Category Archives: Beef/steak

Neu5gc, Red Meat, and Human Disease: Part I

A number of people asked for comments on the most recent red meat scare, including Nicole, Ryan, and Mishkin on the blog, JT Olds on Twitter, and others on Facebook. You probably saw some of the headlines:

The article Nicole linked is a bit more scientifically inclined: “Possible Link Between Red Meat Consumption And Increased Cancer Risk Identified” (IFL Science). Here’s the press release version from UCSD: “Sugar Molecule Links Red Meat Consumption and Elevated Cancer Risk in Mice”. In the blogosphere, Stephan has summarized the issue in the context of a post on red meat and cancer.

The headlines are based on a paper [01] that reported that, in mice genetically altered to lack a sugar (Neu5gc) that humans also lack, feeding Neu5gc and injecting anti-Neu5gc antibodies generates inflammation which can promote the growth of cancers.

Significance of Neu5gc

The paper itself is a rather artificial scenario whose significance will be determined by future work. So analyzing this single paper would not be interesting. But I think it’s worthwhile to look into the broader idea that eating Neu5gc-bearing meats might be inflammatory or a source of autoimmunity.

In terms of PHD recommendations, this could affect the relative emphasis we place on different meats. If Neu5Gc is a true health risk, then we would want to emphasize seafood more and red meat less.

Another benefit to thinking about Neu5gc is that it may give us some insight into what a PHD “autoimmune protocol” should look like.

Background: Evolutionary History of Neu5gc

All cells in multicellular organisms are coated in carbohydrates, and the carbohydrates terminate in one of 43 sialic acids. In mammals, two forms of predominate: Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc. Each mammalian cell has tens or hundreds of millions of molecules of Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc on its surface. [02]

Neu5Gc is made from Neu5Ac, but the gene for making Neu5Gc was inactivated in the human lineage shortly before the emergence of Homo. The mutation occurred 3.2 million years ago and reached fixation – that is, all ancestral hominids had come to have the mutated gene – 2.9 million years ago. [03] This very rapid fixation indicates there was strong selection in support of the mutation.

In fact, this mutation by itself may have led to a speciation event, after which our ancestors could no longer mate with other apes. From that point on, Neu5gc-less females had difficulty producing children with males who retained the Neu5gc gene, because they would form antibodies against Neu5gc-coated sperm, making fertilization unlikely. [04]

Why was losing Neu5gc selected in our ancestors? Two possibilities are likely:

  • Loss of Neu5gc improved brain function.
  • Loss of Neu5gc (temporarily) reduced vulnerability to (ancestral) pathogens.

It should be noted that Neu5Gc has been lost independently in some other mammals as well – ferrets and new world monkeys. New world monkeys such as capuchins and spider monkeys also experienced a brain expansion, and ferrets are notably smart, so either explanation might be relevant to these cases of “convergent evolution.”

Neu5gc and Brain Function

Carbohydrates are extremely important for intercellular interactions. Indeed, the incorporation of carbohydrates into cell membranes and extracellular matrix is what made possible the rise of multicellular life.

In no organ are intercellular interactions as complex or consequential as in the brain. Not surprisingly, then, carbohydrates including the sialic acids are important to brain function.

The human brain is extraordinarly rich in sialic acids: neural membranes have 20 times more sialic acids than membranes of other human cell types. Animal brains are also enriched in sialic acids relative to their other tissues, but not as much as in humans; the human brain has 2-4 times more sialic acids the brains of other mammals. [05]

Curiously, though, Neu5gc is rare in the brains of all animals. Neu5gc is strongly suppressed, by about 98%, in the brains of all vertebrates, suggesting that its presence inhibits brain function. [06] It appears that Neu5gc is somehow toxic to brain function.

Loss of the gene for Neu5gc completely eliminated Neu5gc from the hominid brain. If Neu5gc does impair brain function, mutational inactivation of Neu5gc would have improved brain function. If so, the mutational inactivation of Neu5gc could have been driven by the same evolutionary forces that, soon after, selected for the tremendous expansion of the hominid brain.

