Side Dishes

Boerenkool Stamppot is a Dutch dish of mashed potatoes (“stomped pot”) mixed with kale. There are sometimes other vegetables mixed into Stamppot, like sauerkraut or endive, but as the Dutch say, “Boerenkool is het nieuwe zwart” (Kale is the new black). Note: they probably don’t actually say that! Either way, it’s worth it to incorporate the most nutrient dense vegetable on the planet into the dish.

Stamppot is typically served with a mild smoked sausage called rookworst, either sliced and mixed into the dish like in my pictures, or served on top of the vegetables. It’s all going to get mixed up in your stomach anyway, so feel free to arrange it as you please.

Here’s something really exciting about the photo you see above – I live-broadcasted my photography session! I started using the Periscope app (available on iOS and Android), which lets you livestream just about anything you want, and people can re-watch the broadcast for the next 24 hours. Think of it like a spontaneous YouTube. I think I’ll be using it on the weekends while photographing or cooking my recipes for the blog; it’s a neat way to interact with you folks (you can send chat messages to me while I’m working). Join me if you’re interested – my username is, predictably, thedomesticman.

Oh! And some more cool news. My presentation from Paleo f(x) 2014 was officially released on YouTube. Honestly, I had forgotten all about it so it was a neat surprise to see it appear online yesterday. Click here to watch me talk about six ways to improve the quality of Paleo-minded cooking; the talk is called “Our Great-Grandparents Were Totally Paleo: Six Suggestions for Improving Paleo Cuisine by Following Traditional and Gourmet Culinary Practices” (what a mouthful!). I’ve also embedded it at the bottom of this post.

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I was recently approached by Sharp to try out their new convection microwave as part of a challenge to rethink the way we cook with microwaves. Initially, I kept thinking about those disastrous microwave cookbooks from the 1980s and 1990s (this one might be the best example of all time), but after a bit of reading I decided to take them up on the offer. After all, if the telephone can radically change over the course of 10 years, and the Instant Pot can change how we look at pressure cookers, shouldn’t a microwave make some leaps and bounds as well?

I must have been living under a rock, because apparently microwaves can do all sorts of cool things today, and this model is no exception. At its core, this device serves three functions: 1) a standard microwave, 2) a convection oven, and 3) a roaster (with heating elements both on the bottom and top of the microwave). And because the microwave is much smaller than a traditional oven, it preheats much more quickly (it took me five and half minutes to pre-heat it to 400F). I envision this microwave to be an ideal solution for those without the space for a typical oven or as a secondary oven when you have lots of items to bake at once (Thanksgiving comes to mind).

To test the microwave, I decided to try it out on a very standard, traditional recipe: roasted brussels sprouts (with bacon, of course). I first baked the bacon at a convection setting, then roasted the brussels sprouts in the rendered bacon fat using the roaster setting. It worked like a charm – the food cooked evenly and easily, with a texture which is about the opposite of what you’d expect from a microwave (crispy and browned). I also provided conventional (oven) instructions for this recipe below.

The microwave also combines Sharp’s cooking functions to allow you to try different ways of heating food. For example, I reheated the leftover brussels sprouts with a combination of 50% microwave power and 50% roaster (top heating element) and they came out both hot and crispy – not your typical microwave re-heating experience.

I’ll be posting a couple more recipes using this microwave over the course of the next month, so let me know in the comments if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to address in a future recipe.

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You’ve heard of Samosas, right? They’re those triangle-shaped savory pastries served in Indian and Central Asian restaurants. They’re a surprisingly ancient dish, first mentioned in the Middle East (under the name Sambosa) during the 10th century before eventually making their way across Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and even Southeast Asia. They’re practically everywhere today – you can even find them pretty easily in South Africa, as Indian cuisine started to influence British colonial food culture.

I loved Samosas in my pre-Paleo days, and I’ve been wanting to tackle them for a while. The problem is, well, pastry. I tend not to fiddle with baked goods and leave them up to the masters (see: Jenni Hulet’s My Paleo Patisserie). So after a bit of brainstorming, I settled on the idea of Samosa-flavored mashed potatoes. I like this idea because, heck, most people are probably eating mashed potatoes anyway, so why not kick them up a notch in terms of flavor and vegetable count.

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Earlier this year I wrote a guest article for Paleo Magazine, emphasizing the importance of eating vegetables. Americans tend to give vegetables a lower priority than the rest of the world; when comparing the most economically developed areas of the United States (those with the most money to spend on food) to similarly developed regions in Europe and the Western Pacific, we only eat about 75% as many vegetables as the other regions. Comparing the lesser economically developed areas of the United States to their global counterparts is much worse: there, we eat only around 35% as many vegetables.

