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Dr. John Salerno Headshot

What Ever Happened to the Venerable Hamburger?

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Most of us, in the U.S. of A., who grew up within the last fifty years, were fed vast quantities of hamburger meat as children. Hamburgers, meat balls, meat loaves, et al were so much a part of the American diet that entire cookbooks were written about this ingredient. I remember writing one of these books myself in the early eighties. In fact, it is fair to say that the Hamburger is America's contribution to the world culinary scene.

So why would we say you shouldn't eat hamburger, chopped meat, ground beef, or the other iterations this product is sold under. Without sounding too much like an old fogey, which I readily acknowledge that I am, hamburger is just not what it used to be.

Ordinary supermarket ground beef comes from only one of a few major sources, huge factories that process animals from across the country as well as foreign sources. The hamburger you buy at a fast food joint, or in frozen meatballs at the supermarket, or even fresh ground beef in the meat counter has many strikes against it.

First of all, the pound of meat you buy can have come from as many as 200 animals. Did anyone say accountability? What if a certain growing area, or packing plant was found to have an outbreak of mad cow disease? Could you be sure the hamburger you bought at the drive in window last night didn't come from that same source? You could not.

Secondly, the brilliant marketers in the meat business, wanting to use everything but the MOO, have scraped up every single thing off the cutting room floor, sprayed it with a sort of Clorox stuff to kill the potential pathogens, including e-coli and other nasty microbes, then whizzed it up into a faintly pink substance that they then reincorporate in with the actual meat.

So what you're getting is a meat-like substance, which is of questionable safety, and marginal value as far as its food value. And did I even mention that 100% of commercial grade cattle in this country were fed GMO corn in a feed lot to fatten them quicker. And most of those poor miserable beasts, standing knee deep in their own excrement, are also fed antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick, and hormones to hasten their trip to the killing floor.

So what can you do if you'd like a good hamburger now and again? There are several sensible answers. If you have a food processor, you can easily chop your own meat. It's no big deal. Buy a chuck roast and whack it up. Choose organic meat, or grass fed beef and you'll be glad you learned to make your own chopped meat, because while the flavor is flawless, this meat can be tough.

Secondly, absent your wish to become a butcher, find a reliable source for ground meat that didn't come from a couple hundred cows. In my home town, Maplewood, New Jersey, there's a new grocer that's an offshoot of a chichi Manhattan outfit called Eden Gourmet. While I never dreamed this venture would last more than six months, I am hooked on this store and now buy most of my comestibles there. They grind their own meat, from the carcass of one animal, which their butcher has examined and selected. The meat is flavorful, it is a rich ruby color, and it is food safe.

Now that I live in the land of the Italians, I've become quite discriminating about Meatballs. Some are as hard as hockey pucks. Others have so much filler in them they may as well be called meat-flavored balls. But a genuine, Italian style Meatball - a la Lidia Bastianich, is a wonder to behold. See www.cbsnews.com for a demo by Lidia for formation of a perfect meat ball.

Remember not to overwork it. You're not trying to make a snowball. You're just supposed to mix the creation lightly until it forms a ball.

Try these. I think you'll like them too.

Silver Cloud Meatballs
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1/3 cup grated parmigiana reggiano
½ cup finely minced fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs, whisked
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cracked pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and mix with your hands, squishing it all together.
Form into balls the size of golf balls and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet.
Cook meatballs over medium high heat, turning to cook evenly on all sides.
Pour out excess oil.
Add Tomato sauce of your choice.
Serve over low carb noodles or spaghetti squash.
Pass the Parmigiano.
Add more cracked pepper.
Yum.
for more than 75 low carb diet recipes see www.thesilverclouddiet.com

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