Amanda & Merrill

Steak with Arugula, Lemon and Parmesan

April 20, 2010

Steak and Arugula

- Merrill

I’ve spent some time in Tuscany over the years, and while you might expect my favorite dish to be some delectable homemade pasta, it is in fact bistecca alla fiorentina. This Florentine specialty consists of a T-bone or porterhouse steak (traditionally from local Chianina cattle), seasoned with lots of salt and pepper and minimally cooked over an open flame, then thickly sliced, drizzled with olive oil and presented with plenty of lemon wedges for squeezing.

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The best bistecca alla fiorentina I've had was served to me one warm October evening at an outdoor café in Florence, where I ate alone, watching passersby strolling through the piazza. When the bistecca arrived, it was a T-bone large enough for me and at least two others. Atop the perfect pink slices of beef rested a precariously large mountain of fresh arugula leaves, lightly slicked with olive oil and what I soon discovered were the outrageously flavorful juices from the cooked steak. Parmesan shavings were liberally scattered over everything, and the requisite lemon wedges adorned the edges of the platter. Needless to say, it was a memorable dinner.

Ever since that fantastic bistecca with arugula, I’ve found this combination of steak and salad to be uniquely satisfying, especially once the weather starts to turn warmer. The crisp greens and the bright hit of acid from the lemon cut through the richness of the steak, making it a great dish for balmier evenings. Below is my version of the classic, which forgoes a giant T-bone for (slightly) more economical strip steaks.

Steak with Arugula, Lemon and Parmesan

Serves 2

  • 2 one-inch thick boneless New York strip steaks
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Wedge of parmesan


1. Bring the steaks to room temperature and season them on all sides with salt and pepper (don’t be stingy with the salt!). 

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and set a heavy ovenproof skillet (I like to use cast iron) over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the steaks and brown well on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven and continue to cook until the meat reaches desired doneness (it should take about 10 minutes for the internal temperature to reach 135 degrees, which is medium rare). Transfer the steaks to a plate and set in a warm place to rest, for at least 5, but preferably 10, minutes. Do NOT put the pan in the sink just yet!

3. Set the hot pan over low heat (make sure not to touch the handle and burn yourself!) and add about ¼ cup water. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to get up all of the browned bits and stir to combine with the water. Set aside.

4. When you are ready to eat, slice the steaks across the grain into 1/3-inch slices. Reserve any juices that escape the meat. Arrange the arugula on a serving platter. Quarter the lemon. Drizzle a generous amount of good olive oil over the greens, followed by a generous squeeze of lemon juice, a liberal sprinkling of Maldon salt and several grinds of pepper. Lay the slices of steak on top of the greens, and then drizzle their juices and the fond from the pan over everything. Follow with another spritz of lemon and more pepper. Then use a vegetable peeler to top everything with a shower of parmesan curls. Serve immediately with leftover lemon wedges, roasted potatoes and a good Italian table wine.


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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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davethegrave April 21, 2010
I made this last night and was a bit too aggressive with the salt on the steak. To even it out a bit, I just didn't salt the arugula/steak once it was on the plate.

This was so very girlfriend NEVER finishes everything on a plate...until now.
marybeaulieu April 21, 2010
I made it for dinner last night too! Needed to use flank steak as a lower-cost alternative, which worked OK. I got pretty overconfident about the salt, I'll need to rein myself in next time. But it's a great recipe! It got a neutral, low-toned "it's good" from my husband, which is the equivalent of an enthusiastic thumbs up from most people. : )
Annelle April 20, 2010
Perfect, perfect, perfect...makes me happy just to look at it!
asabnis April 20, 2010
This was our dinner! Delicious.
pierino April 20, 2010
Merrill dear, don't wimp out on us. For a proper bistecca you really do need a double thick porterhouse cut, a wood fire to cook over (maybe some vine cuttings) and all of that. A few days ago I was in my local supermarket and ran into this guy from Firenze who was shopping to make a "florentine" meal for friends. So we yacked abought football and stuff, and which are the proper cuts. Meat, down and dirty, is butchered differently here than there. As we don't have butchers anymore you need to be precise when ordering meat. Tell them how thick and so on, because they are only working a band saw.
jidorman April 20, 2010
I'm afraid those of us with NYC apartment kitchens must occasionally make do with less impressive cuts of meat and a skillet. But your way undoubtedly trumps mine.
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
That last comment was mine, btw. The Fiancé was logged in on my computer, unbeknownst to me.
pierino April 21, 2010
Life could be worse than having a NYC apartment, even with all of the wierd codes and stuff. I'm used to cooking in extremis when the situation calls for it; that would be the "don't try this at home" school. How about the hibachi on the fire escape or the roof? You could also use a grill pan inside to sear some grill marks on if you are cooking inside.
cheese1227 April 20, 2010
One of my favorite meals!
healthierkitchen April 20, 2010
Love the Tuscany memories and look forward to trying this dish and reminding the rest of the family!
mariaraynal April 20, 2010
Such a thoughtful dish. Love its simplicity. This is the type of dish that MUST be eaten outside on a lovely day.
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
So true about having it outside. Thank you!
mrslarkin April 20, 2010
yummy! Thanks for the recipe, Merrill, and for the memories!
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
My pleasure.
ecrossi April 20, 2010
Could you recommend a way to double this recipe? I'm having guests over for dinner this weekend and would love to serve this. Also, could you give some idea of the proportion of olive oil to lemon juice?
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
First off, you'd want four steaks (it would probably be good to sear them in batches of two before putting them in the oven) and double the amount of arugula. The olive oil and lemon are really meant to be to taste -- some people like more tang, others less. For four people, though, I'd spritz about half a lemon over everything and use about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. But feel free to taste an arugula leaf before serving and adjust the oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The parmesan is easy -- if you think people might want more, just bring it to the table. Let me know how it goes!
katekirk April 20, 2010
I wish I had the Italian memory to go with it, but I'll take the steak and arugula just fine, thank you. I usually do this with hanger or flank steak marinated for an hour or so in olive oil/SP, like the chew of those cuts in this dish.
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
Yes, I made it with hangar steak just the other day. London Broil actually works just fine too.
aargersi April 20, 2010
Love everything about this ... may have to put it on the weekend menu!
MrsWheelbarrow April 20, 2010
I just had a Florence-flashback. Thanks, Merrill, for bringing back some great memories.
Merrill S. April 20, 2010
You're welcome!
lastnightsdinner April 20, 2010
Oh, yum. This is one of our favorite ways to eat steak, too.