Vegetables are an important factor in overall health. While not as nutrient-heavy as organ meats, fish, seafood, and naturally raised ruminants, they are often superior to pork, poultry, and fruit in terms of nutrient density. Fermented vegetables, a food that has been consumed for thousands of winters, also provide unique and essential forms of probiotic bacteria and increase the bioavailability (ability for us to absorb their nutrients) of vegetables.

Aloo Gobi Matar is Punjabi dish, and an excellent example of the potential tastiness and diversity to be found in a vegetable dish. Using a small amount of many vegetables will give your dishes deeper flavors and will make you less likely to tire of certain foods. If I ate just tomatoes every day, I’d get sick of them; adding a tomato or two to several dishes in a row wouldn’t have the same effect.

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You know, for being a guy who’s so pro-rice in the Paleo community, I have relatively few rice recipes out there. Sure, there are a bunch in my cookbook (the Dirty Rice recipe is my favorite), but considering the fact that we eat rice several times a week it should be better represented. So here’s a recipe.

Jollof Rice is a dish originally prepared by the Wolof people of Senegal and The Gambia, which has expanded to the rest of West Africa since. It is characterized by its addition of tomatoes and onions, and is put together in one pot – its other name, Benachin, means “one pot” in the Wolof language.

Wondering how rice fits into a Paleo-style diet? Read a bit about my take on it in this recipe from earlier this year.

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Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish made with fried and smashed plantains. It is related to the West African staple starch dish called Fufu, originally made with yuca; slaves sent to the Caribbean originally brought this dish across the Atlantic.

Fufu made it into several Caribbean cuisines, with varying levels of alteration. In Cuba, it is known as Fufu de Platano, and in the Dominican Republic it carries the name Mangú. In Puerto Rico, it is almost always made with plantains, but yuca and breadfruit variations exist. The plantains are typically smashed using a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilon, and sometimes served directly in the pilon. My stone mortar and pestle gets the job done nicely.

There are many ways to enjoy Mofongo. It is often dipped in chicken broth or a sauce made with mayonnaise and ketchup (aptly called “mayoketchup”), or served with a tomato-based sauce and grilled or sautéed shrimp. Personally, I enjoy it plain, as a simple starchy side dish, which is what you’ll find in this week’s recipe.

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Ital stew is a Jamaican dish aligned with the Rastafarian movement. The word “ital” is derived from the word vital, and is similar to the concept of kosher. Specifically, ital food should be vegetarian, unprocessed, and from the earth. Some believe that even iodized salt should be avoided, and only pure sea salt is acceptable. Since meat is considered dead, it is not ital, although some Rastafari are known to eat small fish.

Like in my Callaloo recipe from earlier this year, there is a lot of variation to this dish. Typically, it’s made with several different kinds of starchy foods (I used squash, taro, potatoes, and plantain) in a coconut milk broth. It’s lightly spiced, with just thyme and pimento (allspice).

Funny enough, when doing my research I discovered this dish isn’t considered an exceptionally tasty stew, to the point that I was almost turned away from trying it. I have a suspicion that the reason it’s not well-received is because every recipe I found had you adding all of the vegetables at once, which likely resulted in a mushy, jumbled, and slightly confusing stew. I tried a different tactic, and added the dishes in increments so that they all were perfectly cooked at the end of the recipe. This extra care made a huge difference in the final product; in fact, we’re adding this dish to our regular rotation because it’s easy, quick, and hearty – a perfect summer soup when you’re not in the mood for a meat dish.

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My second recipe of the week also comes from Southeast Asia, this time from Malaysia. Sambal Terung is a roasted eggplant dish, covered in sambal (a spicy chili-based condiment). Like Tuesday’s recipe, this is a dish that comes together easily and would allow me to focus on the main dish of the night (in this case, I was going to make Beef Rendang). I personally like this dish because it carries a deep, exotic flavor with minimal hands-on time; you’ll mostly spend your time soaking and roasting the eggplants.

Sambal has its origins on Java island in Indonesia, traditionally made with 75-90% chiles and a few other ingredients (shrimp paste, salt) added for depth of flavor. The sauce spread to other countries, most notably Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia (I have a theory that Sriracha is a product of sambal influence, but it’s hard to say for sure); it also made its way into Europe due to the Dutch colonization of Indonesia in the 17th century and beyond.

