It has been a long time since my last recipe post—I’ve been busy eating meat. Well, working on some exciting projects at Foodstand, and eating the occasional portion of meat. But yes, I've reincorporated meat into my diet. I stopped eating the stuff about three and a half years ago. I was never a big steak fan, but I always enjoyed chicken, turkey, pork, and obviously bacon (because bacon is amazingly delicious). But one morning I woke up, and the thought of eating any kind of meat was, let's say, less than appetizing.
But this past October I slowly began to reincorporate both poultry and other meat into my diet. Two things triggered the switch. The first was that my doctor instructed me to eat some red meat every week for health reasons, and the second was research I had been conducting for Foodstand's Eat Less Meat Challenge. Yes, seems counterintuitive. Let me explain.
On average, we eat a crazy amount of meat. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. Scary huh! Many Americans can’t even imagine a meal without meat or animal products, which leaves barely any room in one’s diet for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. All of which help lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, in limited quantities, meat can play a nutritious role in your diet. Think of meat as an accessory on your plate instead of the star of the show, and rely on other protein-rich foods like nuts, beans, plain yogurt and fish to play a larger role. The key is the type of meat you choose, and the frequency with which you eat it. I now eat a small portion of red meat about once per week, and other lean meats such as chicken about 2 times per week. I’m talking meals here, so out of the approximately 21 meals I eat per week, meat is present at about 3 of them. I don’t eat hot dogs or sausage, both of which have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. I only eat uncured bacon—and very rarely. And I make sure that my meat is sustainably-raised, local, and organic.
I mentioned the environmental impact of the global livestock industry—here’s where it gets interesting. Contrary to popular belief, livestock isn’t inherently bad for the environment, according to my research. Cows that are strictly grass-fed and rotated over different pieces of land are no problem at all. The grass grows where it is eaten, the cows help work the land, and their manure is left to naturally fertilize the soil. The problem arises when cows are grain-fed, and confined to small areas. It takes a lot of water and resources to grow and ship the grain, confinement leads to soil erosion, and the collection of manure into lagoons leads to high levels methane and carbon dioxide. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend reading Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman. My aunt and uncle suggested I read it (shoutout to the Lindleys!). It's a fascinating read, even if you're not diet geeks like we are.
100% grass-fed cows seem like a no brainer, right? But the livestock industry can’t keep up with our largely meat-based diets by raising cattle sustainably. As a country we eat too much meat—it’s the high demand for meat, and therefore the unsustainable methods by which most meat is raised, that’s problematic. I’ve started eating meat again. But only good meat. Only when I know where it comes from and how it was raised. And I don’t eat too much. Meat is the exception to my mostly plant-based diet.
The following recipe was the first red meat I cooked and ate at home a few months ago. The Man was thrilled. I served it with my Sweet Potato Fries and some simply roasted asparagus. It’s easy, and quite quick—skirt steak tends to be thin and doesn’t require much cooking time, particularly if you like your meat medium rare.
- 1.5 lbs skirt steak
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- a five-fingered pinch sea salt
- 8 or so grinds of black pepper
TARRAGON BASIL SALSA VERDE
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- the juice from 2 lemons
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 package tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch basil leaves, roughly chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all steak ingredients except the steak in a medium container (mixing bowl, Pyrex etc.) and whisk together. Add the steak and toss to coat the steak with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (overnight is great too).
In the meantime, make your Tarragon Basil Salsa Verde by combining all ingredients except the herbs and whisk with a fork. Add the herbs and toss to combine. Cover and keep in the fridge.
Remove the marinated steak and herb salsa from the fridge about 30 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking. Wipe a cast iron pan with olive oil, and set over high heat. Once hot, add the steak to the pan. If the pan is hot enough, you should immediately hear a sizzle. Let the meat cook without disturbing it for about 4 minutes, then flip it over and let the other side cook for 4 additional minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, drape with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.
Cut the steak across the grain at a diagonal for nice, thin slices. Arrange on a platter or individual plates and generously drizzle with the herb sauce.
Note: My steaks were thick enough such that they were medium/rare after resting. If you have particularly thick steaks, cook an additional minute or two on each side, or if your steaks are quite thin they might only need 2-3 minutes per side. Additionally, be sure not to crowd the steaks in the pan—you don’t want them to steam. Either use two pans, or after half of the meat has cooked, cook the second half.