Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sicilian Cowboy's Salad

Insalata Mista con Straccetti di Manzo alla Griglia
Mixed Mediterranean Salad with Grilled Beef Strips

A typical "secondo piatto" in Sicily, is a very thin slice of beef, grilled for a very short time at a very high heat, and then dipped into a mix of olive oil, oregano and red-wine vinegar. I wanted to make a slightly more elaborate version to have for my supper this evening and decided to skip the pasta and make it a one-dish affair. And this is what I came up with...

I prepared a marinade out of a little crushed garlic, some dried oregano, some chili flakes, olive oil, red-wine vinegar and honey, with a little lemon juice for a bit of extra freshness. What happens with the beef is that when you grill it, it tends to dry out just a little- but this makes the meat a little more porous and lets it soak up some good juices. At the same time, the meat gives off juices of its own, which of course are also very delicious... so this is how you go about making the most use of all those good flavors.

Cut the beef into thin strips- about the width of your finger. Crank the heat right up on your grill-pan and add a light drizzle of olive oil. Drop on your beef strips and fry on each side for 1-2 minutes at the most- if you fry it too long the meat will become tough. Remove the meat and de glaze the pan with the marinade. Now return the meat and get it well coated in those yummy juices... the garlic and oregano will give it a wonderful flavor, the vinegar will make it tangy and tender and the honey will give it a nice glaze.

I served mine on a bed of Mesclun salad leaves, which I jazzed-up a little and gave a more Mediterranean twist my adding capers and cumquats. Regular orange segments would work perfectly well, but the extra tangy and sour peel of the cumquats make for a more intense flavor. I used the same marinade that I used for the meat as my dressing and added a sprinkle of parmesan for a bit of contrast... seasoning was a little sea-salt and some cracked pepper corns... and that was my light and refreshing salad with strips of grilled beef... just perfect for a hot Sicilian Summer.


  1. Interesting! They make straccetti in Rome, too, only sautéed in garlic and oil and mixed at the last minute with rughetta (rocket). This sounds like a great change of pace! Cheers...

  2. Hi Frank! Thanks for your comment! Yes, in Sicily, it is not usual to cut the meat into strips- that was my slant on the thing and it is definitely based on the Roman tradition. In Sicily they make what they call "fettine", which translates of course to "little slices", rather than "straccetti" which translates to "little rags"... but basically it is the same method of flash-frying or grilling. It is the oregano and vinegar that makes it more Sicilian- their universal dressing really. Another taste of home for me! Saluti! Francesco