Eggplant was first grown in the Indian subcontinent, and spread both East and West from there. It reached China around 500AD, and was wildly popular in the Mediterranean starting in the Middle Ages and continuing today. It wasn’t accepted in Europe until later, around the 17th century, as it was originally considered by Europeans to be poisonous. Because of its widespread use in early history, the words for eggplant itself are all over the place, with no one single root spreading to each language (unlike something like “tomato”, whose origin is easier to trace). This is why you’ll see a myriad of names for eggplant; even English has several words for the vegetable (aubergine being the British variant, borrowed from Arabic, and the Caribbean often refers to eggplant as melongene, also of Arabic influence).

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Salad dressings are an important part of many cuisines. Leafy greens were eaten in prehistory, and despite common misconceptions that early agriculture was entirely focused on grains, many of the first gardeners grew spring greens. The Ancient Greeks often mixed salads with oil, herbs, and seasonings (the word salad comes from the Latin salata, meaning “something salted”). Green salads were especially popular in Medieval Europe, and lettuce seeds were brought to the New World colonies, where salads were eventually redefined; the 20th century saw the advent of French, Russian, Thousand Island, Green Goddess, and even the mighty Ranch – all in the dressing-obsessed United States.

Today, the salad dressing aisle of every supermarket in America is downright embarrassing. Every dressing promises health, high quality and natural ingredients, and not a single one makes good on its promise. I dare you to try and find a dressing that is free of sugar, corn, soy, wheat, seed/grain oils, or chemically-extracted ingredients (hint: you won’t). It’s infuriating, especially coming from a product whose sole existence is to make salads more palatable and nutritious (adding oil increases the bioavailability of the fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E, and K found in leafy greens). Salads have always been associated with health, but modern dressings have made it more difficult for us to make that connection. The salad dressing industry is so untrustworthy that after first switching my diet I resolved to just eat my salads with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.

Enter Tessemae’s All Natural. Our family has been enjoying their salad dressings since 2011; their dressings were first sold in the Annapolis Whole Foods (one of our local markets), so we’ve been riding on the Tessemae’s bandwagon from nearly the start. In fact, last year I used their Lemonette dressing to help secure my win in a bacon competition.

It’s relatively easy, albeit unglamorous and time consuming, to develop your own salad dressings. But I’m a man of simple truths, and the simple truth is that Tessemae’s dressings are so tasty, and contain such high quality ingredients, that I haven’t felt a need to make my own. Essentially, this is the basic principle of supply and demand; thanks to their supply, we carry no demand. Honestly, as a consumer I’d much rather depend on the convenience and reliability of a quality product than figure my own out. There is honor in creating one product, and doing it well – very rarely today do we find true craftsmen and artisans. This is something that Tessemae’s does unequivocally with their dressings and sauces.

I had the pleasure of visiting their Baltimore-based headquarters (lovingly called “the Treefort”) twice over the past few weeks. Here is what I learned.

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Sabzi Polo is a traditional Persian herbed rice pilaf. There are several different ways to cook rice in Persian cuisine, but Polo (parboiled and steamed) is the most popular. This dish in particular is eaten during the Persian New Year (Nowruz, late March) and served with white fish. The type of white fish varies from rare local fish like Caspian kutum to something more accessible, like halibut or tilapia.

Rice is a critical food source in modern day Iran, and has a long history in the region; it was first introduced from South Asia around 1000 BC, and has been grown in northern Iran ever since. It’s also commonly believed that rice entered Europe via Ancient Persia.

It’s exciting to see that white rice is gaining more acceptance in the Paleo community. I started adding white rice to my version of the Paleo diet in early 2011 (here is an old post about it) and it’s definitely had a positive impact on my overall wellness. I explain many of my reasons for eating rice in my book, but the long story short is that it’s an ancient, delicious, satisfying, and neutral starch (it has fewer toxins than many foods we consider Paleo, like coconut and almonds – reference) whose glycemic load is easily tempered by eating low-glycemic varieties (basmati rice in particular is lower (28) than regular white rice (43) – reference). When eaten as part of a whole meal with added fats and acids, its glycemic index is even further diminished (reference). There are still people that have digestive issues with rice, but for everyone else, it may warrant a place on your dinner table.

Sabzi Polo is an excellent example of an optimal way of eating rice, since it’s paired with a huge amount of herbs – much more than your typical dish – and considering Mathieu Lalonde’s AHS 2012 talk where he found that herbs and spices are second only to organ meats in terms of nutrient density, it’s always good to eat lots of herbs.

This recipe is part of a collaboration with my friend Naz of Cinnamon Eats – after having several discussions about Persian rice dishes, we decided to each write up a recipe to highlight the varied and delicious choices available in Persian cuisine. Be sure to check out her half of the collaboration: Zereshk Polo (Persian Barberry Rice).

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