Full disclosure: this is a blog post in two parts. First, I lure you in with this recipe for these amazing ribs. Then “POW!”, I hit you with some truth about what’s wrong with the way we as a society eat and what we can do about it. Deal? Alright, let’s start with the ribs. My husband was still raving about them days later– they’re that good. Honestly. Subtly-sweet and balanced with just the right amount of salt. The ginger, garlic, and orange juice are key.
I happened to have some gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper powder) left from making homemade kimchi. It worked wonderfully in this dish, but don’t worry if you don’t have it– it will still be amazing without it. Oh, and don’t forget to buy your ribs from someone you can trust, because quality matters. These beauties came from Bar Five. Braising season is here, and you really should put these ribs high on your priority list of things to make.
Now for my sermon. I was on a run this summer listening to a podcast– because tricking myself into forgetting that I’m running by listening to something interesting is the only way I can tolerate it. I believe the podcast was the brilliantly-titled ‘Go Fork Yourself’ with Andrew Zimmern and Molly Mogren. The hosts were discussing the documentary ‘Fed Up‘– an excellent take-down of the Big Food industry. After hearing them chat, I had to see the film, which came out on DVD a few weeks back. Now I read a fair amount on food and health, so I was mostly aware of the threats that the large-scale processed-food industry pose. Even so, this film was eye-opening. As a passionate food blogger that cares about eating healthy food and really wants the best for not only my family, but yours too– I really think you need to see this documentary.
So, what is ‘Fed Up’ all about? Basically, it’s an investigation into why we as a society have become morbidly obese over the past few decades. It follows food fads, big corporations, nefarious political lobbying efforts, the costs to our health and healthcare system, and in the end provides an answer. The real reason we’ve become so overweight, why childhood diabetes has exploded, why for the first time children will have a lower life expectancy than their parents comes down to… sugar. Intrigued? You should be.
The industry would have you believe that we’ve become overweight because we’re lazy, or that they’re just offering more choices and it’s up to us to make healthy decisions. But that is a finely-crafted message backed by millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying payouts to politicians. It’s hard to make the right decision when there is so much misdirection. It’s hard to make the right choices when we subsidize sugar, rather than whole fruits and vegetables, making processed foods the the affordable option. The fact is, we’re addicted to sugar– in all of its confusingly-named forms. And that’s exactly how they want it. I was stunned to see how hard people try to make the right food choices– to eat healthy– but to be dead-wrong because of the flood of misinformation. The most heartbreaking part is watching how children suffer because they have no choice in the matter. The majority of public school lunch programs have been co-opted by corporations like Coca Cola and Pizza Hut, serving up nachos, soda, and sugary tomato paste (which the government counts as a vegetable).
Yes, I make homemade food from scratch because it tastes better, but I also do it so I know that my family is eating real, nourishing food. This is why I rarely buy food in packages– most of it is loaded with unnecessary sugar. And the key here is “unnecessary sugar.” I cook and bake with sugar. There’s a place for it in my kitchen. But at least I know just how much my family is taking in when we sit down to eat a meal. And yes, my kids still get to eat ice cream, and cookies, and candy. But it’s in moderation, and balanced by the fact that the majority of their calories come from real food– not the hidden sugar in a box of so-called “healthy” cereal. There. I’ve said my peace. Sometimes it’s good to get things off of one’s chest. I really do hope you watch this film, think about it, talk about, and share it with others. It’ll be difficult, but we can get a conversation going in this country and make things happen. Thanks for listening, friends.
The Recipe: Braised Korean Beef Short Ribs
3 pounds of grass-fed beef short ribs
1/4 cup chopped white onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice and zest from 1 orange
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon gochugaru (korean red chili pepper powder), optional
salt and pepper
toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions, for serving
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil a large Dutch oven. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper and then brown for a few minutes on each side, or until they become dark brown in color. You may want to brown the ribs in two batches, depending upon the size of your pan. Use more olive oil, as necessary.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, blend the onion, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice and zest, sesame oil, and gochugaru until smooth. Pour the liquid over the browned ribs, cover, and braise for about 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender and practically falling off of the bones. If after 2 hours, it doesn’t do that, braise a bit longer.
Feel free to spoon off some of the fat that will rise to the top before eating. Serve ribs with plenty of sauce, rice, toasted sesame seeds, and green onions. Enjoy!
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