Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beef Heart, Part Two

Is there anything more romantic than beef heart? I don't think so. In a grand gesture of romance, my lovey love took a bus across town to an unfamiliar grocery store to get me some ground beef heart. He got there and found the beef heart, only to discover that Winco has a 50 pound grinding minimum. Oh. Darn. He bought a whole beef heart anyhow, and then went to New Seasons, which is only about 5 blocks from his house. They also had beef heart and only a two pound grinding minimum, so he ordered me some. The next night he came to my house, whole Winco beef heart in hand, and told me that there would be two pounds of ground beef heart waiting for me the next day at New Seasons. Swoon. I cried, obviously.

My quest for beef heart started when I began reading and cooking from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. She advocates for a diet more like those of traditional cultures, which includes more animal fat and minimally processed foods. This book has made me think long and hard about what is "healthy", and especially about what is healthy for me. She calls for organ meats in many of her recipes--they are a great source of vitamins and good fats. But mostly, they are delicious. They are rich and flavorful and even a small addition will add so much to a dish. I attempted the recipe below without the beef heart and it was good, but with the beef heart it was a whole different story.

My beef heart waited in the freezer all week, and Saturday night we gave the meatloaf another go. Oh my goodness, it was heavenly. Rich and juicy and flavorful. We served it along with a simple salad of purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and French breakfast radishes, and rich and creamy mashed potatoes. Amazing!

This recipe calls for some rich ingredients and you may shy away at first, but please, don't skimp here. And do use high quality, organic ingredients. It is well worth it. We used ground beef for the remainder of the meat, but ground pork, veal, lamb, or some combination, would also be delicious.

Sally Fallon's Spicy Meatloaf

2 pounds ground beef or other red meat
1/2 pound ground beef heart
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole grain bread crumbs*
1 cup cream
1 egg
4 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup

Over medium heat saute onions, carrots, and celery in butter until soft. Add chili flakes, thyme, pepper, and salt and stir. Meanwhile, soak bread crumbs in cream.

Have a 9x13 inch Pyrex pan ready. Using your hands, mix meat with sauteed vegetables, soaked bread, and egg. Form into a loaf and set in pan. Spread ketchup over top of meatloaf. Add about 1/2 cup water to the pan. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

*To make breadcrumbs, whir crust-less bread in a food processor or blender until you have fine crumbs.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Healthy (I swear) and Delicious Fried Rice

I do not like Chinese food, not even a little bit. I'll eat it if pressed, but I never crave it. And yes, I have tried fancy Chinese food from places like PF Changs, and no, I don't like that either. So you can imagine my surprise when one evening I craved fried rice.

I looked in a few different cookbooks but wound up using Mark Bittman's recipe from his encyclopedia of a cookbook, How to Cook Everything. While I don't often love any of his recipes, he does have a recipe for everything (hence the title) and his recipes are a fabulous jumping off point. I often use them for research and ideas, or as bare bones guidelines, rather than as recipes.

Over the past few months I have eaten a lot of fried rice. It is an easy and satisfying dish to prepare, and comes together with everyday fridge items. It is great for lunch the next day. Almost any vegetable works in this recipe, so its a great way to get your greens in, and use up odds and ends before they spoil.

When I first thought fried rice, I definitely did not think nutritious meal. But using brown rice, lots of veggies, and good quality organic eggs boosts this dish's nutritional profile. I also use a combination of olive oil and sesame oil rather than canola or vegetable oil. And while I'm usually not a nonstick lover, it is great here--you only use a fraction of the oil and the rice doesn't stick.

This is the way I have come to use Mark Bittman's recipe and technique. Quantities and vegetables are easily substituted. I have yet to make this with meat, because I find the eggs to be filling enough, but I'm sure bacon, or some leftover chicken, would be great additions.

Fried Rice

slash of sesame oil
splash of olive oil
1-2 cups cooked brown rice
a few green onions, all of white and some of green stem, chopped
1/4 or so yellow, white, or purple onion, chopped
a handful of chopped bell peppers, any color
1 carrot, finely chopped
handful of frozen peas
whatever else you have in the crisper that seems like it may be good
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-3 tablespoons soy sauce, depending on your taste

Heat oil in nonstick skillet on medium high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add vegetables. Fry fast, stirring almost constantly, for a few minutes. When vegetables have softened and begin to brown, add rice. Fry fast, stirring, for a few more minutes. Make a well in the center of the rice and vegetable mixture. Pour in beaten eggs. When eggs begin to set, scramble in well. Start incorporating vegetable and rice mixture and stir, until egg is distributed throughout. When eggs are cooked, remove pan from heat. Stir in soy sauce to taste.

Bonus Rice Recipe
Don't have any rice made already? Use the homemade stock I know you all ran out and made after my last post to make the most delicious brown rice ever!

1 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups stock
pinch of salt

Melt butter in pot over medium heat. Stir rice into melted butter, making sure all grains are coated. Add stock and salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 50-60 minutes, or until rice is done. If rice seems dry at any point during cooking, add more stock.