There is no more fragrant summer plant than basil, easy to grow in a patio pot or on a windowsill perch. When you have a generous plant, the more leaves you snip off, the more seem to sprout in return. Genovese, with its large green leaves, is the familiar variety. But there are at least 40 types, each with signature flavor notes and shapes: purple basil, citrusy lemon basil, licorice-y Vietnamese and Thai basil, all now appearing in farmers' markets. Here, a Southeast Asian-style salad in which we used the leaves of several varieties to stand in for lettuce.
Spicy Basil-Beef Salad
Hands-on time: 16 min. Total time: 30 min.
If regular Italian--or Genovese--basil is all you can find, it'll work fine. However, it's worth searching out a few varieties, such as purple, Thai, or lemon basil. Using a mix of varieties improves the salad by adding visual interest and nuanced flavors. If you can't find hanger steak, substitute flank instead.
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces hanger steak, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons chile paste (such as Huy Fong sambal oelek)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Heat a large ovenproof stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle both sides of steak evenly with salt and black pepper. Add steak to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Turn steak over. Bake at 425° for 8 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of steak registers 135° or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak from pan; let stand 10 minutes. Slice across the grain.
3. Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through sambal), stirring well. Combine basil and remaining ingredients. Drizzle dressing mixture over basil mixture; toss gently. Divide salad mixture evenly among 4 plates; divide beef evenly among salads.