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Mofongo

12 Aug


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

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 It is related to the West African staple starch dish called Fufu, originally made with yuca; slaves sent to the Caribbean originally brought this dish across the Atlantic.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

29 Jul


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

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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Tuna Stuffed Potatoes

22 Jul


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

So, did you see the news? The Whole30 program now includes white potatoes. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Whole30, it is a 30-day eating program with a moderately strict interpretation of the Paleo template – no alcohol, sweeteners of any kind, or faux foods (like almond flour pancakes); in my cookbook, I reference it as “a tough-love plan to transform your diet.” It’s especially popular right around the New Year, as people look to clean up their eating habits.

Since its inception, the Whole30 has forbidden white potatoes, likely due to the fact that most potatoes are eaten in the form of chips or french fries. I have been an advocate for white potatoes since first changing my diet in 2010, after reading about the Perfect Health Diet. My inclusion of those little delicious tubers on this site has constantly confused readers who were introduced to Paleo through the Whole30 concept. So I’m happy to see that potatoes are gaining more acceptance as a whole food that has just as many nutrients as its favored cousin, the sweet potato.

White potatoes serve as an excellent example of mindful eating. They have a moderately high glycemic load, but studies have shown that it is greatly reduced when eaten with certain foods, especially fats and acids. So be sure to smother your baked potato with butter and sour cream. Also, the skin of white potatoes are high in glycoalkaloids, which can cause gastrointestinal irritation. This is a known issue – in fact, modern potatoes are much lower in glycoalkaloids than in earlier history, as farmers cultivated certain potatoes (especially the russet potato) to be more digestible.

Preparation of potatoes is also important; when compared to white bread, boiled potatoes are 323% more satisfying per calorie. Potato chips? Only 91% as satisfying. That’s why most people are able to easily eat three potatoes’ worth of potato chips, when they’d have a hard time eating three boiled potatoes in one sitting. So at our house, we typically only eat our potatoes boiled (and mashed) or baked. Or twice baked, like in today’s recipe.

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Ham and Pea Soup

17 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

PNW friends! I’ll be appearing in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC next month, signing books with Sarah Ballantyne and Mickey Trescott! More info on my events page.

Peas are an ancient food, eaten seasonally during the Paleolithic era. They were also one of the first cultivated plants, first grown in Western Asia about 8,000 years ago, and spreading to nearly every major culture from there. Today, there are many reasons to enjoy peas. They are very economical, and frozen sweet peas are one of the cleanest vegetables even when raised conventionally. They’re also very practical, since grabbing a handful of frozen peas from the freezer couldn’t be simpler. This soup is a great example of how convenient the little green guys are; start to finish, you can be enjoying this delicious and deeply flavorful meal in 25 minutes.

The word pea has an interesting origin; it was originally written as pease in English (taken from the ancient Greek pisum), which referred to both the singular and plural forms of peas. People confused the word pease with peas, incorrectly thinking it was plural, and later formed the singular word pea, which eventually became the norm around the 1650s. Pease still exists in some contexts, such as in pease pudding, or the children’s song “Pease Porridge Hot”.

Referring to thick fog as “pea soup” has been around for about 200 years, first used to describe the fog in London.

There is some controversy as to whether peas are “Paleo” since they are legumes. Like green beans, peas are the result of cultivation, and were selectively bred to reduce their toxicity, to the point where they can be eaten (and enjoyed) in their raw state. Theoretically legumes should be avoided, but I’m not one to follow food rules based solely on theory (see: my support of one of those pesky “grain” things, white rice). Personally, until the science definitively proves otherwise, my personal take is that they’re fine. Obviously, if you react poorly to them (or any other food, for that matter), you may want to rethink this approach.

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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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Sayur Bening Bayam (Indonesian Spinach, Carrot, and Tomato Soup)

20 May


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Over this past weekend, I was scheduled to appear at the latest Perfect Health Retreat in Wilmington, North Carolina as a guest chef. I had a whole day’s worth of recipes planned for the 20+ attendees and staff members, most of them based on traditional Indonesian or Malaysian dishes. I was very excited, and had even devoted the previous weekend to practicing and tweaking the recipes to get everything perfect. And then life struck. My son Oliver started feeling very sick last weekend, likely a gift from one of his pre-school classmates, and by Tuesday I was feeling the full brunt of some relentless flu symptoms.

So I spent last week and this past weekend drifting in and out of a feverish state, catching up on several seasons’ worth of Archer and Portlandia episodes, and trying to find new ways of incorporating bone broth into my diet (hint: developing recipes while under the influence of flu medicine is never a good idea). I’m happy to report that Oliver and I are both on the mend, but unfortunately I missed out on my opportunity to cook at the retreat. So that these recipes don’t disappear from memory, I wanted to share two of them with you this week.

The first recipe is Sayur Bening Bayam, a clear Indonesian soup made with a variety of vegetables, but always includes spinach (and often corn – see my note below the recipe). I chose this soup as one of my dishes because it’s dead simple to make and serves as an appetizer in the most literal sense – its simple tastes both satisfy and whet the appetite for a main course.

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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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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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Callaloo (Caribbean Green Soup)

25 Feb


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Callaloo is a Caribbean dish that originated in Africa. It is typically made with amaranth leaves (aptly called callaloo in the West Indies), taro leaves (dasheen), or water spinach; since these plants are somewhat hard to find in the United States, spinach is a common replacement stateside. There are many variations of this dish, and my recipe follows the Trinidadian version, which includes coconut milk and okra. In the Caribbean, Callaloo is often served as a side dish, but when I make it, it almost always turns into a main course. I’m not the type of guy that craves vegetables often, or vegetable soups for that matter, and I crave this dish. A lot.

I think I could eat my weight in Callaloo. I don’t know what it is about this dish that makes me go crazy about it. For one thing, I feel like a superhero after I eat it – like I’ve consumed a week’s worth of vegetables in one sitting. It’s also ridiculously delicious, and carries a unique flavor despite using fairly common ingredients. The only ingredient in here we don’t eat regularly is okra, since my wife isn’t a fan of okra’s slimy texture; luckily, the texture is cleverly masked in this dish.

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