Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grass-fed beef: it's what's for dinner

Sometimes, it happens just like that.  Inspiration in my own little town.

Yesterday morning, not sure what we would have for dinner (and needing some fresh dill for the pickles I was planning to make), we stopped by our local farmers' market.  It's a small group of producers that provides a colorful bounty of organic wholesomeness to Bastrop County, and what's more, it's a friendly group--one family will give you a free vegetable if you give them a recipe.  Right now, there's a wonderful variety of vegetables and herbs available at the River Valley Farmers' Market.

I ran into one of my neighbors at the beginning of my market crawl and during our conversation she said, "I just eat from here."  That's as local as it gets.  Incidentally, her husband happens to make the best fried chicken I ever put in my mouth so I hinted around that I was craving his specialty--and got an invitation to call him next time I had a hankering.  I have great neighbors!  But I can be so charming and so persuasive!

In my travels and amongst running into friends and neighbors, I eventually found my dill--enough to make the two enormous batches of pickles plus some pickled green beans (cucumbers and green beans courtesy of a lovely family I know that raises beautiful organic vegetables and wanted to share their bumper crop)--and I found fresh beets which, when I'm not roasting them, I'm putting them in my juicer with apples, carrots and celery for a gorgeously vivid morning tonic.  That tonic is a color seldom found in nature and it makes my cheeks glow an unearthly shade of cerise.  Really!

I also found spectacular grass-fed beef offered by a kindly cattle rancher from 6J Ranch in Thrall, TX.  Although my husband balked at the price of this beef, I knew what we were getting: hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef that had grazed on non-GMO, pesticide-free grass and had been raised carefully and responsibly.  I also knew that the flavor and texture of the steak would be outstanding. 

A 6J Ranch Ribeye

I don't eat beef often, but when I do, it needs to be top-quality.  This little beauty was almost a full pound and more than enough to share with my husband.  It was perfectly marbled and almost an inch thick.  I wanted to treat it the right way and was looking for a certain flavor profile: a little acid, a little heat, a little oil, a good amount of salt.  I've been on a Brazilian kick lately, so I was looking for something in that vein. 

After a quick marinade of fresh lemon juice, EVOO, minced jalapeno (with seeds), minced sweet onion and minced garlic, the ribeye was seasoned generously on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Then it was grilled on a very hot flame with a few hardwood charcoal nuggets added for flavor.

The acid of the lemon juice, combined with the EVOO and beef fat, were a perfect foil for the tender, rich, and deeply flavorful beef.  The minced jalapeno, onion and garlic enhanced each bite.

I served this steak, beautifully charred on the outside, rare and juicy on the inside, along with Brazilian-style rice and a hearts of palm chopped salad that had wonderful texture and a nicely balanced acidity.

Brazilian-style rice (right) is cooked with onion and garlic and enhanced with tomato for color and flavor.  I had run out of the sweet, perfect little cherry tomatoes given me by my friends the organic gardeners by the time I decided to make the rice, so I substituted jarred, chopped pimento, which worked beautifully and tasted great.

The hearts of palm chopped salad (below) adds a great textural backdrop and slightly acidic balance to the richness of the ribeye and the rice.  The original recipe calls for cilantro, but I had only fresh flat-leaf parsley on hand.  We thought it was delicious nonetheless.

Because a steak as richly marbled as this one calls for a red wine with a certain amount of tannins, I opened a bottle of Finca el Origen Reserva Malbec 2009 (Argentina), an elegant, fruity red full of cherries and other bright red fruit.  It has a nicely balanced acid component that pairs beautifully with richer red meats, such as the ribeye we enjoyed.  This wine, plum-colored and gorgeous in the glass, has a bit of a floral nose and a silky finish with wisps of chocolate, spice and just a kiss of oak.  It's a wine that would be lovely to sip on its own, and I thought it was absolutely perfect with this meal.  Ask your wine guy at Spec's about it.

Brazilian Grilled Ribeye Steak with Hearts of Palm Chopped Salad
     Adapted from Eating Well Magazine (February/March 2006) 
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small hot pepper, such as jalapeño or serrano, minced
2 Tbs. minced sweet onion
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ribeye steaks (about 4 oz. steaks)

Chopped Salad: 

1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 small hot chile, such as jalapeño or serrano, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
juice of one lemon
drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 

1.)  Preheat grill to high and add a few handfuls of hardwood lump charcoal directly to flames.
2.)  Combine garlic, jalapeno, onion, olive oil and lemon juice.  
3.)  Rub mixture on both sides of steaks and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
4.)  For salsa, combine hearts of palm, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, parsley or cilantro, lemon juice and a few drizzles of olive oil. 
5.)  Toss gently to combine, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
6.)  Reduce grill heat to medium and grill the steak 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the steak across the grain into thin pieces. Serve with the salsa and Brazilian Rice (recipe below).  Serves 4.

Brazilian Rice  (adapted from

1 cup onion, chopped 
1 clove garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tomato, chopped (you can substitute chopped jarred pimento with great results)
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups water or broth
finely chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish 

1.)  Wash and drain rice; set aside.
2.)  Saute onion and garlic gently in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent and softened.
3.)  Add tomatoes (or pimentoes), rice, salt, pepper and water or broth.
4.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until all bubbles on surface have disappeared.
5.)  Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.  
6.)  Fluff rice with a fork and garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 4 to 6.

May your tastebuds do the bossa nova!


  1. I to have purchased Ribeye steaks from the 6J Ranch and they truly are nice. This weekend I am trying their New York Strip steaks along with Link Sausage.

    1. Sorry for the terribly late reply; I am hoping you enjoyed your steaks and the sausage. I am holding out for a Christmas duck! Happy eating!