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Sambal Terung (Malaysian Roasted Eggplant with Chili Sauce)

22 May


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

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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My Day with Tessemae’s

8 May

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 ba Mahi (Persian Herbed Rice with Fish)

6 May


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

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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Oven Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes)

8 Apr


Jerusalem artichokes have an interesting history. There is no connection between this tuber and the city that bears the same name; they were originally cultivated by Native Americans. The most common theory behind their current name stems from the fact that Italian immigrants named them girasole, which later became “girasole artichoke”, which then eventually developed into “Jerusalem artichoke”. Its other name, sunchoke, is a relatively new name for the tuber that stems from the fact that its flowers look a lot like sunflowers.

While only distantly related to artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes still carry a distinct (okey dokey) artichokey flavor when cooked. They have a similar texture to potatoes. They’re one of my favorite starches because of their versatility; they can be eaten raw or cooked, they don’t need to be peeled, and they taste good both gently cooked and fully roasted.

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Homemade, Fermented Ketchup

25 Mar


It’s funny, but up until recently I assumed there was already a ketchup recipe on my blog. I didn’t discover its absence until I developed Thursday’s recipe (hint: it rhymes with “beet oaf”), when I couldn’t find my recipe online. At first I was confused, and thought the search function of my blog was definitely broken. So…sorry about that, and here you go.

The history of ketchup is pretty awesome. It all started with garum, an ancient fish sauce first used by the Ancient Greeks and later the Romans. It reached Asia some 2,000 years ago via trade routes, and became a staple in many Asian countries, particularly Vietnam (where they later perfected the sauce using anchovies). Vietnamese fish sauce as we know it today entered China about 500 years ago, and the Chinese (particularly those in the Southeast providence of Fujian) spread it around the rest of Asia. The Fujian word for fish sauce? You guessed it, ketchup. In fact, many Asian languages today still use a form of the word “ketchup” to refer to sauces; a common example is the Indonesian word kecap (pronounced “keh-chap”), a catch-all term for fermented sauces.

When Europeans arrived in Asia in the 1600s, they were enamored with fish sauce (they’d long forgotten about garum) and took it back to Europe. Many variations of ketchup existed in Europe for hundreds of years, the most popular being walnut ketchup and mushroom ketchup (the practice of using fish eventually died out). It wasn’t until the 1800s that people started adding tomatoes to the sauce, and H. J. Heinz took it to a new level in 1904 when his company figured out a way to bottle and preserve the sauce using natural ingredients (the mid 1800s were full of horror stories about deadly batches of ketchup made with stuff like boric acid and coal tar). Heinz was also one of the first to add copious amounts of sugar to the sauce.

My recipe still maintains the sweet and sour taste we’ve all come to expect from ketchup, but throws a historical twist in for good measure: a bit of fish sauce.

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Grain-Free Flatbread (Paleo, Vegan, and AIP-friendly)

13 Mar


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Last weekend, I did a couple book signings with my friends Sarah Ballantyne (The Paleo Mom) and Stacy Toth (of Paleo Parents). It was a lot of fun. On Saturday night, Sarah and Stacy slept over at our house, so I offered to make dinner for them; Sarah and Stacy follow a modified version of the Autoimmune Protocol (a more restrictive version of the Paleo diet meant to reverse autoimmunity, see this post or Sarah’s book for more info), so I knew I had my work cut out for me. How do you treat your friends (and food bloggers at that) to a delicious meal with a limited cupboard to work with?

For the main course I made a modified version of my Beef Rendang recipe, where I subbed some butternut squash puree for the bell and chili peppers, and used mace instead of nutmeg. I think the squash added a good amount of body to the dish; it turned out well. I served it with cauliflower rice sautéed in coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, and raisins – also good.

But I wanted to add another texture to the dish, so I tried out a more savory version of my pizza crust recipe, made AIP-friendly by eliminating the dairy and egg typically used in the recipe. I couldn’t have been happier with the results – the bread was nice and crisp, and adding nutritional yeast imparted a rich, buttery taste.

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Roasted Asparagus with Béarnaise Sauce

4 Mar


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Roasted asparagus is no big deal, right? To roast asparagus, you basically just roast asparagus – not really worthy of a dedicated blog post. But pair this under-appreciated vegetable with a traditional Béarnaise sauce and you’ve got something spectacular. It’s funny what a few egg yolks and some butter can do.

