Quality, quantity, context
That’s what I look at when I consider the effect of various foods on human health. Take the typical burger. It has several strikes against it. It’s usually made from low quality, factory farmed anonymous meat from confined cow’s fed a highly unnatural diet. Cows are not designed to eat grains and beans or to have growth hormones and antibiotics pumped through their bodies. Then there’s the quantity issue. Many restaurants burger portions provide more meat than many people need in a single serving. We need the nutrients that meat provides, but we don’t need the super-sized portions many establishments serve.
Then there’s the context. In my opinion most burgers are served without enough vegetables or fruits for health and with too many refined carbohydrates (e.g., white flour, processed potatoes, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup) and are cooked in refined, rancid, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, depriving your body of nutrients it needs and flooding it with substances that cause your cells to malfunction and become diseased.
You don’t have to throw out the burger with the bucket of fries and soda. Improve the quality, enjoy a modest quantity, and improve the context in which you serve it and you'll create meals that satisfy your taste buds and your nutritional needs.
Consider buying 100% grassfed meat, preferably from a local farmer. You'll reduce the risk of getting E-coli infected meat. The meat will contan less fat, fewer calories, and more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and cancer-protective CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Plus the meat will taste great and be more ecological!
Read more about the benefits of grassfed meat in The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook. If you live in Phoenix, AZ, contact A Bar H Farm for great grassfed beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. Tell Anya Chef Rachel sent you. Or get Fishhugger beef and wild Alaskan salmon from Kenny Aschbacher.
The next best thing is organically raised meat, but it’s not nearly as nutritious or as eco-friendly as 100% grassfed beef, bison, or lamb.
Next, make a colorful green salad, a bowl of coleslaw, a tray of blanched vegetables, or sautéed leafy greens to serve on the side. Instead of a bun and fries, consider baking or roasting a pan of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, carrots, or parsnips or simply serve a side of fresh raw or cooked fruit. If you absolutely must have a bun with your burger, try 100 percent sprouted whole grain buns, such as Ezekial brand, sold in natural foods stores if you tolerate wheat, then omit the roots or tubers. If you have a gluten intolerance, buy or make a gluten free bun or abandon the bun altogether.
Instead of soda, consider hot or iced herbal tea, depending upon the weather, and try sweetening it with liquid stevia.
Prep: 10 to 15 minutes/ Cooking: 8 to 12 minutes/ Yield: 4 servings
I like mixing in herbs and spices. It not only adds flavor, it also adds antioxidants the promote health and help ward off disease and it helps block the production of harmful compounds if you decide the grill the meat. I usually serve my burgers without buns. The more vegetables the merrier for me.
Note: If you’re cooking for two people consider cooking all 4 burgers at once. Leftovers make a convenient breakfast or lunch entrée the next day, heated briefly in a toaster oven. If you’re using meat that was not previously frozen, you can freeze the patties separated with parchment paper. You’ll probably want to make a double batch for this. Transfer frozen meat to refrigerator 24 to 36 hours ahead of time to allow time to thaw.
1 to 1 1/4 pounds 90 to 96 percent lean ground beef or bison, completely thawed
1 medium to large whole egg or 2 egg whites, optional
1/3 cup finely minced or grated red, yellow, or white onion or 4 minced green onions (scallions) or 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes mixed with 1 tablespoon of warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried, crumbled herbs or 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh:
basil, oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, or combination
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 small to medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt or 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce, optional
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut butter, clarified butter, or ghee
1. Tear the meat into pieces and place it in a medium bowl. Add everything but the oil. Whisk the eggs, herbs, spices, and other seasonings with a fork. Pour this over the meat and mix with clean bare hands to evenly distribute, being careful not to pack the meat tightly. Shape into 4 balls. Flatten to 3/4- to 1-inch thick with a fork or your fingertips. If desired, separate burgers on squares of unbleached parchment, and refrigerate for later use.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy, stainless steel or cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Cook burgers for about 6 to 8 minutes for rare, 8 to 12 minutes for medium-rare, turning once. You may cover the skillet after browning each side for 2 minutes. Alternatively, cook patties on a preheated gas or charcoal grill.
3. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers and use within 2 days.
1 serving beef: 162 calories, 25 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 5 g fat, 22 mg calcium, 52 mg sodium
1 serving bison: 179 calories, 33 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 3 g fat, 33 mg calcium, 67 mg sodium
* Buffalo Burger or Bison Burger: Replace the beef with grassfed buffalo (aka bison). Note: Grassfed buffalo will be lean. Grain-fed buffalo will be very fatty. Read labels.
* Garlic, Ginger & Scallion Burgers: Replace dried herbs and pepper with 2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated fresh ginger. Increase garlic to 2 cloves, and replace sea salt with tamari.
Source: The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook by Rachel Albert-Matesz & Don Matesz (Planetary Press) ©Copyright 2004