Hamburgers on the Grill

The defensive attacks from the company that makes the “pink slime” that has been all over news and social media for the last several months is unbelievable. They have food safety experts, USDA folks and even politicians coming to their defense. They have been lobbying Marion Nestle to back down and have been contributing mightily to non profits and political campaigns. Amazing for an individual private enterprise.

I don’t really care if the claims about it’s safety are true. The fact that it is processed using parts from multiple cows and chemicals makes me want to avoid it. The answer is simple, but has a few moving parts. First of all, never, ever eat at any fast food outlet unless you are completely convinced that they grind their own meat daily. The Shake Shack in New York is a perfect example. Never buy pre packaged ground beef. Only eat ground beef on occasion, not any more than once a week. And finally, how do you buy ground beef? New paragraph because I want you to get this.

Go into your market, find a piece of meat that is the right weight. I always look for the managers specials. Tri-tip or sirloin both work really well, but whatever is on sale will do. The only difference once it’s ground is the fat content. You can see that with your eyes.  Take the piece of meat to the butcher and ask them to double grind it. If they refuse (which they generally won’t) find yourself another market. I have never had anyone refuse. I have imparted this little secret on many friends and I always seem to get the same reaction. “I never thought of that,” and: “really, they will do that?” The next time you go shopping for ground beef try this and make sure to compare the price of a single piece of “managers special” meat with the same weight of ground beef sitting right next to it. You will be pleasantly surprised that for the same price or less you are buying ground beef for your family from a single cow that you saw (a cut of, anyway) and not concocted of pink slime and a 1000 cow parts.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • Ground Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grill or Grill Pan
  • Mixing Bowl
  1. Pre heat your grill or grill pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients using your (clean) hands.
  3. Form into at least 6 patties. I think it is important to take this opportunity to control the amount of red meat your family is eating. Make small patties and serve them on the same size buns as usual. 
  4. Grill to everyone’s desired temperature. Make sure not to turn until the first side is really brown.
Serve with lots of salad and vegetables. The small patties will appear to be the same to your family but you will be doing them a big health favor and saving money at the same time. 

Hamburgers on the Grill

The defensive attacks from the company that makes the “pink slime” that has been all over news and social media for the last several months is unbelievable. They have food safety experts, USDA folks and even politicians coming to their defense. They have been lobbying Marion Nestle to back down and have been contributing mightily to non profits and political campaigns. Amazing for an individual private enterprise.

I don’t really care if the claims about it’s safety are true. The fact that it is processed using parts from multiple cows and chemicals makes me want to avoid it. The answer is simple, but has a few moving parts. First of all, never, ever eat at any fast food outlet unless you are completely convinced that they grind their own meat daily. The Shake Shack in New York is a perfect example. Never buy pre packaged ground beef. Only eat ground beef on occasion, not any more than once a week. And finally, how do you buy ground beef? New paragraph because I want you to get this.

Go into your market, find a piece of meat that is the right weight. I always look for the managers specials. Tri-tip or sirloin both work really well, but whatever is on sale will do. The only difference once it’s ground is the fat content. You can see that with your eyes.  Take the piece of meat to the butcher and ask them to double grind it. If they refuse (which they generally won’t) find yourself another market. I have never had anyone refuse. I have imparted this little secret on many friends and I always seem to get the same reaction. “I never thought of that,” and: “really, they will do that?” The next time you go shopping for ground beef try this and make sure to compare the price of a single piece of “managers special” meat with the same weight of ground beef sitting right next to it. You will be pleasantly surprised that for the same price or less you are buying ground beef for your family from a single cow that you saw (a cut of, anyway) and not concocted of pink slime and a 1000 cow parts.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • Ground Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grill or Grill Pan
  • Mixing Bowl
  1. Pre heat your grill or grill pan.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients using your (clean) hands.
  3. Form into at least 6 patties. I think it is important to take this opportunity to control the amount of red meat your family is eating. Make small patties and serve them on the same size buns as usual. 
  4. Grill to everyone’s desired temperature. Make sure not to turn until the first side is really brown.
Serve with lots of salad and vegetables. The small patties will appear to be the same to your family but you will be doing them a big health favor and saving money at the same time. 

Fresh Fruit Salad

My mother just turned 89 years old. She is in a fairly late stage of Altzheimer’s Disease but she is otherwise healthy and strong as an ox. She has eaten at least one banana every day for as long as I can remember. Anecdotal correlations are not generally my standard form of argument, but this one has always stood out to me. There is no doubt that the steady intake of potassium, vitamin A, C and E, Calcium and vitamin B6 along with fiber has served my mother well. She also loves them and remembers to eat them. The daily banana may not be prolonging her life but it certainly isn’t curtailing it.

