Last year I spent a few days in Lucca, a wonderful Tuscan town that boasts some of the very best olive oil in the world. One thing I loved about the area was the simplicity of the food and the freshness of the ingredients. This was so evident when I worked with a woman named Antoinetta at her family restaurant, La Locanda. She had a little grill built right into the stove, and you wouldn’t believe the delicious food she would produce. My favorite was her grilled rib-eye steak, onto which she piled a salad of arugula and tomatoes, sometimes with a shaving of parmigiano reggiano, too. If you have wonderful ingredients—juicy, ripe summer tomatoes; crisp, peppery arugula; fruity, flavorful olive oil; prime beef—you need do no more. But because it’s not always easy to find the best ingredients at the supermarket for a midweek meal, you can give the dish a flavor boost with a quick rosemary-mustard rub that goes on the steak right before grilling. (It’s not traditional, but it’s good.)
If you do as Antoinetta does and pile the arugula on top of the steak, the greens wilt a bit, as they’re supposed to. But Antoinetta insists that if you have enough salad piled onto the steak, the top leaves stay crisp. When you cut into the grilled steak, its juices mix with the lemony salad dressing for a bright flavor that’s perfect for a summertime supper, preferably al fresco.