Incidentally, dietary sialic acids — except for Neu5Gc – appear to be nutritious for humans, and especially for the developing infant brain. Breast milk is exceptionally rich in sialic acids, almost all of it Neu5Ac. Formula, by contrast, has much lower levels of sialic acids (0.21 mmol/L compared to 3.72 mmol/L in breast milk). Breast fed infants have nearly twice as many sialic acids in saliva than formula fed infants, confirming that milk sialic acids are taken up by the body and utilized.

Animal studies show that sialic acids in breast milk nourish the brain. Sialic acids facilitate neurotransmission between neurons. When piglet milk is supplemented with sialic acids, brain sialic acid levels are increased, and the piglets learn faster and make fewer mistakes in maze tests. [05] Rodents also perform better on tests of learning and memory after sialic acid supplementation. [07]

Not only does formula have fewer sialic acids than breast milk, cow milk based formulas have some Neu5Gc. [05] It has been observed that formula-fed infants have lower IQs than breast-fed infants. Sialic acids might help explain that. The lack of nourishing Neu5Ac and the presence of toxic Neu5Gc in formula might lastingly impair brain function in formula-fed infants.

Neu5Gc and Infection Risk

As the outermost molecules in the carbohydrate coat surrounding cells, sialic acids are the first contact point for pathogens seeking entry to the cell, and for immune cells seeking to detect whether the cell is native or foreign.

There has been a “Red Queen” evolutionary arms race in which pathogens evolved ways to utilize sialic acids for cell entry, or to hide from the immune system; and animals evolved changes to their sialic acids to frustrate the pathogens. [08]

Many pathogens interact with sialic acids in order to adhere to and gain entry into the cell. Pathogens generally rely on a single specific endocytic route for cell entry. This often requires binding to a specific sialic acid as the initial point of attachment.

Pathogens that specifically utilize Neu5Gc to enter cells include canine and feline parvoviruses [09]; pathogens that specifically utilize Neu5Ac include adeno-associated viruses and the minute virus of mice (MVM) [10].

A human pathogen that uses sialic acids to enter cells is the malaria protozoan. Plasmodium falciparum causes severe disease in humans and enters cells via Neu5Ac; Plasmodium reichenowi causes milder disease in chimpanzees and gorillas and enters cells via Neu5Gc. Plasmodium falciparum appears to have evolved recently – possibly reaching its current form only 10,000 years ago when the rise of agriculture and animal husbandry brought humans and mosquitos into closer proximity – while Plasmodium reichenowi is thought to resemble the ancestral form that would have afflicted hominids and apes 3.5 million years ago.

Possibly, the gene for Neu5Gc was inactivated to protect ancestral hominids from malaria. With the loss of Neu5Gc, hominids would have become immune to P. reichenowi. [11] [12]

Unfortunately, after P. falciparum’s adaptation to Neu5Ac which is overabundant in humans, we now suffer from more severe malaria than chimpanzees or gorillas (the “malignant malaria” mystery). [13]

In addition to entry points for microbes, sialic acids can be entry points for microbial toxins. For example, Shiga toxin from shigatoxigenic E. coli binds to Neu5Gc. [14]

Sialic Acid Concealment and the Gut Microbiome

The immune system is sensitive to the composition of the carbohydrate coat on a cell. White blood cells have a number of sialic acid detectors on their surfaces (called Siglecs, for sialic acid Ig-superfamily lectins). Some, which bind to human sialic acids, inhibit immune responses. Others, which bind to non-human sialic acids, activate immune responses.

Thus, when white blood cells contact a cell bearing human sialic acids, the immune system interprets it as “self” and tamps down immunity. When it detects foreign sialic acids, the immune system treats the cell as “foreign” and is more likely to attack it.

