Starting 2021 with Hope

By Meredith Leigh

How did you end 2020?

Were you one of the people sending dumpster fire memes about the year and kicking off 2021 with a COVID-appropriate dance party? Or were you like my sixteen-year-old step-kid, slumped over her breakfast and reminding us all that the pandemic, climate change, and politics aren’t going to magically disappear in 2021? As I reluctantly greeted the first work week of this year, I realized I am a little bit of both. For example, it only took one zoom meeting and three emails from my kids’ teachers about virtual learning for me to transport directly into the realities that we all still face. At the same time, I am finding that it is so important to have the symbolism of a new year in order to jog my consciousness toward hope and renewal. How else am I going to take what I’ve learned and use it to make better mistakes and ensure bigger triumphs in the year ahead?

I plan to go from what I know: Food. Cooking has always given me hope, or a reason to slow down and use my senses and my creative energy. Whether it’s the meals I make to bring my family comfort, or the farms I support through my food purchases, cooking is something I can do every day to conjure hope for the year ahead. In 2020, we all experienced the need to adapt to more home cooking, and healthier cooking that would keep our bodies stronger and safer from illnesses. We saw a need to rely more on our local community and to the businesses that have been resilient through such a tough year. When I think about carrying these lessons forward, meat from healthy pasture raised animals that are improving soils feels like a top-of-the-list item as I meal plan and throw support out into my region.

Foods that fight climate change, advocacy through food, and better cooking at home are just three of the hot culinary trends predicted for 2021, as the intersection of food, land and justice has become more apparent to more eaters during the pandemic. And while it isn’t all up to individual eaters to change the big problems of the world, isn’t it amazing to know that we have local food resources we can use toward putting these values in action in 2021? Hickory Nut Gap farm raises animals outdoors, and rotates them in pastures to improve soil and grass cover and sequester carbon. Buying and creating nourishing meals with this meat is not only fighting climate change but also advocating for a more intentional and conscientious way of eating and sourcing food that leans more toward health and community resilience. And, the farm’s pivot toward online shopping and curated meat bo­­­­xes makes it easy and fun to cook better at home.

Need some initial inspiration? This grilled flank steak with carrot top chimichurri is a pick-me-up in cold weather, and using carrot tops for a bright chimichurri sauce makes use of a lesser used part of the carrot plant, which is another big step in fighting climate change: eliminating food waste. You can get a flank steak as part of HNG’s Grassfed Beef Bundle.

Grilled HNG Flank Steak with Carrot Top Chimichurri

  • 1 grass-fed beef flank steak (about 1.5-2 lbs)
  • Carrot tops from 1 bunch of carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1/3 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 T. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 T. sea salt
  • 2 T. sweet smoked paprika

Add the carrot tops, olive oil, vinegar, cilantro, garlic cloves, red pepper, cumin, and sea salt into a food processor and process until well combined. If you need to add more olive oil or vinegar to get the right consistency, do so at a roughly 2:1 ratio. You want it to be kind of like pesto, maybe a bit more liquid than that. Smear the chimichurri all over the flank steak, reserving leftover chimichurri for another day. Sprinkle the smoked paprika generously over the chimichurri-rubbed meat, and then refrigerate, uncovered, for at least an hour, and as many as 3 hours.

Prepare the grill. Be sure to remove the marinating meat from the refrigerator at least 30-40 minutes before you plan to put it on the grill so that it can come to room temperature.

Grill the flank until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat is 125F.

Let the meat rest 15-20 minutes after removing it from the grill. Slice thinly across the grain. Dust with coarse salt and a few twists of fresh black pepper before serving.

Note: Leftover chimichurri works great in scrambled eggs from the farm, or mixed in with hummus for a fun and healthy veggie dip.

About the Author

Over the past 20 years, Meredith has worked as a farmer, butcher, chef, teacher, non-profit executive director, and writer, all in pursuit of good food. She is the author of  The Ethical Meat Handbook: A Complete Guide to Home Butchery, Charcuterie, and Cooking for the Conscious Omnivore, and Pure Charcuterie: The Craft & Poetry of Curing Meats at Home. Meredith travels teaching charcuterie and food production and processing, consulting for farmer and food businesses, editing, and providing marketing assistance for values-driven business. She lives with her partner and four children in Asheville, NC. Learn more about Meredith Leigh: