Beef is a little controversial for several reasons. First, many popular cuts of beef such as prime rib, filet mignon and short ribs are pretty high in saturated fat, which can contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. Second, the production of beef in crowded factory farms is troublesome to many animal lovers. Then there’s the difficult working conditions for employees of meat processing plants where many people work closely together in dangerous conditions.
Finally, beef production is not good for the environment. It takes 2.5 lbs. of grain to produce one lb. of beef. When you think about all the water, petroleum and other resources it takes to produce this food source, you realize it’s taxing on the Earth and contributes to global warming, which is not healthy for any of us.
However, beef is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and function. The protein-rich foods you eat should contain essential amino acids such as lysine, which repairs tissue and helps skin build new collagen. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein your body can’t synthesize. These amino acids are abundant in animal protein sources such as beef, chicken and dairy products. For optimal nutrition, use grass fed beef because it contains Omega-3 and other healthful fats.
The other thing about beef is that we Americans consume too much of it! It doesn’t need to be on the menu every night. An 8-ounce steak is far more than you need in any meal. Three to four ounces a couple of times a week is more than enough, especially if you augment your diet with high-quality plant proteins such as beans, peas and quinoa. Think of beef as a condiment to enhance the flavor of a vegetable and grain-based dish. Most of the rest of the world enjoys beef this way as you’ll see from the following International recipes.
Thai Beef Salad with Lime, Lemon Grass, Mint and Basil
The weather is still warm, so this salad is perfect for end of summer. Note that it provides about four ounces of beef per serving, and lots of healthful fresh vegetables. The mixture of flavors and textures is sure to please everyone.
Dressing and rice powder:
½ cup short-grain or other white rice (uncooked)
Juice of 3 limes, plus 3 more for wedges
2 Tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp. sugar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Beef and assembly:
1 lb. top sirloin steak, New York strip steak, sliced ¼” thick
1 Tbs. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus more for the skillet
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 lb. multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, tops trimmed, tough outer layers removed, very thinly sliced
2 long hot chiles, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups basil leaves
2 cups mint leaves
1 lb. Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
Lime wedges (for serving)
A spice mill or mortar and pestle
For dressing and rice powder:
1. Place rice in a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Toss and toast until golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 12–15 minutes. Let cool, then finely grind in a spice mill or mortar and pestle; set aside.
2. While the rice is browning, stir lime juice, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Season with salt and black pepper.
For beef and salad:
1. In a large bowl mix together fish sauce, brown sugar, and 2 Tbs. oil. Add the beef and let sit at room temperature 1 hour, or cover and chill up to 1 day ahead.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Lightly coat with oil. Season beef with salt and black pepper and grill until just browned, about 2 minutes. Grill the other side until the meat is slightly browned, but light pink in the center, about 45 seconds.
3. Remove the beef to a plate and let cool.
4. Toss tomatoes, shallot, scallions, lemongrass, chiles, garlic, basil, mint, 1 lb. cucumbers, and 1 tsp. rice powder in a large bowl to combine. Drizzle half of the dressing and toss to coat.
5. Add beef to salad. Drizzle with more dressing and top with more cucumber slices and 1 tsp. rice powder. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the salad.
Hoisin Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry
In Asian cuisine you rarely encounter large slabs of meat. Meat generally plays a supporting role as a flavoring. Hoisin sauce is a Chinese version of barbeque sauce, sweet and spicy.
You can get creative and add whatever vegetables you like. Sugar snap peas, broccoli or asparagus would also be good.
1/3 cup reduced sodium vegetable broth
3 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. canola or avocado oil
1 lb. boneless sirloin steak, trimmed and sliced 1/3-inch thick
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced baby bok choy
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup sliced fresh shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Sesame seeds for garnish
1. Mix together the broth, hoisin sauce, cornstarch and sesame oil in a small bowl until smooth.
2. Heat a heavy skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp. of the canola or avocado oil and swirl to coat the pan.
3. Add the steak to the pan and stir fry until the meat is just browned—about 2 ½ – 3 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate.
4. Heat the remaining oil in the pan or wok and swirl around to coat. Add in the vegetables, garlic and pepper flakes and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
5. Return the meat to the skillet/wok and toss all the ingredients; stir the hoisin sauce mixture before adding to the skillet; stir fry until the sauce thickens and bubbles, about a minute.
6. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve (with whole grain noodles or brown rice, if you must).
Morocco — Meatballs Marrakesh
Anytime you use spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom and hot red pepper you wind up with a truly exotic flavor profile that brings to mind bustling bazaars and marketplaces.
The spices have anti-inflammatory properties and the cooked tomatoes provide 38 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and improves the absorption of iron from foods. Tomatoes are low in calories and contain generous amounts of vitamin K, potassium, folate and lycopene, which give them their red color and is a powerful antioxidant. Canned tomatoes are particularly good for reducing the risk of prostate cancer in men.
1 lb. lean ground beef (8 percent fat or less)
1 large egg
1 large onion, chopped and divided
½ cup bulgur wheat
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. salt, divided
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
2 tsp. olive oil
2 large carrots, sliced into coins
1 (14 ½-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup raisins
1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, ½ of the onion, bulger wheat, cilantro, 1 garlic clove, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least ½ hour. Form into 30 meatballs.
2. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and remaining onion. Sauté until the onion and carrots start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and sauté about 30 seconds more.
3. Add the meatballs, brown slightly, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, the remaining black pepper and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the raisins, cover and simmer until the meatballs are fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
Belgium-Flemish Beef and Beer Stew
Looking ahead to cooler weather later this fall, this is a hearty dish also known as beef carbonnade and it’s a specialty of Northern France and Belgium. Because this dish is cooked for a long time, you can use tasty but tougher cuts like chuck, flat iron or blade steaks. This is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.
2 Tbs. avocado or other neutral oil
1 Tbs. butter, divided
1 ½ lb. beef, flatiron or blade steaks, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices, about 3 inches wide
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium-sized sweet onions, cut into ½” rings
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
3 12-ounce cans of beer
½ tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
8-10 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Boiled carrots and potatoes, for serving
1. In an enameled cast-iron casserole or large skillet with lid, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil and melt ½ Tbs. of the butter. Season the beef with salt and pepper and add half of it to the casserole. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the second batch of meat, using the remaining oil and butter.
2. Add the onions to the casserole or iron skillet, cover and cook over low heat, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour until the onions are well-coated, then slowly add the beer. Return the meat to the casserole or skillet along with any accumulated juices. Add the thyme and bay leaves, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring, until the beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
3. Uncover and transfer the meat to a bowl. Add the mushrooms to the sauce and simmer over moderate heat until thickened slightly. Discard the bay leaves. Return the meat to the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with boiled carrots and potatoes.
Note: If you make the carbonnade ahead, re-heat gently.
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