So, you know how they call old cowboy movies “Spaghetti Westerns,” because the American Indians were all played by Italian actors? I was thinking about that the other day, and somehow inspiration/folly struck. I decided there ought to be a dish that blended the tried-and-true amazing flavors of Italian cuisine, and the upstart awesome freshness and flavors of southwestern food.
I don’t know if I succeeded with my Spaghetti Western idea, but I’m happy with where the experiment took me. After a couple of tries, I’ve got a dish with healthy whole wheat pasta, plenty of lean protein from a local farmer, fresh local tomatoes, and loads of super-healthy fresh herbs, so I’m pretty much happy on all f fronts—taste, health, and food-consciousness. Yay!
I can tell you right now, a batch of this Salsa Verde is going to be in my fridge for the rest of the summer. Steak, egg sandwiches, grilled chicken – I wonder if there’s anything savory that wouldn’t be improved by the fresh salty taste. You can make it ahead, and keep it for a week or so in the fridge. You should make it ahead, because letting it sit in the fridge overnight helps the different flavors meld and deepen. Once you have that sauce ready and waiting, this dish comes together in 20-30 minutes from a standing start. Beautiful.
Since I don’t own a grill, I pan-fried my steak on the stovetop. If you’re a griller, by all means feel free to cook that way – it’ll keep your house cool.
At the recommendation of my farmer’s market meat seller, I went for a top round steak since it’s a little thinner, so it cooks quickly in a pan—about 3 minutes per side. Sirloin also works well for pan-frying, too – you might remember I used sirloin in this post, and there are a lot more directions and pictures theret, too. (I’m in danger of becoming the queen of pan-fried steak. I don’t hear my test subjects… I mean, friends…complaining.) If you’re grilling you can go for your favorite cut, trim fat well, and cook to your taste. I bow to your greater grilling experience.
This could easily be two meal ideas in one. You can make an easy and quick summer meal out of steak smothered with Salsa Verde, with fresh produce like a ripe garden tomato or corn-on-the-cob on the side. Fantastic.
Then, a leftover steak chopped up small, an heirloom tomato, and a few more spoonfuls of this magical Salsa Verde, added to a freshly cooked Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Angel Hair with Milled Flax Seed (or Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Brown Rice Angel Hair Pasta with Milled Flax Seed) makes this into a refreshing, quick and healthy lunch on a hot day. It’s great to pack for work, or a picnic, or a brown-bag lunch. And you can definitely feel free to throw this steak and salsa combo into a pasta salad right off the bat, to stretch that steak as far as you can.
I think I may have leaned a little more heavily on the “spaghetti “side here, rather than the ‘Western’ – there’s no real heat to speak of, unlike most Texas cooking I’ve known. According to Wikipedia, I’ve followed a more Italian recipe of Salsa Verde (using green herbs, instead of tomatillos). But the steak and the meaty heirloom tomatoes here just scream country to me. Maybe if I substituted cilantro for tarragon, it’d have a little bit more southwestern flavor — but I just couldn’t bear to mess with this perfect sauce quite yet.
Its ancestry may be a bit confused, but I can promise this dish is absolutely delicious. I’m happy.
What do you think? Could I have done anything differently, to make it more “Western?” Or should it lean more toward the “Spaghetti?” Have you ever made up a recipe based on a harebrained idea, or to combine two tastes you love? I’d love to hear your suggestions and about any fun experiments you’ve made, in the comments section.
Steak and Salsa Verde Pasta Salad (aka Spaghetti Western)
- One 8-12 ounce steak, cooked to taste and chopped small
- 2-3 Tablespoons Salsa Verde (recipe below)
- 1 ripe tomato, chopped (preferably heirloom, or use grape or cherry tomatoes for their flavor)
- ½ package uncooked Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Angel Hair with Milled Flax Seed (or Gluten-Free Brown Rice Angel Hair for gluten-free option)
- Sea salt
- Fresh-ground black pepper
Grill or pan-fry steak. If pan-frying, heat a large pan over medium heat and brush with olive oil. Cook steak to taste, about 3 to 4 minutes per side (3 each for medium rare, 4 each for medium). Let steak rest several minutes after cooking, and season with salt and pepper. Chop into small bite-size pieces, ½ – 1 inch square.
You can also use leftover steak. If cooked steak has been refrigerated, cut into very thin slices ( ¼ inch or less) and then chop small, ½ – 1 inch square. Thin slices makes for a more tender bite.
Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and immediately toss with chopped fresh tomatoes and steak. Add several spoonfuls of Salsa Verde to taste. Stir, and serve immediately warm, or serve chilled.
Notes: Makes 3-4 servings. Easily doubled. Keeps 2 days in sealed container in fridge. If reheating, it’s best to heat pasta and steak separately, and then add fresh Salsa Verde and tomatoes. (Heating Salsa Verde and tomatoes changes the flavor.)
Adapted slightly from the wonderful Ginger Pig Meat Book
- 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped fine
- 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped fine
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
- 6 anchovy filets, chopped fine
- 2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped fine
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 4-5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix together all chopped ingredients. Then stir in mustard and lemon juice. Add olive oil one tablespoon at a time, stirring until desired consistency. (It will be spoonable, not pourable.) Refrigerate covered one hour or more to let flavors meld.
Notes: Makes about 1 cup. Keeps about one week in sealed container in fridge. Great over any cooked meat, eggs, or veggies.