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Summertime, Berry Time

The weather here has been almost unbearably hot--especially since it's only June.  But apparently it's perfect weather for raspberries to ripen on the roadside.  I spotted them the other day on my way out to the gym, and when I came home they were still there, so I pulled over and started picking.

The tricky part was gaining access. First there was the drainage ditch to cross, then there was all the overgrowth, including poison ivy.  The bank was really steep so perhaps I could have used a harness and some rope attached to a tree.  The best berries seemed to be either just beyond my reach, or very low to the ground, down in snake territory.  Isn't that always the way?  You have to stick your neck out a bit for the best things in life.

I really wanted the good ones, but I didn't want to get snake-bit either.  I kept looking for snakes but I didn't really want to see one so I'm not sure how hard I was looking.  Mostly I prayed as I extracted the delicate, perfectly red little berries and put them in my bowl, really glad to be wearing long pants and closed shoes.  When ripe, raspberries just fall right into your hand like soft little red caps.  It's easy to crush them if you start pulling on them.

At first there seemed to be sooo many raspberries in my bowl.  Now after two days of steady munching on my part, they are almost gone.  I'm going back later today for more, assuming the foxes and the deer don't get to them first.  When I get home I will mix them with the fresh blueberries I got at Saturday's farmer's market and top them with heavy cream.  Maybe that will be dinner. Ah, summer!


Braised Short Ribs--no fork required

A few weeks back, I fell in love with the Braised Short Ribs at the hot food bar at a Whole Foods.  It became a bit of a comfort food for me, so much so that I kept going back there for the ribs every time I was in the area. Oh yeah, that particular WF's is about an hour away!  The WF's here NEVER has things like that on the hot food bar. Anyway, the last time I passed through the other town I stopped to get some ribs, but alas, they DID NOT HAVE THEM.  Argh! It turns out they do certain things in two week cycles or something like that.  Anyway, no ribs.

I decided to make my own.  I got some fresh grass fed short ribs at said WF's yesterday and brought them home. I put them in the fridge and went to bed with visions of flaky tender beef dancing in my head. This morning I put them in the slow cooker, and I've just finished dinner.  I am definitely in love.  And I have to say mine are better than the ones at Whole Foods. HA!  I'm pretty sure they are not using grass fed meat on their hot bar, and the difference is evident. Now that I have begun eating grass fed meats, I really don't like the conventional meats, even the USDA Grade A Prime Angus stuff they charge an arm and a leg for at the supermarket.  I can literally taste the metals from all the fertilizers and additives they put in the feed.  But that's another post.

Here's how I made the ribs in the slow cooker: (serves 2 or 3, depending on appetite)
For better results, bring the meat to room temp and pat it dry before cooking.

2.5 lb fresh grass fed short ribs
2T expeller pressed coconut oilone large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 T minced garlic
3/4 cup good red wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 c marinara sauce or crushed tomatoes
1tsp real maple syrup (optional)
2 cups chicken or beef broth

Seasonings (mix together in small bowl):
2-3 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
kosher salt and crushed peppercorns to taste

Turn the slow cooker on low
Bring meat to room temp and pat dry
Heat a large heavy skillet to med/high
Add coconut oil to skillet and heat it up but do not let it get smoking hot
Sear each piece of meat on all sides in the coconut oil (do not crowd the meat; cook in batches if necessary). Add the meat to the slow cooker as each piece finishes browning. Pour chicken or beef broth over meat in the cooker and put the lid on.

Saute chopped onions in the same pan you cooked the meat in.  You should not need extra oil.  No need to drain the pan before doing the onions because the grass fed beef does not produce that much fat, not like conventional stuff does.  I like to brown the onions, almost until they are caramelized. It gives a rich flavor to any food.  Add the minced garlic when the onions start to brown.  Stir occasionally, and when the garlic has browned a bit, turn the heat down some and add the red wine, balsamic vinegar, marinara, syrup, spices and salt and pepper.  Let the mixture simmer a minute or two until the alcohol from the wine evaporates and the sauce looks like it's thickening.  Add the mixture to the slow cooker and stir it all around with the ribs and broth, pushing the ribs down until they are covered.

Cook, with the lid on, at low setting for 8-9 hours, or high setting for at least 6 hours until the meat becomes fork tender and starts to pull away from the bones.  I have not tried this in the oven but I estimate it would take about 3-4 hours at a low temp (300?) in a covered casserole.  If anyone tries it let me know how it turns out.

Serve ribs with or without the bones as a main dish, or cool and pull off the meat to add to salads, etc. If you chew on the fat you can extract tasty bits of meat.  The fat on this grass fed meat is buttery, not at all stringy, so give it a try even if you are one of those people who gets grossed out at the thought of eating visible fat. The sauce can be served as is, made into a gravy, or frozen for future use in another dish.  You probably will not have ribs leftover, hence no suggestions for using the leftover ribs.