Shall I start with the disclaimer? Veal is one of those things that gets people, justifiably, riled up. It is cruel and unusual punishment and seemingly absolutely unnecessary. What crazed farmer (apparently the Dutch) thought it would be a good idea to keep a sweet little calf captive and corralled away from his mother, unable to move or even stretch his legs just to eat tender meat? Interestingly, the commercial meat you eat from the major (non-natural) grocery stores and fast-food outlets (but my readers don’t eat fast-food, right?) isn’t raised much differently. Those cows are wallowing in their own filth, crammed in with other cows unable to move or function. Only difference is that the baby calf is put out of its misery sooner than later.
I am of the (very strong) opinion that if you’re going to eat meat it should be meat that is natural and healthy. The cows should be free to roam pastures and live their lives as freely as possibly, eating what they eat naturally: grass. Purchasing free-range meat is not only good for the cows, but it is good for the environment. Want to know what sort of damage factory farming does to your planet? Watch Food, inc. It’s no exaggeration. Want another reason? Your health. Have you taken a look around at our beautiful country? Have you noticed the number of (very) young girls developing way before they’re due? One of the culprits is factory-farmed meat. You can’t ingest an animal jacked up on antibiotics, growth hormones, and who knows what other sort of toxins and not see a direct effect on your health. So if you have a problem with veal then you should have a problem with un-natural factory-farmed meat. If you don’t have a problem with veal, you should still have a problem with factory-farmed meat.
Yes, I occasionally rant. Do forgive me.
Ok, here’s the disclaimer: this veal is free-range. You read me right, Free-Range. There is a network of family farms in the States, freeraised.com, that raise their veal humanely and compassionately. Their calves spend their days roaming the pastures with their moms, drinking her milk and are never administered hormones or antibiotics. They are slaughtered at 24-28 weeks. Around the same time your average lamb is slaughtered. And, yeah, it’s delicious.
What better way to experiment with veal than in a peasant stew. Ironically, the ratatouille recipe is adapted out of one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean. Melissa Clark (who has a new book out, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, that I must pick up) put this gem together eleven years ago and the pages of my copy are stained with eleven years of cooking for friends and family. I think I still have a scar on my arm from when I put way too much Tomato Fennel Soup in the blender to puree leading to an explosion of very hot tomato soup all over my kitchen, and me. Thank goodness there was a little wine on board to ease the pain.
What you’ll need:
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes drained or 3 lbs fresh tomatos cored and diced
2 eggplants, cubed
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped fresh basil
In a large stockpot warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add all of the ingredients except for basil. Cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. Add the fresh basil and cooked meatballs (recipe bellow) and cook for five minutes longer.
What you’ll need
About 1lb ground veal (or other meat)
A few pinches fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 and oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Place veal, fennel, salt and pepper in a bowl, oil your hands with olive oil and mix. Roll meat into small bite sized meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss in stew.
Enjoy with the rest of the bottle of that dry red :)