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Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup

14 Jan


I figure it’s safe to post a pumpkin recipe now. For a while there (all of October and November) I thought I was going to drown in pumpkin-flavored products. Is it just me, or are they becoming more and more prominent every year? Regardless, pumpkin soup is a hearty, warming way to enjoy the cold months of fall and winter, and I didn’t want to let spring hit me before sharing this recipe.

Like many foods we enjoy today, pumpkins are a product of the New World, and entered Europe in the 15th century. Most foods introduced during that time took a while to gain momentum in Europe – sometimes hundreds of years – but not the pumpkin. Because they resembled gourds and squashes common in the Old World, pumpkins were readily adopted and prized for their robust flavor and easy cultivation. It was quickly made into various soups, and mixed with honey and spices as early as the 17th century – a precursor to pumpkin pie.

For today’s recipe I wanted to keep pumpkin closer to its place of origin – North America – so I decided to focus on a Mexican soup commonly referred to as Sopa de Calabaza, often flavored with cumin and chorizo sausage. I really like the cyclical nature of this dish. Cumin was first cultivated in India and introduced to the Americas by the Portuguese and Spanish. Chorizo is the best of both worlds: Old World sausage flavored with paprika made by New World peppers, and later re-introduced to the Americas. So this dish is the product of the unique culinary marriage of these two continents and cultures.

While pre-roasting a whole pumpkin inevitably lends more depth of flavor, using canned pumpkin puree drastically cuts down on your cooking time and effectively turns this dish into a 30-minute meal. Continue reading

Harissa-Marinated Steak

20 Aug


A while back I decided to try out a few new uses for my harissa recipe, besides the lamb tagine dish I posted last year. One great thing about harissa is that it’s so full-flavored that it can take an otherwise simple dish and make it immediately and exponentially complex (not to mention tasty). For example, I tried simply spooning it onto a couple steaks before grilling them, and the taste was ridiculous: the North African condiment formed a nice crust around the steak, but didn’t fully penetrate the pure meaty taste of the steaks themselves. It was a winning combination.

Warning: this is a super simple recipe. I’m still recovering from my trip to Atlanta for the Ancestral Health Symposium, where I spoke about gourmet culinary practices in a Paleo context. I’ll post more about my trip later this week.

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Swedish Stew (Kalops)

16 Apr


Kalops is a traditional Swedish stew, first recorded in the 18th century. The word kalops itself is a cognate with the English word collops, which simply means “a slice of meat” – there’s actually some dispute as to whether the Swedish or English word came first. Either way, this stew is very similar to many English stews, but with a few Scandinavian twists: its signature flavor comes from a healthy amount of allspice, and it is commonly served with pickled beets. When carrots are added, the dish is called Skånsk Kalops, referring to the Skåne region (which is in Southern Sweden – perhaps carrots grow most abundantly there?).

Kalops is most often prepared with chunks of beef, but reindeer or elk are used as well. Personally, I thought it would be neat to make it with bison chuck roast, which US Wellness Meats recently sent me to try. It was pretty awesome. Overall, I loved this stew, and its characteristic allspice-heavy flavor gave it a warm, hearty, and very distinct taste.

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Bison Tallow

22 Jan


Some of my long-time readers may remember that over two years ago I rendered my own beef tallow and shared the experience with the world. It was actually one of my first “Paleo” adventures, as my wife and I went from butcher shop to butcher shop in our area trying to find someone that would sell us some fat. Finally, our local Whole Foods agreed to set aside their fat as they trimmed it off their cuts of meat – not the most ideal source of fat since it came from all kinds of cuts, and was often full of muscle meat, but it worked for a while. And it was free!

My friends at US Wellness Meats recently started selling bison fat, and considering the fact that I had a really good experience with their bison stew meat last year (recipe: Hearty Bison Stew), I wanted to try rendering my own bison tallow. I’m glad I did – the fat was of perfect quality, and the tallow came out both mild and delicious.

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Hearty Bison Stew

20 Mar


NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

US Wellness Meats recently sent me a package of their grass-fed bison stew meat, and I jumped on the opportunity to make a traditional hearty stew. Rather than settle on the all-too-common crockpot stew (nothing against those), I opted to make this stew the traditional way – browned meat, sautéed onions, simmering wine-and-stock broth, and incrementally-added ingredients – to make sure the final product was both decadent and perfectly-crafted. That might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t – this is a dish that can easily be completed in a few hours.

Although the American bison is often referred to as a buffalo, it is only a distant relative of the true buffalo (like the Asian water buffalo). Its closest relative is the European bison, also known as a wisent. Its meat is usually leaner than beef, high in iron, and sweeter-tasting. Because of its leanness, I find that it’s best served in slow-cooked meals like this stew, as hamburgers, or as a grilled meat (like shish-kabobs) served medium-rare.

If you don’t have bison meat on hand, never fear – this stew tastes just as great with beef or lamb stew meat!

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