so you want them all to be of high quality since they are minimally manipulated.
Heat your gas grill to high heat and then turn down to medium. While the grill is preheating, brush each side of the steak with olive oil. Next, sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the steak 4 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, for medium rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes. Additional grilling guidance from my husband, Brian, "It really does depend on what kind of steak you have. I grill flank steak about 7 minutes per side to medium, while the thin blade or flat iron steak that we usually use for tagliata gets about 3 minutes per side to medium-well."
To serve, cut the steak into four pieces. On each plate, put a piece of steak, top with a handful of arugula, and then sprinkle on the cheese. Or put the cheese on first and then the arugula. It's up to you. Place a lemon wedge off to the side for people to squeeze over it. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Pass salt and pepper at the table.
Make it vegetarian: Substitute a portobello mushroom for the steak.
Make it vegan: In addition to substituting a portobello mushroom, omit the cheese, and instead sprinkle with chopped nuts and/or a pinch of nutritional yeast.