Some microbes – including commensal gut microbes – have been living in humans long enough that they have learned to take up sialic acids, chiefly Neu5Ac, and incorporate them into lipopolysaccharides on their cell membranes. This suppresses immunity toward them. [15]

A number of human pathogens have learned the same trick. Pathogens that incorporate sialic Neu5Ac into their cell membranes for the purpose of mimicking human cells and evading human immune defenses include Escherichia coli K1, Haemophilus influenzae, Pasteurella multocida, Neisseria spp., Campylobacter jejuni and Streptococcus agalactiae. [16]

Due to this “molecular mimickry” of human molecules, it has been suggested that these bacteria – especially Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria spp. – may be sources of autoimmunity. [17]

While some bacteria can synthesize sialic acids themselves, most obtain it from their environment. These bacteria release enzymes called sialidases to cleave the sialic acids from food in the digestive tract, from surrounding cells, or from mucus. [15] Bacteria can obtain Neu5Ac from human tissue and mucus as well as food, but Neu5Gc only from food, chiefly beef and pork.

Neu5Gc in Human Tissue

Although humans can no longer synthesize Neu5Gc, we still have all the cellular machinery for utilizing it. When dietary Neu5Gc is absorbed into the body and enters cells, it can be incorporated into glycoproteins bound for the cell surface glycocalyx, just as Neu5Ac is.

As a result, Neu5Gc of dietary origin appears at low levels on the surface of human cells.

Neu5gc is found at high levels in all mammals except humans, ferrets, and new world monkeys; birds and reptiles do not produce Neu5Gc at all, and fish and shellfish produce only low levels. So, of the four major meat groups – beef, pork, chicken, and fish – Neu5gc is obtained predominantly from the red meats, beef and pork.

Among human cells, Neu5Gc appears at highest levels on tumor cells, especially metastatic cells. [21] This makes Neu5Gc a potential target for cancer therapy.

Neu5Gc as an Immunogen

Neu5gc expressed on cell walls is a potential immunogen. When pig organs are transplanted to humans, Neu5Gc is the second most important cause of rejection, after the α1,3-galactose (αGal) epitope. [20]

Anti-Neu5gc antibodies have been found in 85% of humans. [18] It is thought that antibodies form in early childhood after dietary Neu5Gc is incorporated by certain gut bacteria into lipooligosaccharides that can generate antibodies. Some of these antibodies may cross-react with compounds human cells form from dietary Neu5Gc; these human molecules are then known as “xeno-autoantigens.” [21]


Neu5Gc from mammalian meats, such as beef and pork, is incorporated into the cell surface coats and walls of gut microbes and some human cells, mainly in the gut and in tumors. Neu5gc in bacterial walls is immunogenic and 85% of people have detectable antibodies to Neu5Gc. Eating beef and pork supplies antigens for these antibodies, potentially triggering inflammation. There are concerns that this inflammation may have negative health effects.

Next up: Neu5Gc and autoimmunity.

Note: May Perfect Health Retreat

Interested in a luxury vacation combined with an education in how to be healthy for the rest of your life? Science classes, cooking classes, movement and relaxation classes, personal health coaching, gourmet food, all on a magnificent beach, with hot tubs and salt water pools? Come to the Perfect Health Retreat! Spaces are currently 2/3 filled and the retreat is expected to sell out early. Visit here for more info or email me at



[01] Samraj AN et al. A red meat-derived glycan promotes inflammation and cancer progression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 29. pii: 201417508. [Epub ahead of print].

[02] Kraemer PM. Sialic acid of mammalian cell lines. J Cell Physiol. 1966 Feb;67(1):23-34. Was 21

[03] Hayakawa T, Aki I, Varki A, Satta Y, Takahata N. Fixation of the human-specific CMP-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase pseudogene and implications of haplotype diversity for human evolution. Genetics. 2006 Feb;172(2):1139-46. Full text: Was 22

[04] Ghaderi D et al. Sexual selection by female immunity against paternal antigens can fix loss of function alleles. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Oct 25;108(43):17743-8. was 2

