Adapted from Lettuce in Your Kitchen by John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger (William Morrow and Company, 1996). Copyright 1996 by John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger.

Turn to this salad when you want a quick but dynamic summer meal. In Vietnam, cooks have a tendency to toss whole herb leaves into their dishes, using them almost like greens. It's an easy way to get deep, aromatic flavors into your food, so here we follow that practice. This dressing is also perfect as a dipping sauce for tempura vegetables, fried or grilled shrimp, or those little Vietnamese spring rolls.

Serves 4 as an entrée; 6 to 8 as an appetizer

For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or substitute vegetable oil)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

For the Salad:

  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup minced fresh chile peppers of your choice, depending on your taste for heat
  • 1/4 cup freshly cracked white pepper (or substitute black pepper)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 pounds flank steak or top round
  • 1/2 head napa cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, halved, and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro (stems okay)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed mint leaves

1. Prepare a hot fire in your grill.

2. In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together well.

3. In a second small bowl, combine the chile pepper, white pepper, and salt and mix well. Rub the steak liberally with this mixture, then grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Check for doneness by nicking the steak at its thickest point. Because of carryover cooking, you should remove the steak from the grill when it is slightly less done than you want it to be when you eat it. Remove the steak from the grill and set aside to cool slightly.

4. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, bell pepper, basil, cilantro, and mint. Slice the steak crosswise as thin as possible, then cut the slices into bite-size pieces and add them to the cabbage mixture. Stir the dressing well, add just enough to moisten the ingredients (there will be some dressing left over), toss to coat, and serve.