Cooking Guide

How to Create a Beautiful, Sustainable Dinner Spread

The farm-to-table movement isn’t a new one. For thousands of years, it was often literally the only way to eat. The modern farm-to-table movement started back in 1971 when Alice Waters, an anti-corporate activist, opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. The idea behind her restaurant was to use only fresh, locally-sourced ingredients from nearby California farms, and Chez Panisse still operates under that principle 40 years later.

But you don’t have to be a restaurant owner to purchase more sustainable ingredients and ethically-raised meats. In fact, a survey by research firm Technomic recently confirmed that more than 60 percent of consumers would likely purchase locally-sourced foods and beverages if the option was available to them. And thanks to the Internet, it’s actually never been easier to find a variety of free range meat for sale online and some delicious recipes to go with it.

By supporting locally-based farmers with ethical meat and produce standards, you’re doing a favor to the environment, the economy, and your body. Want to put this info to good use with your own farm-to-table dinner party? We’ve put together some of our favorite recipes for cooking with ethically sourced meat, plus a few tips to help you prepare farm-to-table dinners with your new knowledge.

Cooking with Grass-Fed Meat

Grass-fed meat is rumored to be less tender than grain-fed meat, but the root of the issue could be how you’re cooking it. Since grass-fed steaks are lower in fat content, they have a tendency to dry out or overcook much faster than supermarket beef. Here’s how to prep your sustainable raised meat for prime flavor and maximum tenderness:

● Turn the Heat Down ​- Grass-fed meat cooks faster than grain-fed meat does. In order to keep flavor and moisture in, you should turn your grill or oven down a notch. If you’re roasting, the oven temperature should come down about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

● Preheat ​- A beautiful sear doesn’t just happen on its own. To get that gorgeous, even sear on your meat without overcooking, make sure your cooking surface is adequately preheated before you set the meat on it.

● Don’t Prod​ - Poking and prodding might be fine for grain-fed meat, but it takes precious moisture away from grass-fed meat. For the best, juiciest results, leave poking to an absolute minimum and flip your meat using tongs, not a fork or knife.

Keeping Your Table Sustainable

Making sustainable eating decisions can be as simple as choosing seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market and supporting local breweries and vineyards. And what’s more, a survey of 1,000 consumers actually found that 76 percent of participants preferred the overall quality of locally-sourced options over other food products.

In addition, seasonal veggies and other farm-to-table sides will provide some additional moisture and flavor to your locally-sourced meats. Not sure what seasonal sides to include with your grass fed meat recipes? Here are a few of the best options from each season:

● Winter ​- Root vegetables and dark, leafy greens are your best bets for winter. Things like brussell sprouts, beets, kale, leeks, potatoes, and winter squash are all excellent additions to any meal.

● Spring ​- If you’re into sweeter, more fragrant additions to your meal, spring produce is perfect for you. Some of the best pairing options for grass-fed meat include spinach, mushrooms, strawberries, apricots, and avocado.

● Summer ​- Summer is prime fruit season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any savory options. Produce items such as bell peppers, corn, green beans, okra, tomatoes, and zucchini make for excellent farm-to-table sides.

● Fall ​- This is when more root vegetables become available. You should be on the lookout for seasonal vegetables like butternut and acorn squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, parsnips, and carrots.

Sustainable Farm-to-Table Recipes to Impress

Pan-Seared Marinated Steak

When it comes to grass fed meat recipes, you can never go wrong with a steak. Whether you’re a grill master or a seasoned cast-iron vet, this steak recipe is guaranteed to satisfy, and without too much effort. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

For the marinade:

● ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice

● ⅓ cup soy sauce

● ½ cup olive oil

● ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

● 1 tsp. ground white pepper

● 2 cloves minced garlic

● 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

● 3 tbsp. dried basil leaves

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour your freshly blended marinade over your steaks and refrigerate for up to eight hours. Keep in mind: this is a marinade that is best left for a longer period of time, so you might want to complete prep work in the morning to have your meat ready by dinner.

Before you take your locally-sourced meat out of the refrigerator, make sure you have a cast iron skillet lightly greased in the oven, preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. After your meat has marinated for a few hours and has rested at room temperature for at least one hour, sear both sides of each steak in the preheated cast iron pan and then place into the oven for two minutes.

Once the steaks have finished cooking, let them rest for five minutes at room temperature and serve with a side of your choice! This is an excellent recipe to serve with potatoes or a bed of leafy greens.

BBQ Chicken and Coleslaw Sandwiches

If you’re a fan of summer cookouts, this is definitely a great recipe to try out with your locally-raised chicken. Completed with a delicious coleslaw, these chicken sandwiches will remind you of all the joys summer has to offer. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Coleslaw:

● 1 head cabbage, finely shredded

● 2 large carrots, finely shredded

● 1 tbsp. cider vinegar

● ¼ cup red onion, minced

● salt & pepper, to taste

For the Chicken:

● 3 or 4 cups locally-sourced chicken, cooked and shredded

● 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

● 6-8 locally baked buns

Begin by cooking and shredding your chicken either by hand or with two forks. Mix your BBQ sauce into the shredded chicken and set aside. Tip: if you want a smokier flavor to your chicken, consider grilling it before you shred instead of roasting.

After you’ve shredded your cabbage and carrots, combine them with the minced onion and vinegar. Give the mixture a good toss and then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even add a little bit of celery salt or chili powder for added flavor.

To finish, simply place a generous helping of your chicken mixture on a bun and top with your coleslaw.

Eating sustainably doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to be Alice Waters or Julia Childs to do it!

If you keep these simple tips -- and delicious recipes -- in your dinner playbook, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.