[05] Wang B. Molecular mechanism underlying sialic acid as an essential nutrient for brain development and cognition. Adv Nutr. 2012 May 1;3(3):465S-72S. Full text: Was 31

[06] Davies LR, Varki A. Why Is N-Glycolylneuraminic Acid Rare in the Vertebrate Brain? Top Curr Chem. 2013 Mar 8. [Epub ahead of print] was 8

[07] Wang B. Sialic acid is an essential nutrient for brain development and cognition. Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:177-222. was 32

[08] Varki A. Colloquium paper: uniquely human evolution of sialic acid genetics and biology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 May 11;107 Suppl 2:8939-46. was 51

[09] Löfling J et al. Canine and feline parvoviruses preferentially recognize the non-human cell surface sialic acid N-glycolylneuraminic acid. Virology. 2013 May 25;440(1):89-96. was 54

[10] Wu Z et al. Alpha2,3 and alpha2,6 N-linked sialic acids facilitate efficient binding and transduction by adeno-associated virus types 1 and 6. J Virol. 2006 Sep;80(18):9093-103. was 55

[11] Varki A, Gagneux P. Human-specific evolution of sialic acid targets: explaining the malignant malaria mystery? Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 1;106(35):14739-40. was 57

[12] Martin MJ et al. Evolution of human-chimpanzee differences in malaria susceptibility: relationship to human genetic loss of N-glycolylneuraminic acid. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Sep 6;102(36):12819-24. was 58

[13] Rich SM et al. The origin of malignant malaria. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 1;106(35):14902-7.

[14] Byres E et al. Incorporation of a non-human glycan mediates human susceptibility to a bacterial toxin. Nature. 2008 Dec 4;456(7222):648-52.

[15] Varki A, Gagneux P. Multifarious roles of sialic acids in immunity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Apr;1253:16-36. Full text:

[16] Severi E, Hood DW, Thomas GH. Sialic acid utilization by bacterial pathogens. Microbiology. 2007 Sep;153(Pt 9):2817-22. Full text:

[17] Harvey HA, Swords WE, Apicella MA. The mimicry of human glycolipids and glycosphingolipids by the lipooligosaccharides of pathogenic neisseria and haemophilus. J Autoimmun. 2001 May;16(3):257-62.

[18] Zhu A, Hurst R. Anti-N-glycolylneuraminic acid antibodies identified in healthy human serum. Xenotransplantation. 2002 Nov;9(6):376-81.

[19] Takahashi T et al. N-glycolylneuraminic acid on human epithelial cells prevents entry of influenza A viruses that possess N-glycolylneuraminic acid binding ability. J Virol. 2014 Aug;88(15):8445-56.

[20] Park JY et al. α1,3-galactosyltransferase deficiency in germ-free miniature pigs increases N-glycolylneuraminic acids as the xenoantigenic determinant in pig-human xenotransplantation. Cell Reprogram. 2012 Aug;14(4):353-63.

[21] Samraj AN, Läubli H, Varki N, Varki A. Involvement of a non-human sialic Acid in human cancer. Front Oncol. 2014 Feb 19;4:33.

Hilary Finch Hutler on How PHD Simplifies Cooking: Four Beef Variations

Some terrific chefs and food bloggers have adopted the Perfect Health Diet. Our Recipes page lists a few of the best. One of them is Portland, Oregon chef Hilary Finch Hutler whose TummyRumblr is a go-to food blog for us. We asked Hilary if she had anything she’d like to share with PHD readers. She said she’d like to explain how PHD has simplified her home cooking. Here’s Hilary!

When I started following the Perfect Health Diet a year ago, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with preparing meals which seemed to be more demanding of my time. Learning to cook new cuts of meat as well as organ meats and more than doubling my seafood and shellfish consumption felt like a lot to take on. But I knew that I was experiencing inflammation-based health problems, and I knew that getting control of them would be valuable for my long-term health, and so I dove in.

