Using the Whole Cow: Spleen Vastedda Recipe

Today I made vestedda. I’m going to share to recipe here as well as three reasons vastedda is important.

If you’re new here on this blog, let me tell you that my name is really Laura and I really do live in a little house on the prairie.  I am a Jersey girl to the core and I live here because of the enticement of cheap land and the opportunity for my children to farm land that their ancestors (on my husband’s side) have farmed for generations.  I struggle all the time.  Although New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Colorado Prairie are all part of the United States of America, I sometimes doubt this.  I am also 100% Italian.  To say that there is a lack of Italian culture on the prairie is an understatement.  Most people here don’t even know how to say “Italian”. I’ll chalk it up to the dialect or the accent or something, but many people here say “Eye-talian” and it drives me nuts.  Where I grew up, it seems most families were Italian, Irish or Jewish.  We had a strong Italian culture.  I miss it.

Both of my parents are from Brooklyn.  I grew up visiting both my grandmothers in Brooklyn frequently.  Although I was born in Staten Island and that perhaps means I loose street credit, I’m a Brooklyn girl, too. I grew up with Brooklyn pizza and Joe’s. Joe’s of Avenue U is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. They have been in business since forever in the same location.  They sell Sicilian Italian food.  I am half Sicilian.  I miss Joe’s.  My favorite dish at Joe’s is vastedda.  Vastedda is basically a spleen sandwich.  I miss vastedda. Making vastedda, copycatting Joe’s, is a small way to alleviate my homesickness.  It’s an ethnic dish, right on the prairie.

Joe's of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Joe’s of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Vastedda is spleen, which means it’s offal.  We try to follow the Weston A. Price diet. A big pillar of the Weston A. Price diet is the consumption of offal. The experts can explain the whys and wherefores of the benefits of offal.  Logically it makes sense that since people have eaten offal for millennia, and we should, too.  Our bodies and biology haven’t changed.  If offal was good enough for my great-great grandmother, it should be good enough for me.

I am a cattle rancher.  I raise grass-fed, grass-finished organic beef on the beautiful prairie of Colorado.  Shouldn’t I use it all?  We eat our own meat of course.  Isn’t it most efficient to use all of the meat?  The steer, after living a happy life eating grass with constant access to pasture and sunshine, looses his life to provide us with food.  Isn’t it being a good steward to eat all the offal?  Didn’t Jesus Himself tell everyone to gather up the scraps after He fed 5000 men?  Is spleen a scrap?  A scrap that can feed my family four more meals out of a steer than we would have otherwise.  It makes economic and environmental sense to eat vastedda. Or maybe I’m just cheap.

So let me recap why everyone should eat vastedda:
1. It is a way to bring Sicilian Italian culture to your own kitchen, even if you don’t live in Gravesend in Brooklyn.
2. Vastedda is spleen which is offal.  Mankind has eaten offal through the millennia.  Weston A. Price people say this is a good thing.  It just makes good logical sense.
3.  Vastedda is a great way to make an animal stretch, especially if you buy your meat by the whole animal.  Why not turn the otherwise unused spleen into a few more meals?  It makes economic and environmental sense and doesn’t cost extra.

So now that you have a hankering for Sicilian cuisine, yummy offal and a desire to be a good environmental steward, here is the recipe for Vastedda (which I have adapted from here)…

Ingredients…
cow spleen
tallow (which can be doubly cool if it’s from the same animal as the spleen)
yummy rolls of your choice
parmesan or other cheese, shredded
ricotta (of course homemade is best)
milk

Procedure…
1. Soak thawed spleen in milk to remove the organ-y taste.  Change out the milk twice.
2. Boil the spleen for about 30 minutes.
3. Slice it thin.
4. Fry the spleen in tallow.
5. Prepare rolls by slicing in half.
6.  Place spleen ricotta and parmesan cheese on rolls and bake them in the oven until just hot.

You have copycatted Joe’s of Avenue U.  You have eaten good-for-you offal.  You have stretched your beef into a few more meals.  This is a win-win-win.

 


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