Food: Beef can be bitter-sweet

Special treatment for a classic cut of meat

Try a coffee-based dry rub on your next steak. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

By Tom Castrigno

SUMMIT COUNTY — As someone who does not eat beef often, I often cook it on the grill — cooking it indoors only seemed to result in a major cleaning project.

But I changed my rule when the thermometer read in the single digits and the wind whistled through the trees. This time around, for the sirloin steak in my refrigerator, I decided to use a dry rub, using some ground coffee as the base.

Kathy had brought home a piece of sirloin from Natural Grocers. All their beef is naturally raised using no steroids or antibiotics. It was tender and juicy. The grass fed beef may have less marbling than conventional beef, but it every bit as flavorful. Many studies also find grass-fed beef to have a better nutritional profile. Of course there are a number of other factors to consider too. Everything from environmental impacts to the well-being of the animal during it’s lifetime.

Beef falls into the flavor category of sweet according to Chinese medicine. Coffee is considered bitter. Together the form the classic flavor bitter-sweet. Adding chili powder gives a spicy element. A pinch of brown sugar enhances the sweet nature of the beef and helps the rub to caramelize and form a nice crust on the outside of the steak.

The recipe does call for a few other ingredients and a tasty rub can still be made using whichever ones you have on hand. Remember, cooking is one part recipe and four parts inspiration. Trust yourself. If you start with ingredients you like, are sure to include a balance of flavors, and put a little soul into it, the results will be satisfying every time.

To round out the meal, I added a salad of green and red leaf lettuce with red bell pepper, red onion, carrot, and tomato, working with whatever I found in the refrigerator.

Referring to Chinese medicine, a simple dressing of cider vinegar and olive oil seemed to be in order. The vinegar stimulates production of digestive acids in the stomach to help ensure good digestion of the beef. A side dish of steamed broccoli gave the plate additional balance of veggies and protein. From a food combining perspective, proteins and vegetables work well together. Some experts recommend Starches eating starches separately from proteins.

Using one skillet to cook the beef adds a small effort to cleaning up the meal. Covering the skillet with a paper towel helps cut down splattering on the stove and counter tops. I normally don’t think twice about running out to the grill while preparing a meal, but it was nice to stay in one place for a change.

Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at  You are invited to leave your questions or share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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