Today, with a year of experience under my belt, I’ve found that by following the diet at around 80% compliance, I have gained control of my food and caffeine cravings, I’ve eliminated the horrendous cramps that accompanied my periods for over ten years, and I’ve dramatically reduced my knee pain, frequent bloating, and subsequent low moods. And all of this has been achieved by spending less time cooking (and less time thinking about cooking) than I spent before beginning the diet.

So how exactly has PHD simplified my cooking? Simply put, it’s because PHD is truly a back-to-basics diet. Firstly, the diet allows me to freely eat eggs and fattier cuts of meat or seafood every day. Not only are all of these things easy to cook, they are incredibly satiating, so there’s no feeling snacky or grumpy or any of those other “not quite satisfied” feelings that come with a Standard American Diet or a reduced fat diet.

Many of the foods I now regularly consume on PHD are foods that I limited or avoided for years for fear they would negatively affect my cholesterol or cause me to gain weight. Now that I’m eating these foods on a daily or weekly basis and have only seen improvements in my health, I feel happy and satisfied. I no longer feel the learned guilt that I previously associated with eating “too many eggs” in a week, or when choosing the steak instead of the chicken, or when enjoying heavy cream in my coffee or tea. I see PHD as an eating template, and I know that each day I’ll consume 2-3 eggs, some fermented vegetables or full-fat yogurt, some fatty meat or seafood, a few servings of “safe starch”, and as many colorful vegetables as I can.

Breakfast is a breeze now that eggs are on the daily menu, and lunch is usually either leftovers, canned fish with rice and kimchi, or a simple soup made using bone broth (I make a large pot of bone broth once every 2-3 weeks). For dinner each week I use the PHD diet template as a guide. Seafood at least twice a week is always my goal, and I choose nutrient-rich salmon, black cod, mussels, clams, or oysters. Fatty red meat is 3 – 4 times per week. I enjoy both beef and lamb nearly every week and pork or poultry somewhat more limitedly.

Generally, the fattier cuts of meat recommended on the diet are best cooked by braising or roasting, and these techniques happen to lend themselves particularly well to large-batch cooking and freezing. Every Sunday I braise or roast five pounds of meat, which I freeze in roughly 16 oz. portions for my husband and myself. By making this a ritual, I now have several portions of different types of meat at the ready for simple dinners, and I find that each portion of meat yields plenty of leftovers for a lunch for the two of us.

By learning these large-batch techniques for meat, you’ll find that you can create multiple, unique meals from one simple base recipe. Here, I’ll walk you through the process of a basic pot roast, and then offer up three non-repetitive options using the resulting tender meat to use down the road. I hope you’ll try it!

Basic Pot Roast

  • One 5 pound boneless chuck roast
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. ghee or other fat for browning
  • 2 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 5 – 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 C. water, broth, wine, or a mix (I used 1 C. dry white wine and 2 C. water)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large dutch oven or other pan large enough to hold the roast over medium heat (you will need a lid). Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper on all surfaces. Add the ghee to the hot pan and allow to melt.  Place the roast into the hot pan and allow to brown lightly, undisturbed, for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the roast over and brown on the second side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

To the same pan, add the onions and the sliced garlic and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes until softened and starting to brown lightly. Next, add the tomato paste and stir until well combined with the onions. Lastly, return the roast to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate and pour over the three cups liquid. The liquid should cover the roast about halfway (add more if necessary).

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot and transfer to the 300 degree oven for 3½ to 4 hours. Check the roast once an hour to be sure the liquid is bubbling moderately (if it’s simmering so hard it splatters you, it’s too hot – if it’s just occasionally bubbling, it’s too cool). Alter your oven temperature by 25 degrees either way to achieve a moderate bubble.

When the meat is done, remove it from the oven, uncover and allow to cool slightly.  In the meantime, you can prep the ingredients for recipe number one below.

Once the dish has cooled slightly, divide the meat into 4 about-equal portions. Place three in the fridge to cool, spooning a few tablespoons of sauce over each so that they stay moist.  Leave the remaining sauce in the pan and set the last portion of beef aside for the following recipe:

NOTE: All of the following recipes made 4 servings – two larger dinner portions and two slightly smaller lunch portions.

