Happy National Heart Month! Celebrate with this Spanish-inspired dish that calls for - surprise! - ground beef and eggs. Grab a good bottle of rioja and get the latest info on the link between red meat and heart health.
If you like it, then you should #putaneggonit. The hashtag is featured in more than sixty THOUSAND Instagram posts, and with good reason: there's just something about a bit of golden yolk that elevates a dish. Its transformative quality goes way beyond breakfast and crosses dozens of cultures.
Speaking of culture, I've been thinking a lot lately about #morselmemory as I reminisce about meals of my pre-motherhood travels. The first time I tried sweetbreads in France. The moussaka my husband I stumbled upon in a dicey section of Athens. Doner, kofte, borek and savory meat lahmacun in Istanbul. Too many kebabs to count in Cyprus. This Berenjena con Carne Molida in Spain. What do all these dishes have in common, aside from red meat? Each of them was enjoyed in a country that borders on the Mediterranean.
You may have heard that the Mediterranean Diet, lauded as a heart-healthy option, emphasizes fish and calls for minimal consumption of red meat. While this pattern may be followed in some parts of the Mediterranean, it's important to note that:
-There are no fewer than sixteen countries that border the Mediterranean;
-Dietary patterns vary both culturally and geographically;
Moreover, new research indicates that:
-Increased consumption of either chicken or red meat results in similar positive lipid effects and therefore, patients should select protein options based on taste preferences. (Source);
-Increase in saturated fat intake does not result in adverse lipid changes if simple carbohydrates are reduced. Source: Michael Davidson, MD, FACC, FACP, FNLA, Clinical Professor and Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Pritzker School of Medicine, and Jan Tilley, MS, RD of Jan Tilley & Associates: "Pulse Check on Cardiovascular Health: A Current Look at Nutrition Strategies."
Now, before you get all excited and head out for a 72-ounce steak, here are two crucial reminders: one, portion control! A serving of beef is 3-4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. Second, make room for PLENTY of veggies. Whether you're heeding the advice of Mediterraneans; adhering to the DASH or BOLD diet; or simply following MyPlate, a variety of non-starchy vegetables is the cornerstone of any heart-healthy meal plan.
Though Vigo is known for its Rua da Ostras (an entire block of restaurants that solely serve the delicious mollusks) and annual pulpo (octopus) festival, this eggplant and beef dish remains my fondest morsel memory of the Galician port city. Serve it with a super-sized green salad, or Sicilan Citrus Salad for a change of culinary scenery. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!
Enjoy your beef! Enjoy your life!
Vigo-Style Berenjena con Carne Molida
AUTHOR: NICOLE RODRIGUEZ, RDN, NASM-CPT
1 pound eggplant, sliced lengthwise in quarters, skin intact
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, passed through Microplane
8 oz. can no-salt added tomato sauce
9 or 10 stuffed manzanilla olives, sliced
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground oregano
3/4 cup white rice, prepared according to package instructions
Fresh parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I use the convection setting). Pierce slices of eggplant all over with fork tines and brush with 1 T. olive oil, preferably using silicone brush. Place on lightly-oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping slices over halfway through. Eggplant should be lightly browned.
In the meantime, heat 1 T. olive oil in large frying pan. Add diced onion and stir until softened, about five minutes. Add beef, crumbling with spatula to combine with onion. When it begins to brown, add garlic, tomato sauce, and olives. Add paprika, cayenne, and ground oregano. Adjust according to preference, add pinch of salt if desired.
Place one slice of eggplant on each of four dishes. Top each slice equally with rice, then beef mixture.
Wipe out skillet (or use a clean one!) and heat remaining olive oil. Fry the eggs according to preference, but a bit of a runny yolk MAKES the dish. Top each plate with an egg and serve immediately, garnishing with parsley if desired.