Fruit is what I eat when I have a craving for something sweet. It has just enough sugar to satisfy my sweet tooth and it very sneakily has really great things for my body and brain. Nature is very clever that way. It is a common nutritional guideline to eat fruit as part of a healthy diet. The greatest thing about fruit is that there is never much preparation. All you have to do is to remember to buy it. The way I remember is that every time I go to a market I buy at least a little bit of fruit. I look for what is inexpensive as that is usually what is fresh and local.

Be careful not to confuse fruit with fruit juice. There are huge market forces at work to convince us that fruit juices are good for you. Unfortunately, this in not correct. Even if the juice is unadulterated and not from concentrate, it is still considered a sugary drink. Regardless of the type of sugar, it is still sugar. Eating whole fruit provides a relatively small amount of sugar along with dietary fiber and a host of vitamins and other nutrients. In a glass of juice, you get 8-10 times the amount of sugar and none of the fiber. You would never sit down and eat 10 oranges so skip the juice.

Fruit is also the perfect barometer for hunger. In Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” he features one of my favorite sayings:

“If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry.”

Ingredients

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Any other fruit that is in season and you like
  • Lemon or Orange
  • Fresh Mint

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Bowl
  1. Cut fruit into bite sized pieces. For the apples and bananas make sure to squeeze a little lemon or orange on them right away to keep them from browning.
  2. Toss in a bowl.
  3. Add a little more orange juice. Not too much.
  4. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Roasted Corn and Aged Goat Cheese Salad

The New York Times announced a writing contest on the subject of “The Ethics of Eating Meat”. It is a very interesting topic because it is not about the health benefits or detriments but about belief systems. One of the challenges that face our world is the differentiation of science and belief. The world was believed to be flat until proven otherwise. The question of where we came from leads that split.

When it comes to diet and nutrition, I tend to favor science. We know way more today about this subject than even 10 years ago. The China Study is a pretty convincing piece of science that would have us completely eliminate meat from our diet. The recent Harvard study also suggests that red meat and especially processed meat contributes to early death. There are several studies that now link added sugar intake with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. We know more about the ways our body metabolizes nutrients than ever before. Yet, many people in our society ignore or reject this information or even deride it as not science. Doctors are the worst offenders. The very people who are supposed to be caring for you are ignoring a huge swatch of science that effects your longevity and happiness.

Maybe the real ethical issue has nothing to do with the actual process of slaughtering and eating meat.  Maybe the real ethical question is whether it is the responsibility of the government and/or healthcare professional to impart the overwhelming scientific evidence on society.

(steps off soapbox)

Here is a wonderful little salad that was inspired by a dish I once had at Mario Batali’s ESCA, which is one of our favorite restaurants in New York.

Ingredients

  • 2 Ears Corn, Roasted or Grilled
  • Hunk Aged Goat Cheese
  • 2 Cups Chanterelle Mushrooms, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Handful Arugula
  • 1 Cup Walnuts
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Grill or Grill Pan
  • Medium Grater
  • Sauté Pan
  1. Roast the corn on the grill or in the oven. Make sure that you turn often so it caramelizes on all sides. Let it cool.
  2. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Sauté the walnuts then add the chanterelles (or crimini if you can’t get chanterelles).
  4. Cut the corn off of the cob.
  5. Toss the corn, mushrooms, walnuts and arugula with a touch more olive oil. Be careful not to add too much more oil.
  6. Grate the aged goat cheese over the salad. Make sure you get the AGED goat cheese. It has a distinctively nutty taste and is hard and can be grated.

 

Boneless Pork Chops

A recent study has been published about the benefits of gastrointestinal surgery in treating type 2 diabetes. The study suggests that this invasive procedure on obese people has nearly an immediate effect of controlling blood sugar and therefore reducing and sometimes eliminating the need for drugs including insulin. Seems to me that this is lighting a candle with a blow torch. What the study reiterates is that the chief cause of diabetes is severe weight gain.

I hope leaders in the health care field notice this study for what it’s worth and step up efforts to curtail obesity before it kills more people. This should send a reverberant warning throughout the hallways of government and healthcare that this is a serious and expensive problem that needs immediate and severe action.

There are many things that those of us who care about this issue can do. You can write your congress person, talk to your doctor and set an example. One of my favorite and simple tasks is to teach someone to cook. If one cooks for themselves they are a lot less likely to eat processed food that has empty calories and lots of added sugar and salt. They are also going to be much more likely to exhibit portion control and eat fresh food. They are also much less likely to drink large sugary drinks that tend to be served at fast food restaurants but not consumed in the same amounts at home.