Variation #1: Italian Pot Roast with Braised Cabbage and Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 pound of your favorite roasting potatoes, cut into similarly-sized chunks
  • ¼ cup olive oil or other melted fat of your choice
  • Salt and pepper

Increase the oven temperature to 325ºF. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with the oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until soft, about 50 minutes.

  • 1 pound pot roast PLUS remaining sauce (see above)
  • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
  • ½ large head of savoy cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • Salt and pepper

Add the vinegar, rosemary, and cabbage to the remaining sauce and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir to combine, cover, and cook for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is very soft. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and lower the heat if necessary.

When the cabbage has cooked down, season to taste with S & P. Break your pound of pot roast into 5 or 6 nice chunks and return to the pot.  Stir, cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes more until the meat is thoroughly warmed through.

Serve the braised beef and cabbage with the roasted potatoes.

Variation #2: Braised Beef Tacos with Fried Plantains

  • 1 pound pot roast (see above), defrosted if necessary
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder

For serving:

  • 8 – 10 lettuce leaves, salsa, grated cheese and/or sour cream

Warm the meat and spices, covered, over medium-low heat until simmering. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Once hot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and keep covered while you fry your plantains.

For the plantains:

  • 1 green or yellow-green plantain per person
  • coconut oil for frying
  • salt

Peel the plantains by cutting off the ends and running a paring knife down the ridges in the peel just to the depth of the plantain (I think slicing it in three places is ideal). Start at one end and gently pull the peel away from the plantain in segments to expose it. Use your paring knife to remove any bits of peel that remain attached to the plantain.

Heat the coconut oil in a wide saute pan over medium heat. Be sure when the oil melts there is enough to coat the bottom of your pan to a depth of at least ¼ inch. Slice the plantains into approximately 1/3 inch slices at a 45 degree angle so that the resulting pieces are oval in shape. Once the oil is hot, place a single layer of plantain slices into the pan and allow them to cook, undisturbed, for 4 – 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn the pieces over (I find a fork works best) and continue to cook until browned on the second side. Transfer to a plate or bowl and immediately season with salt. Continue until all of your plantain sliced have been fried.

Assemble to tacos in the lettuce leaves and serve the plantains alongside. I love these fried plantains dipped a vinegar-y hot sauce like Tapatio. Add a simple salad of sliced tomatoes, red onions, and avocado to make a complete meal.

Variation #3: Beef Fried Rice with Kimchi

  • 1 pound pot roast (see above)
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 4 cups cooked and cooled rice
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce (or more if you like!)
  • your favorite kimchi
  • pea shoots (optional)

Break your pot roast into 3 or 4 large chunks and place into a large wok or wide sauté pan over medium heat.  Allow to cook, turning occasionally, until the liquid and fat has melted out and the meat is very warm.  Remove the meat from the pan and add the coconut oil to the pan. While the coconut oil melts, quickly chop the beef into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Sauté or stir-fry the red pepper, scallions, ginger, and garlic in the coconut oil and beef fat until very soft, about 2 minutes. Add the rice to the pan and sauté or stir-fry for several more minutes or until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the rice is hot. Return the beef chunks to the pan along with the fish sauce and kimchi and cook until just heated through.

I love this dish served with a handful of fresh pea shoots piled on top.

Roast Beef, Beets, and Potatoes

Happy Easter everyone! It’s a day for feasting and celebration, and so we’ll offer a complete meal that is easy to make but delicious.

But first, some music to enjoy while cooking. Bach’s “St Matthew Passion”:

Roast Beef

Get a suitable large cut of beef. Fattier is better; prime rib is the fattiest, but here we used a 4-5 pound (2-2.3 kg) sirloin.

