Tag Archives: beef


Twenty-four years ago, I began writing a column that focused on recipes that were, on the whole, fairly inexpensive and generally interesting. The column lasted for almost thirteen years. A few of the recipes from back then have been updated and included on this blog, but I thought that, as we hunker down and “shelter in place” during the coronavirus scare, it might be a good time to trot out a few more of those recipes–because we hear daily that people are short on funds but long on free time, and that cooking is one of the things folks are doing more of.

Kansiyé is a dish from Guinea, West Africa. This is the first recipe I published back in 1996. After the “real” recipe, I’ve also included my vegetarian version of the dish–not because I’m a vegetarian but because I’m a writer, and going cheap has at times been a necessity. Worth noting, aside from being my first recipe in the column, it is the recipe that received the most positive feedback from people who made it, and for whom it became part of the regular rotation. So I think there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this.


1 pound beef or lamb, cut in 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 whole clove, ground
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
cooked rice

Brown meat in oil in 10-inch frying pan. Add onion, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley and clove. Combine tomato sauce and 1 cup water, add to meat mixture and stir well. Dilute peanut butter in remaining cup of water and add to mixture. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour, or until meat is tender. Serve hot over the cooked rice. Serves 4.

Variation: To make this recipe vegetarian, just substitute lentils for the meat. Eight to 10 ounces of lentils (dry) replace 1 pound of meat. Soak the lentils for an hour or so before using them in the recipe, and watch the stew while it’s cooking, adding water if the lentils soak up too much of the sauce. You can add a little bouillon or miso to the stew, if you feel you need to boost the beef flavor, but I find that the meaty taste of the lentils alone is enough.

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Florida Crackers

I had heard the term “Florida Cracker” before this trip, but had never heard it explained. The term comes from the early days of Florida settlement. When Spanish explorers in the early 1500s failed to find gold, silver, or the fountain of youth, they headed back to the well-established Spanish colonies in Mexico and South America, leaving behind all the livestock they’d brought with them, including large herds of cattle and many horses. The animals became feral and adapted to the Florida climate. When English settlers began arriving, about a century after the Spanish had left, they found the makings of a cattle industry just waiting for those resourceful enough to take advantage of the by now substantial, if wild, herds of livestock.

Some came on horseback, while others captured the wild horses abandoned by the Spanish. With nothing more than a horse and a whip with which to move the herds of cattle, these early settlers founded successful ranches. In time, they became known for the loud crack of their stock whips–hence, crackers.

The small, agile, wild horses they adopted were so indispensable to the success of the crackers that they became known as cracker horses, much as mounts in the American West would become known as cow ponies. They were the horses needed by those managing cattle.

However, this was long before the American West had even been explored, let alone settled. So the first American cowboys, horses, and cattle ranches were all Floridian. Even today, Florida is a major beef producer, and Florida Cracker culture lives on.

The culture lives on, but the traditional horses were eventually replaced by quarter horses. However, efforts have been made to preserve the bloodlines of the handsome, little Florida Cracker Horse. Here’s a video about their history and those efforts to keep them around.

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Warm Beef and Watercress Salad

The recipe below comes from Vietnam. Contrast and balance are important elements in most Asian cooking, and salads similar to this, which combine warm and cool elements in one dish, are common throughout Southeast Asia. Enjoy.

Warm Beef and Watercress Salad

3/4 lb. beef tenderloin, sirloin steak, or filet mignon
1 Tbs. green peppercorns, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stems lemon grass (white part only), very thinly sliced,
or 1 slightly rounded tsp. finely grated lemon rind
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. watercress (about 1-1/2 average bunches)
4 oz. cherry tomatoes
4 scallions, sliced
2 Tbs. lime juice Continue reading


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Larb Nua

The recipe below is for a Thai dish called larb nua. This is the first Thai dish I ever had, though it has now been a couple of decades since my brother first took me to the Thai Room on Western for my birthday—back when there were only a few Thai restaurants in Chicago. He ordered, as he was already familiar with the cuisine, and larb was our starter. I loved it, and still do. I have, since then, enjoyed it often, both at the growing number of Thai restaurants over here and during two trips to Thailand.

As is common in Asia, though this is called a salad, lettuce plays only a supporting role. This dish can also be made with ground chicken, in which case it is larb kai. Enjoy.

Larb Nua
(Spicy Thai Beef Salad/Appetizer)

1/4 cup uncooked white rice
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup lime juice*
2 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp. galangal powder
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
6–8 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tsp. crushed red pepper*
Lettuce (about 1 head iceberg or 3 heads butter lettuce)
Mint sprigs for garnish, if desired

In a small pan, cook the rice over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the rice is a nice golden brown, about 4 to 8 minutes. Grind the rice fine in a blender or coffee grinder, and set aside. (Alternatively, if you have a good Asian grocery store, you can just buy toasted ground rice. But this is so easy to make, I don’t bother, since I need so little for this recipe.) Continue reading

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I’m about to head to Japan for a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d leave you with a recipe I picked up during my first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I first had gyudon at a little donburi shop not far from the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto. Donburi means “rice bowl,” though the word has come to refer to a category of food served in these large, deep bowls. Rice is the base of every donburi, with a variety of hot toppings being ladled over the top. Beef was first used in donburi in the mid-1800s, when eating beef was no longer forbidden to the common people. Gyu donburi means “beef rice bowl,” but this is commonly shortened to simply gyudon. I love this dish.

There are a few exotic ingredients in this dish, but once you have everything on hand, it’s a breeze to make. Enjoy.

(Beef and Onion with Rice)
4 cups of hot, cooked white rice
1 pound thinly sliced beef
2 medium onions
1-1/3 cups dashi (see notes)
5 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
3 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. sake Continue reading

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