Friday, March 27, 2009

Gotta Beef with Beef? Try Grass-Fed

Little by little I'm making my way around to the many different grass-fed beef purveyors out there. I've tried Estancia Beef and Tall Grass Beef. Homegrown Meats and now a filet from Da-Le Ranch near Lake Elsinore. Well, not actually from Da-Le--owner Dave Heafner raises pigs, chickens and rabbits at Da-Le but has partnered with a rancher in Creston Valley near Paso Robles in Northern California who is raising Black Angus cattle. The cattle is naturally pastured and then processed when they reach about 900 pounds.

Heafner can be found on Saturday mornings at the Little Italy Farmers Market and at the Bonsall farmers market on Sunday mornings. I've tried his chicken and pork but the beef was new to me. And, it's delicious.

Because of the meat's leanness, it's important to take care in both the preparation and cooking. I marinated my filet using a rosemary, sage, garlic herb rub that I mixed with a little white truffle oil. You'll notice the lack of salt. That's important because salt will leach out the moisture and you don't want that. To make sure the filet would cook evenly, once I added the rub and oil, I put a little plastic wrap on the filet and pounded it down on both sides, getting it to about an inch all around. The added advantage was that the rub was pushed into the meat.

I let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour with a plan to just grill it on the stovetop.

While it was resting, I took out a bunch of rapini and began its preparation. Rapini, or broccoli rabe, is a spiky leafed green that sends out little shoots reminiscent of broccoli. Because it can be bitter, it's best to blanch it quickly before sauting or using another cooking method.

I continued the white truffle oil theme, making a quick vinaigrette with white Balsamic vinegar and olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company, white truffle oil, salt and red pepper flakes. I sliced up a spring onion and toasted about a tablespoon of pine nuts. I put the steak on an oiled stovetop grill and let it cook about five minutes on each side. Once it was done--and with grass-fed beef, it's best to cook it only to medium rare--I plated it and covered it with foil to rest and let the juices recirculate.

Then it was time to blanch the rapini. Don't let it go more than 30 seconds or it'll just be a limp mass of green. Shock it with cold water and drain it. At that point, I sauteed it in a little olive oil with the green part of the spring onion. It took just a moment or two, then I took it off the heat and added the white rings of the onion and the pine nuts and tossed the mixture with the vinaigrette.

Voila. Dinner.

Da-Le Ranch products can be found on Saturday mornings at the Little Italy Mercato on Date St. at Kettner and Sunday mornings at the Bonsall Farmers Market at Bonsall Elementary School.

Produce courtesy of Specialty Produce.

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  1. Thanks for the information on the grass fed beef, I wasn't sure if we had any around here or not. I have been wanting to try it and was going to ask Iowa Beef if they could get it. Question, where do you get the white truffle oil? Can you give a comparison to the black truffle oil? I like the truffle oil they serve on the pizza at Sammys' Woodfired Pizza and now I want to try it with meat.

  2. You can get white truffle oil everywhere from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to specialty shops like Taste in Hillcrest or even online. I find black and white truffle oils to be fairly similar in flavor. The point is that these can be powerful and are used only for flavoring, not cooking, of course. Make sure the bottle you buy is recently produced and not displayed in strong light because its flavors will deteriorate quickly. That also means you should store it in a dark, cool spot and use it in a timely way so you get the full benefit of the flavors.

    It is great with meat but also incorporated into a sauce or vinaigrette, on pasta or roasted vegetables, even in mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

  3. Caron, this looks really good! I wish I lived in your area so that I could go to some of these farms/markets.

    I've been reading a lot about grass fed vs. grain fed beef and I think it's really interesting the differences.

  4. We're so glad you're spreading the word about grassfed beef. A lot of people don't know where their food even comes from! We are grassfed beef farmers and have our San Diego CSA, Green Beef. If you want to give our beef a try just let us know. Our website is

  5. Hi Caron, I see this article is a few years old and it is amazing that there are now more choices for Grass Fed Beef in the San Diego area, as people get more health and taste conscious. As a grass-fed cattle rancher, sometime, maybe I can comment on the differences that the many grass-fed ranchers use in raising their herds and the taste differences resulting from breed. We are a small ranch and our beef is available at the La Costa Canyon and San Marcos Farmer's Markets and through our CSA. And also, at some local fine restaurants and stores.

  6. These are some great tips for cooking grass fed beef. If your readers are looking for a place to find locally raised grass fed beef. They should go to