Because beef is not fatty enough for us, we made a glaze from butter and Italian seasonings. Melt a stick (8 tbsp) of butter and combine it with 2 tbsp dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the glaze on the beef until all sides are covered. Then, place the beef in a ceramic pot, fatty side up, on a bed of either fibrous vegetables (such as celery and carrots) or wooden sticks to elevate it:

We elevate the beef because we’re going to add water to the pot to keep the drippings from burning. At the end, we’ll re-use the drippings to make a sauce. If we didn’t elevate the beef, the bottom part of the roast would be boiled rather than roasted.

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C), and put the beef in the oven with a layer of water in the bottom of the pot. After ten minutes reduce the heat to 300 F (150 C) and cook for 20 minutes per pound if you like medium rare beef and 23 to 25 minutes per pound if you like medium beef.

It will come out looking something like this:

Move the roast to a serving plate:

Cut some vegetables for the sauce. We used tomatoes, garlic, onion, and scallion:

Add the garlic, onion, scallion to the drippings and stir fry them on the stove for 5 minutes:

Then add the tomatoes and cook just a bit longer:

This sauce is ready to be spread over the beef.

Baked Potatoes and Roast Beets

We had space in the oven so we cooked potatoes and beets along with the beef.

The potatoes were wrapped in aluminum foil and baked individually:

The beets take a bit more preparation. We peel and dice them before cooking.

Peel the beets just as you would a potato or carrot, removing the skin. Once the skin is removed, the beet flesh will stain your hands; so we put a sheet of plastic wrap between our hand the beet during peeling.

Then dice the beets and put them in a ceramic pot for roasting:

Beets deserve a sauce, just like the beef. Ours used olive oil, garlic, butter, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and dried herbs:

Mix the sauce ingredients apart from the butter in a mixing bowl, then add the butter and sauce to the beets:

Cover the beets in aluminum foil and put them in the oven at 300 F (150 C) along with the beef and potatoes. At this oven temperature the beets and potatoes need about 30 to 45 minutes to cook.

When the beets are done they look like this:


The complete meal looks like this:

Roast beef, baked potato with sour cream, and roast beets. Plus an abundance of leftovers!

We wish you a joyful and blessed Easter!


Our American food series continues with meatballs. Meatballs can be eaten by themselves, or in other dishes like spaghetti. They are convenient lunch foods; they travel in plastic containers well and can even be eaten with fingers.

Simple Meatballs

Start with 1 lb 80% ground beef, 1/8 cup potato starch (1/4 cup for a tougher, sturdier meatball), 1 egg, and minced garlic:

Mix thoroughly with spices to taste – salt, pepper, and cilantro, dill, or other green herbs:

Roll the mixed ingredients into small balls. A pound of beef makes about 30 meatballs:

In a saucepan, place slices of ginger root in enough water to cover the meatballs, and bring it to a boil:

Add meatballs to the boiling water and cook until cooked through (typically 8 to 10 minutes):

Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and let them drip dry.

When the meatballs are done, you can cook vegetables in the leftover meatball water. Here is watercress:

Strain the water and add olive oil and spices:

Pearl meatballs

Pearl meatballs are popular in China, and often found in dim sum restaurants. The “pearls” are grains of rice.

Preparation methods are as before, but also begin with a half cup of uncooked sticky rice or Japanese short-grain rice:

Soak the rice in water for 10 minutes before using.

Also, add 1 teaspoon soy sauce to the ingredient list, and triple the amount of pepper.

Traditionally the meatballs are rolled in the rice so that rice is found on the surface of the uncooked meatball, but you can also mix rice into the body of the meatball:

Both ways work, and taste similar.

We steam the pearl meatballs on a bed of shredded cabbage for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes we turn the heat off but keep the lid on and let them continue steaming for another 5 minutes.

After cooking is done don’t quickly remove the lid; let them steam and drip-dry for another 5 minutes.

Then transfer them to a serving plate:


You can use meatballs in a host of recipes. You may have noticed we included meatballs in our Bi Bim Bap (Oct 16, 2011). It’s handy to keep some around in the refrigerator for an occasional beefy snack.