From Hollywood to local farmers’ markets, the organic food movement is flourishing—witness the recent growth of stores like Whole Foods and the introduction of entire organic food sections in supermarkets like Publix. And now there’s something else for organic aficionados—and chefs of all persuasions—to take note of: grass-fed beef.
Just a few hours from Sarasota, Al and Erin Rosas are raising grass-fed cattle on their 85-acre farm. Their beef is free of grain, animal by-products, hormones and antibiotics, explains Al, and it’s also low in fat and high in nutrients and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Those familiar with the rich, intense flavor insist there’s nothing like it.
Luckily for Sarasotans, that grass-fed beef recently became available at Longboat Key’s Pattigeorge’s restaurant. Always on the lookout for innovative, locally produced fare, chef/owner Tommy Klauber found the Rosas’ products through an Internet search. After a few business meetings and one trip to Sarasota to cook together, they realized they were kindred spirits. Now Klauber says his clients are embracing both the health benefits and the taste of the Rosas’ beef. "The people who get it, get it right away," he says.
Traveling from Sarasota to the Rosas’ farm in Citra, just outside Ocala, is a study in contrasts. Far from the city’s stylish resorts and high-rise condominiums, the Rosas’ rolling green farmland is the picture of pastoral bliss. As the sun rises—golden rays playing over lush green grass—the moos and hoofbeats of 80 cows rushing toward a white pickup truck filled with food grow louder and louder, light and landscape harmonizing. Paul, the Rosas Farms employee driving the truck and an authentic cowboy, beams from his place in the front seat.
A few minutes later, there is something else to beam about: One of the cows, Freckles, has given birth to a healthy young calf. In honor of the Rosas’ new connection to the city of Sarasota, she is named "Sara Sota" and is soon standing steadily on strong legs next to her mother. This is typical of the Rosas’ cows: They are a strapping, healthy group. The cattle are not confined to small pens for automated feedings; instead, they are allowed to roam freely, grazing where they please.
From their kitchen, which overlooks the acres of open fields, Al and Erin survey the scene. They’ve been up for hours, taking care of daily farm duties and preparing for an organic celebration with some family and friends, including Klauber and his wife, Jaymie.
Cooking is a labor of love in the Rosas’ household; as the day progresses, friends gather around the counter in the open kitchen, taste-testing each dish that Al and Tommy create, from gnudis ("naked ravioli") to lemon sabayon with pine nut crumbles and poached kumquats. A salad appears, complete with organic eggs, locally grown greens from a friend’s herb and produce farm, and edible pansies; and Erin uncorks bottles of wine and whips up a pitcher of non-alcoholic mojitos for the thirsty guests, who are greeted with hugs and hearty handshakes when they arrive.
But the centerpiece of the feast is the beef. While the two chefs keep a careful watch on the grill, making sure that each cut is perfectly browned and cooked, the aroma wafts through the kitchen and across the expansive back yard to the outdoor table, where guests have gathered and are eagerly awaiting their meal. Yellow and deep-blue dishes add a French provincial touch, complemented by the clear azure sky and a few cottony clouds. When the meat is served, the guests’ laughing and chattering tapers off; the only sound that can be heard is the clinking of forks against china and the cows’—including Sara Sota—happy moos in the background.
For more information on organics and Rosas Farms, see our Web-only story at www.sarasotamagazine.com.
Grass-fed New York strip steaks, cowboy steaks, braised short ribs and a standing rib roast
Organic egg salad with edible flowers
Fresh organic bread
ROSAS FARMS' GRASS-FED MEAT COOKING TIPS
Never overcook; always use tongs, not forks, to turn the meat. Bring beef to room temperature before cooking. Always pre-heat the oven or grill. Grass-fed beef is best served rare to medium rare; if well-done beef is preferred, it must be cooked at very low temperatures.
Since grass-fed beef is very low in fat, coat it with organic extra-virgin olive oil for flavor enhancement and easy browning. The Rosas recommend a mixture of sea salt, black pepper and organic extra-virgin olive oil.
When grilling, sear both sides of the beef and then finish cooking it in the oven until the beef reaches the desired temperature. The Rosas cook theirs at 145 degrees.
Always remove the beef from the heat source five degrees before the desired temperature, cover and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Resting the meat redistributes the juices for maximum flavor.
Chef Al’s Gnudis ("Naked Ravioli")
1 pound organic, grass-fed ricotta cheese
1 large organic egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup flour, plus ½ for bowl
2 diced shallots
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup organic chicken stock
Line a medium bowl with a few layers of paper towels and place ricotta on them to remove all liquid from the cheese, about 30 minutes. In a large bowl, mix egg, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Stir ricotta into the egg mixture. Sprinkle with ¾ cup flour and gently fold into cheese. Refrigerate for 60 minutes. Place ½ cup flour into another medium bowl. Take one teaspoon of the gnudi dough and roll into a round ball, like a meatball. Toss into flour and set onto a sheet pan. Repeat until all dough has been used. Form the balls into log shapes, almost like Tootsie Rolls. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes, remove from water and mix with sauce.
Heat butter until browned, but not burned. Add the shallots, basil, tomato paste and chicken stock. Reduce slightly. Sauce should be glossy and a little thick. Add the gnudis, toss and serve.
For the sabayon:
4 eggs and 4 egg yolks, cold
6 ounces organic butter, cut into slices at room temperature
1/2 cup organic, fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Florida organic sugar
In a large steel bowl, combine cold eggs and sugar and mix until smooth.
Bring about two inches of water to a boil in a pot large enough for the steel bowl to rest partially in, but not touch the water. Continuously stir the egg mixture until it thickens, slowly adding lemon juice a little at a time. Continue to whisk until thickened again, and repeat until lemon juice is used. Continue to whisk until thickened and add butter one piece at a time, retightening after each addition. Set sabayon aside and allow to cool.
For the pine nut crumbles:
2 cups (10 ounces) pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
3 cups all-purpose organic flour
8 ounces unsalted, room-temperature, organic, grass-fed butter
1 large organic egg
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
Place the pine nuts into a large sauté pan and toast, being careful not to scorch.
In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, combine all ingredients until they come together and form crumbles. Spread onto cookie sheets in one layer and toast until brown, approximately 12 minutes.
1 cup organic heavy cream
6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons organic honey
Whip cream until thick. Incorporate the mascarpone and the honey. Whip smooth and chill until served.
1 pint organic kumquats
1 cup Florida organic sugar
1 cup water
1 stalk organic lemongrass
Create simple syrup with water and sugar; simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Poach kumquats until tender, 7-10 minutes. Add lemongrass and strain.
To serve: Layer sabayon on top of pine nut crumbles. Top with mascarpone cream and poached kumquats.
Food and Setting:
Rosas Farms, Ocala, Fla.
Produce and herbs by Angela Redondo and Bobbie Lightfoot; baked goods provided by Café on the River, an Ocala-area bakery.
Guests: Al, Erin, Michael and Lola Rosas, Tommy and Jaymie Klauber, Djamel E. Ramoul, Angela Redondo, Libera Stoner
Styling by Sharron Fisher
Photography by Mary McCulley