Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

It is no secret that we love Latin food in this house.

It is also no secret that tortillas are our favorite way to deliver the goods. I have heaps of corn and flour tortillas in my kitchen at all times.

I was perusing the internet the other day, looking for recipe inspiration, and came across a “vinaigrette” that reminded me a lot of salsa, or pico de gallo…chunky bits of tomato and onion, but instead of cilantro, they used basil, and instead of lime, they used vinegar.

Aha! I have basil and vinegar in the fridge right this very moment!

Basil salsa…could a Mediterranean-style taco be in our future?

I thought I’d make this thing work. Rub a big shoulder steak with herbs, let it marinate, and grill to medium-rare perfection.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: please get yourself a good meat tenderizer (I have this one, and it’s not a mallet). They make such a difference in the tenderness of the meat. I mean, they’re called meat tenderizers for that reason, right?

So go get one. Or have the UPS man deliver one to you.

A meat thermometer is also indispensable in my opinion – it makes perfect meat a no-brainer. No poking or prodding, no cutting into the meat while it’s still in the pan, seeing if it’s done enough…or overdone.

The UPS man can bring you one of those too. I use mine whenever I cook steaks, pork tenderloin, or anything that needs to reach a specific temperature to be perfect.

Make the salsa while the steak rests; no need to refrigerate it. The basil loses its pungency if made too far ahead. You could, I suppose, mix up the other ingredients ahead of time and throw the basil in at the last minute, if you really wanted to.

Ibérico cheese is from Spain, a mix of cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk. I love it for its stronger flavor – it stands up to the vinegared salsa nicely. You could also try Parmesan or maybe feta if Ibérico isn’t available.

Corn tortillas will work if you need gluten free! Or stuff a pita with the mix!

What a surprise these flavors were, it was like taco identity crisis! So good, and a nice change from cilantro/cumin/lime. Did I really just say that?

Closeup Herbed Steak Tacos

Herbed Steak Tacos with Tomato-Basil Salsa

Salsa adapted from finecooking.com’s Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette   

makes 8 tacos.

for the meat:

  • 1 1/4 pound beef cut of your choice (I use 1 inch thick shoulder/London Broil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

for the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup diced Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

you will also need:

  • canola oil, for grilling
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 flour tortillas, taco or fajita size
  • shaved Ibérico cheese (available in most grocery delis, El Cortijo brand seems to be widely available)

On a piece of plastic wrap, drizzle steak with oil, and rub in spices and garlic with your hands. Wrap tightly and marinate 1-2 hours, taking the meat out of the refrigerator the last 30 minutes.

When meat is ready, preheat a dry, heavy skillet or cast iron grill pan over high heat.

One at a time, grill the tortillas on one side. Keep warm in a towel.

Reduce heat to medium, and give the pan time to cool off a bit (5-10 minutes). Scrape garlic and herbs off steak (garlic is more important to remove, it will burn) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Oil pan lightly and add steak.

Let cook, undisturbed, for 5-10 minutes. Keep any eye on the heat – you want the pan to stay decently hot for a good sear, but not so hot it overcooks the meat. When you have nice browning, flip the steak. I suggest using a meat thermometer at this point, inserted into the thickest part of the steak, until it registers 125-130°F (medium rare). This will take another 10 minutes or so.

Remove the steak to a plate, and wrap with foil. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Now make the salsa: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Cover and set aside.

Slice meat thinly, against the grain, into strips. Assemble the tacos by adding meat, a tablespoon of salsa, and shaving cheese over the top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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