You might not know this about me, but I get pretty excited about organic, grass-fed meat. Yes, it’s true: I danced quite the happy jig when the folks from America’s Farmstand sent me a beef sampler from Englebert Farms.

While I never got around to writing a One Simple Change blog post about meat, there is actually a chapter in my book about why you might want to reconsider it if meat is something you never eat. There are compelling reasons not to eat industrial meat, of course (like ingesting residues from antibiotics and hormones, as well as genetically modified crops and pesticides that are in the animals’ feed, plus the meat of grain-fed animals has a poor fatty acid profile), but that’s not the meat I am recommending you include in your diet…meat that is raised humanely on grass/pasture is very different from it’s factory-farmed, grain-fed counterpart.

Grass-fed meat is very nutrient-dense: it’s a great source of protein, iron, B-vitamins (including B12: a nutrient that’s vital to the nervous system and is only found in animal foods), selenium, and zinc. It’s also a source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid with potentially anti-cancer and weight reducing properties). As for the saturated fat in meat that many people fear: it’s important to understand that like cholesterol, saturated fat isn’t all bad. Saturated fats are important for the structure of all cells in the body and they boost the immune system. Saturated fats are also necessary in the diet for proper absorption of minerals such as calcium and for optimal storage and assimilation of the unsaturated omega-3s (ie omega-3 fatty acids are even more effective when they are combined in the diet with some saturated fats). Need other reason to choose organic, grass-fed meat? The farmers who are raising their animals traditionally and sustainably deserve and need our support to keep on doing what they’re doing.

I spent a long time as a vegetarian when I was younger but I feel much healthier when I am eating some meat. For this reason, why I am truly grateful for local farms where I can source high quality meat, and to America’s Farmstand for sending me the meat that I used in this recipe.

Not everyone requires meat in their diet, but you might want to add some to yours if you don’t eat any and you are not enjoying optimal health. Always remember to choose grass-fed meat! That said, this salad is delicious without the chorizo, too.

This salad was inspired by one in the brand new, unbelievably gorgeous cookbook What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces by Katie Quinn Davies. I am having a lot of fun with this book: I bought it because I am a huge fan of Katie’s food photography, but I’ve made a number of the recipes and they’ve all been REALLY great. The chorizo salad in the book includes white potatoes and sundried tomatoes. I had neither so used the sweet potatoes and sea salted Marcona almonds (that I found at Trader Joe’s), instead.

Recipe for Chorizo, Sweet Potato, and Manchego Salad with Marcona Almonds

Yield: serves 1-2

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

This salad is easy to make, but it's complex in flavor. It's bitter, spicy, sweet, crunchy, and salty all at once, and the lemony dressing is like a burst of sunshine on a winter day. I keep cooked sweet potatoes on hand pretty much all the time. To prepare them, I poke them all over with a fork, wrap them in foil, and bake a few whenever I have the oven on for another reason. In a pinch, though, you can cook a sweet potato in the microwave.

Ingredients:

*2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
*1/2 cup thinly sliced grass-fed chorizo
*1/2-1 small cooked sweet potato, cut into bite-sized pieces
*Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
*Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
*A big handful of baby arugula
*A small handful of finely sliced red onion
*A small handful of salted Marcona almonds (if you can find them; if not, omit or use a different type of nuts/seeds)
*Shaved Manchego cheese for topping the salad, to taste (or, use a different, equally assertive, hard cheese)

Directions:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo. Fry for about 10 minutes (or until the slices are crisp). Remove from skillet and in a medium bowl, mix with the sweet potato and lemon zest.

2. Whisk together the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Arrange arugula, red onion, almonds, and sweet potato/chorizo mixture on a serving plate and pour the dressing over. Top with Manchego shavings and serve.

*Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post but I did receive the chorizo I used in this recipe as a gift (as part of a a beautiful package of organic, grass-fed meats) from America’s Farmstand, an online farmer’s market of sorts. America’s Farmstand connects farmers and producers with consumers, without the warehouses and supermarkets in between; they have a wonderful selection of products that you should make sure to check out.

Related Books I Recommend (note that I make a small commission when you purchase anything via one of my amazon.com links):

Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More
Salad Bar Beef
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol
Real Food: What to Eat and Why
Cool Cuisine: Taking The Bite Out of Global Warming