Asparagus is an ancient vegetable, found in records dating back 5,000 years. In fact, an asparagus recipe appears in the oldest surviving cookbook (Apicuius, 4th century AD). While widely used by the Greeks and Romans, it nearly disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire, only to be reintroduced in the late Middle Ages by the French.

Béarnaise sauce is relatively modern, first developed in the 19th century. It is often associated with Hollandaise sauce, as it employs a similar technique of emulsifying fat (butter) in egg yolks and acid. While Hollandaise is made with lemon juice, a Béarnaise is made with an herb-infused vinegar reduction. The sauce has nothing to do with bears, or the capital of Switzerland (Bern), but rather is named after Béarn, a former province in southwest France. Fun fact: d’Artagnan (one of the main characters in The Three Musketeers) was from Béarn.

My friends at Pacific Merchants donated this Enamour dish for my recipe, which was pretty cool of them. Enamel-coated stoneware is very sturdy and versatile, and this dish is a thing of beauty. It can be used for baking and broiling, but in this case I used it as a serving dish. They are also offering 25% off purchases on their site for my readers, valid March 4-12, 2014! Use code DomesticMan at checkout.

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Paleo Happy Hour’s Marinated Mushrooms

7 Jan


Today’s recipe comes from Kelly Milton, author of the blog Paleo Girl’s Kitchen and the excellent cookbook Paleo Happy Hour: Appetizers, Small Plates & Drinks. As I mentioned in an earlier Paleo Cookbook Roundup, I really like her book because it deftly balances all the elements you’d need for hosting a party, including plenty of drink and appetizer ideas.

To highlight how easy some of the recipes are, we decided to do a recipe swap, where I made a recipe from her book, and she tackled one from my upcoming cookbook (she made Sukuma Wiki, check out her post here). Her Marinated Mushrooms fit the bill perfectly as a simple, make-ahead dish that isn’t going to break the bank. Straight from the book:

“These mushrooms are marinated in a delicious blend of herbs and spices that excite the palate. Because they are so light, you can pair them with another richer appetizer or a heavy meal. They are also light on the budget compared to the cost of buying gourmet marinated mushrooms from the grocery store.” Continue reading

Blaukraut (German Red Cabbage)

26 Nov


A few years ago I spent a winter in Bavaria, the Southeastern state in Germany. One of my favorite dishes there was Blaukraut, a simple simmered red cabbage. The dish has three different names in Germany – Blaukraut (“blue cabbage”) in the South, Rotkraut (“red cabbage”) in Central Germany, and Rotkohl (also “red cabbage” – kohl is a Northern word for kraut).

It’s believed that the different names stemmed from the fact that the cabbage can take on different colors depending on the acidity of the soil it was grown in and its method of preparation. Some contend that the variation comes from the fact that there wasn’t a German word for the color purple until after the cabbage had been introduced. Since red cabbage has a tendency to turn a blueish color when cooked, adding acid (in this case, apple cider vinegar) helps retain its redness.

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Mashed Boniato (White Sweet Potato)

19 Nov


Boniato (also called batata or tropical sweet potato) is a white, starchy, and dry version of the common sweet potato. It’s popular in Florida and the Caribbean, but well-known throughout the Americas and some of Europe (Spain in particular). It was cultivated as far back as 1,000 years ago in Central and South America. Its skin is red-to-purple in color, and has white flesh. As far as I can tell, it is nearly identical to the Japanese sweet potato in terms of appearance and taste; considering the fact that sweet potatoes were a late addition to Japan (around the 17th century), I’d guess that the differences between the two is minimal. I’ve also seen identical sweet potatoes labeled as Korean sweet potatoes here in Maryland.

Taste-wise, boniato is like a cross between a white potato and sweet potato. If you’re missing the consistency of white potatoes but react poorly to them, this is the dish for you.

Preparing boniato is easy. Because the potato is naturally creamy, you only need to add a little cream to them to get a truly decadent flavor. If you’re dairy-free, they’re still surprisingly creamy when made with only chicken broth.

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