Simply put — I am a very happy carnivore. Life without beef would be… depressing.
Yes, I know the anti-meat cops have declared that one person’s steak is every person’s poison. But I believe beef can be part of a healthy diet. It’s high in protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc and other minerals. And when the right cuts are trimmed of any visible fat, beef can be nearly as lean as a boneless, skinless chicken breast.
To me, that makes beef a winner for a healthy diet.
The trick is to start with lean cuts, then trim any fat from them. And of these cuts, one of the leanest is the tenderloin. In my recipe for beef a la Romana, for example, a typical cut of beef would push this dish to 890 calories with 68 grams of fat. My version has just 300 calories and 13 grams of fat per serving.
The tenderloin is cooked quickly in a bit of olive oil. That speed helps preserve its tenderness. And the meat goes in the sauce for barely a minute to keep it medium rare. These steps ensure that the meat doesn’t overcook and dry out.
This recipe also includes two other healthy ingredients — kale and cannellini beans. Kale is the “new spinach.” Yes, I know it looks like a pile of weeds sitting in the produce department, but kale is a miracle green. I eat so much of it, I’m surprised my hair hasn’t turned green.
As for the beans, they add an extra dose of fiber and other nutrients. And I use the canned variety; they’re already cooked so you don’t have to figure in the soaking time.
And speaking of time, you can whip up this hearty, healthy recipe almost faster than it takes to read this article. Seriously, it takes just 25 minutes to get it on the table. You’ve probably waited longer than that for a pizza.
With its tender beef and intensely flavored sauce, filet of beef a la Romana is a dish that will make a healthy, memorable impact and leave you feeling satiated and energized. Oh, and did I mention I love beef?
— Remove the beef from the refrigerator for 10 minutes before you cook so it will come to room temperature. The beef will cook more evenly and more quickly this way.
FILET OF BEEF A LA ROMANA
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Four 4-ounce filets of lean beef tenderloin, trimmed of fat
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
5 cups curly-leaf kale (1 to 2 bunches), tough stems trimmed off and leaves chopped into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup no-salt canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fat-free, salt-free marinara sauce (such as Pomi)
1/2 ounce pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Use paper towels to dry the beef, then season both sides of each filet with salt and pepper.
In a large saute pan over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the filets and cook for about 2 minutes, or until they are well browned on the bottoms. Flip and cook another 2 minutes, or until well browned on the other side. Transfer the filets to a plate and cover to keep warm.
Lower the heat under the pan to medium. Add the garlic and saute for 20 to 30 seconds, or until it is golden brown. Add the pepper flakes and then the kale. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, or until the kale has started to wilt. Add the water, then cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until almost all the water is gone, about 4 minutes.
Uncover the pan and add the beans and marinara sauce. Cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce coats the kale. Add the filets back to the pan along with any collected juice on the plate. Cover and cook to desired doneness (2 to 3 minutes for medium-rare to medium).
Remove the beef and place one piece each on four plates. Add the cheese to the kale and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon onto the plates with the beef.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 300 calories; 13 g fat (4 g saturated); 85 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 3 g fiber; 302 mg sodium.
Rocco DiSpirito is author of the “Now Eat This!” and “Now Eat This! Diet” cookbooks.