Joco Diversions

January 7, 2014

Eating for life — Ragu turns bargain cut into a delight

A slow-cooker recipe is filled with taste, nutrition.

Tough times call for tender meat.

The secret to turning a bargain cut into melt-in-your-mouth delicious?

The Star’s Beef and Fennel Ragu uses a slow cooker — an inexpensive, time-saving appliance no modern kitchen should be without.

Unlike many slow cooker dishes, this recipe does not require browning the round steak on the stovetop before assembling the ingredients. Simply add fresh fennel and a jar of fire-roasted red peppers, both widely available in the produce section of well-stocked supermarkets.

Then open a can of crushed tomatoes. Throw in a couple of carrots and an onion from the bottom of the vegetable bin. And in just a few hours, you have a thrifty dish that is every bit as satisfying and rib-sticking as it is nutritious.

Fennel is rich in vitamin A and contains a fair amount of calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Red peppers are high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that prevents eye diseases, cancers and heart disease.

Cooked tomatoes contain plenty of lycopene, an antioxidant that prevents cancer.

Shopping tips:

A pound of round steak is less expensive than a similar but thicker cut labeled “London broil.”

Preparation tip: Look for fennel bulbs that have green fronds and no brown spots. Store fennel in the refrigerator in a tightly wrapped plastic bag for up to five days. To trim, chop off fronds; save and mince to garnish salads. Cut bulb in half and remove pyramid-shaped core from each, then cut into thin strips.

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