For most of my life, the nutrient density of most foods I ate was pretty poor. And as I hope you know by now, my take on the paleo/primal/diet/lifestyle/etc is replacing nutrient poor foods with nutrient rich foods. So as part of my healing journey, I have been working to increase the nutrient density of the foods I eat. Part of that largely involves consuming more fat and accessing more fat-soluble vitamins. If you know me closely, I’ve probably already talked your ear off about it. If you don’t, you’ll be hearing more about it here very soon.
I recently read Chris Kresser’s book, Your Personal Paleo Code, and in it he sites this chart from Mat LaLonde ranking nutrient density of various foods. Taking fatty acids, amino acids, and essential vitamins and minerals into account, organ meats rank highest of all foods for nutrient density by volume (note: some data is missing but this conjecture can still be made fairly accurately since it wins by a landslide). Eating organ meats may seem a little foreign to you, it most definitely was for me. Despite having grandparents that loved menudo and threw who-knows-what in it (pretty sure I saw chicken feet one time). But once I got going with it, it wasn’t nearly as strange as it seemed.
I started with liver, since it seems to be the best of all the offal. I successfully made homemade desiccated liver capsules (a fairly smelly process but this tutorial helped) and take about 1 oz. worth of liver daily. Liver has a fully spectrum of B vitamins, plus iron in a highly bioavailable form. Within days I was sold. My energy is so much more consistent. I take them with lunch around 1 or 2 pm and I actually feel energized throughout the afternoon, no slump or power naps needed.
So venturing into organ meats further, I found some affordable cuts via US Wellness Meats (where we get most of our meat). That’s actually a perk of eating organ meats, or offal in general, is just how affordable they are compared to your normal cuts. First off: beef heart! It’s got the B’s just like liver plus thiamin, phosphorous, and even CoQ10 (mitochondrial cellular powerhouse). It’s one large muscle, just like other muscles (the normal cuts of meat) we are familiar with eating, but it’s lower in fat and can be a bit tough so marinades and low, slow heat are important here.
Like all organ meats, there can be a stronger taste from the meat so rather than hiding it in a dish with other meats like some recipes do (and rightly so!), I chose to make a one rich in deep spices. An overnight marinade softens this tough muscle and helps it to cook down tender and fairly mild in flavor. The husband didn’t even know he was eating beef heart, which I took as a major win.
Mediterranean Beef Heart Stew
1 beef heart, cubed (mine was about 1.5 lbs)
3 T. avocado oil
3 T. apple cider vinegar
sea salt & pepper, generous pinch of each
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, chopped
4(+) garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ c. white wine (can sub acv or rwv)
24 oz. tomato sauce
3 c. bone broth
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ lb. potatoes, sweet or white (optional)
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
6 oz. chopped kalamata olives
sea salt & pepper, to taste
To Garnish: high quality extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley
In a large ziploc bag, combine the chopped beef heart, avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and pepper. Remove as much air as possible, seal it, and turn it in your hands a few times to mix well. Place the bag in the fridge (in a deep dish, in case of leaks) overnight.
The next day…heat a large dutch oven or saucepan over medium high heat. Add the marinated beef heart chunks in batches, as to not crowd the pan. Brown on all sides and remove to a bowl as it cooks. Set the bowl of browned heart chunks aside.
Add a little avocado oil or beef tallow to the hot pan and add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic. Cook until the veggies are softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and white wine and scrape at any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce, bone broth, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cinnamon. Also add the brown beef heart back into the pot. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover and turn the heat to medium/medium-low and cook for 2 hours. Don’t touch it, just let it do it’s thing.
After 2 hours, remove the lid and add chopped potatoes, if using (starch potatoes will help thicken the stew). Either way, cook uncovered for 30 minutes to reduce and thicken the soup. Add the fresh mint, fresh oregano, lemon juice & zest, chopped kalamatas, and season with salt and pepper. Stir a couple of times and remove from the heat. Serve with EVOO, chopped parsley, and the Creamy Tzatziki, as desired.
1 c. coconut cream (from about 2 cans full-fat coconut milk)
2 Tbsp. high quality extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, zest & juice
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
sea salt & pepper, to taste
Stir all ingredients together and keep chilled until serving.