Today’s recipe is for a lean meat dish that does something really important. It cuts down on the amount of meat eaten without the person eating it thinking they are getting less. Because you pound it thin it fills the plate, making you feel like you are getting a full portion even though you are probably only eating 2 ounces of meat. It also achieves two other important goals: it’s quick and  inexpensive.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Thin, Boneless Pork Chops
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Heavy Object for Pounding
  • Shallow Bowl
  • Sauté Pan
  1. Cover the pork chops with a plastic wrap or bag on a solid surface.
  2. With a heavy object such as a rolling pin, pound the pork chops until they are about twice as thin. They actually make a device for this if you are so inclined toward gadgets and tools.
  3. Salt, pepper and sprinkle the rosemary on both sides of the chop.
  4. Pour about 1/2 inch of bread crumbs in a shallow bowl.
  5. Dredge the chops through the crumbs on both sides.
  6. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a pan.
  7. Add the chops to the hot pan. They should get crispy on both sides in a couple of minutes. Make sure you cook them completely through, but this will not take long at all.
  8. Turn the flame off and squeeze a splash of lemon on each.
Serve with a simple salad and your choice of vegetable. This is simple, delicious and just the right amount.

Croutons

One of my little goals this year is to take packaged, processed products that everyone tends to use and offer alternatives. For the most part, there are no packaged or  processed foods that actually save time or money.

Take pre-packaged fruits and vegetables, for instance. I went to buy a butternut squash a few weeks ago and noticed that there was a package of already pealed and cut up squash all ready to go. When I compared the price and weight between the prepared package and a nice size whole squash I was getting 1/4 of the amount for the same price. In other words, I was paying 4 times as much for the convenience of opening a package that I then had to throw away. I bought the whole squash, took it home and timed how long it took me to clean and cut it. Five minutes! I did the same for mushrooms. The thing about packaged, cut mushrooms is that the amount doesn’t always match what I need. Often I need less than half of what is on offer. Not only does the packaged stuff cost more money, if doesn’t allow you to purchase the amount you actually need. Two minutes to cut the mushrooms, by the way.

Bread crumbs and croutons are another packaged favorite. I admit that we often buy these two products but whenever possible we try to make them ourselves. With our grilled vegetable salad the other night we had these homemade croutons and they were so much more interesting than something out of a bag.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Stale Bread, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Saute Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Briefly saute the garlic in olive oil.
  2. Add the oregano, cayenne pepper and bread. I don’t bother cutting the crust off, but go ahead if you prefer the traditional crouton.
  3. Sprinkle a little more olive oil over if the bread is not fairly well coated.
  4. Salt and Pepper and toss until slightly toasty.
You can also do this in the oven on a cookie sheet. I prefer the moist, flavorful pieces achieved on the stovetop. The baked ones tend to be dry, more like the ones you buy and therefore depend on soaking up the dressing of your salad.

Jerry Leiber’s Blue Cheese Dressing

Sandra Lee was interviewed in the New York Times Magazine today. Her program, Semi-Homemade is intriguing. Anyone that can help get people in the kitchen and out of the Drive Thru line is a hero. But, when asked about people criticizing her about using processed food she answered: “I think they’re snobs. I’m not sure that some of the food purists are in touch with what really goes on in American households.” Her critics may be snobs and there may be a lot of processed food in American households, but I would have to argue that it is a food professional’s responsibility to be as educational as possible. Condoning the use of processed foods because it might reach someone on their level is disrespectful, does not save any money and often does not save time. What I believe that the typical American household wants is for their children to be healthy, and what is in short supply are ideas and information about what is best, cheapest and easiest to feed our families. Sandra likes Coolwhip, and I like to teach people that some heavy cream and a little bit of sugar make a much cheaper, and healthier dessert topping than a tub of plastic. I like Sandra and I think that she is probably helping a lot of people. She is kind and very relatable. I just wish that she would stay out of the center isles.

Last night I was really wanting a salad. After a week of Nashville meat, I really needed something green. We made a fantastic grilled vegetable salad and my wife created this dressing from a recipe that was given to her by the lyricist half of the great songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. Famous for such huge hits as “Hound Dog” and “Stand By Me”, Leiber also knew his way around a kitchen.

Ingredients

  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Blue Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Safflower Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl or Jar
  • Whisk
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Combine lemon juice, worchestershire, garlic, vinegar (you can use white wine or even rice vinegar) and salt and pepper.
  2. Drop the blue cheese in the mixture and let the acid break down the cheese while you prepare the rest of dinner.
  3. Just before serving, whisk in safflower oil and olive oil.