Alone on a warm evening in the not too distant past, I cooked myself a steak and opened a bottle of okay Sangiovese. Earlier that day I had picked up a bunch of purslane at the Greenmarket, and I decided to use it as a bed for my meager-looking skirt steak. What the hell. I wasn’t expecting much from the meal. But it turned out this was one of the best dinners of a year full of anxiety-packed, insoluble family issues. A solitary night, a chic but quickly assembled dinner, the swing of Gotan Project on my iPod. I started to feel pulled-together. It’s nice when that happens.
Skirt is a favorite cut of mine. It’s tender when cooked pink, has great flavor, and is easy to sear on a stove-top grill plate. I don’t eat a lot of steak, but I don’t have a problem with it. I’m also not overly concerned with saturated fat. Dietary thought on this subject is changing. The insulin assault on our bodies caused by sugar and carbs is possibly looking to be a bigger problem. My grandparents were brought up on olive oil and lard. That was the Southern Italian way. I’m sticking with it.
I’ve Italianized my steak dinner to the hilt, adding anchovies, capers, lemon, summer garlic, and fresh marjoram. Purslane, with its deep citrusy taste and moist texture, needs little dressing, so I left it in the nude, letting my steak juices and all the Italian flourishes trickle down, pulling the dish together.
But what exactly is purslane?
I love this strange, juicy, weed-like plant. It’s both lemony and peppery, best left raw or quickly sautéed to preserve its moisture. It’s actually a succulent, and you can find it growing on lawns and sometimes even up from cracks in sidewalks in the summer months. I treat it as an herb, throwing its stems into salads, scattering its leaves on a finished dish, or using it as an herby bed for meat or fish, as I’ve done here. It’s also full of Omega-3 fatty acids, the same healthful stuff you find in fatty fish, which makes it a good coupling with our supermarket grain-fed beef, which unfortunately has had most of its Omega-3 bred out of it.
Skirt Steak on Purslane with a Lemon Anchovy Vinaigrette
For the steak:
1 ¾- to 1-pound skirt steak, cut in two
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
For the vinaigrette:
1 large clove summer garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
4 oil-packed anchovies, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
A few large sprigs of marjoram, the leaves lightly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
A big handful of purslane, some of the thicker stems removed
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
A palmful of salt-packed capers, soaked in several changes of cool water and then well rinsed.
Season the steaks on both sides with the Aleppo, some salt, black pepper, and the sugar.
Set up a stove-top grill plate over high heat. While the grill is heating, whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
Divide the purslane up onto two dinner plates. Place the cherry tomatoes around it.
Grill the steaks (no need for oil here) until seared on one side, about 2 minutes or so, depending on their thickness. Give them a turn, and grill until rare or medium rare (you really don’t want to go further than this, as skirt steak can get tough if overcooked).
Pull the steaks from the grill and lay them over the purslane. Spoon the vinaigrette over the steaks, and garnish with the capers.