Tag Archives: recipe

Aloo Gobi Matar

28 Oct


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

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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Review: Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book

27 Oct

I owe a huge debt to America’s Test Kitchen and their Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks, whether they realize it or not; their books have been a staple in my reading library for nearly 20 years now. Many of the techniques I use in my cooking are founded on principles and tips that I’ve gleaned from their work. In fact, eagle-eyed readers of The Ancestral Table might have noticed that I gave them a nod in the back of my book, for influencing three of its recipes.

When they asked me to review and help spread the word about their new book, The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book: The Game-Changing Guide that Teaches You How to Cook Meat and Poultry with 425 Bulletproof Recipes, I jumped at the chance. Read on for the full review, but if you’re looking for the short version, it’s this: this is an essential guide to mastering the subtle art of cooking meat, and will set you up for a lifetime of deliciousness.

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Pressure Cooker Short Ribs

14 Oct


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

I’m relatively new to the whole pressure cooking scene. We didn’t use them in the restaurants where I first learned to cook, and I’ve frankly been a little intimidated to try one out at home. When it comes down to it, I’ve always had issues with cooking food when I can’t see what’s going on inside – I like to be in direct control of my creations (this is also one of the reasons you don’t see baked goods on my site). Pressure cookers have always seemed like the epitome of this idea, since you basically seal it up and let some sort of magic wizardry happen within.

My perspective changed when I bought an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker last year. Something about it removes all of my previous inhibitions; I think it’s the idea that I can set it to a certain time or intensity, and have it turn off and depressurize automatically, all on my own terms. Regardless, I love the fact that I can use this same machine to make broth, yogurt, and rice, or to sear and slow cook without dirtying two dishes. And most importantly, it breaks down tough cuts of meat in a manner of minutes, like in today’s recipe. To showcase my new love for pressure cooking, I went with a simple short ribs recipe, flavored with a bit of brandy and maple syrup. If you don’t have any fancy gadgets, don’t worry: I provided instructions for electric pressure cookers, conventional pressure cookers, and stovetop pots.

Pressure cooking is not a new concept, it has been around in Europe since as far back as the 17th century. They weren’t modeled for home use until the 19th century, but pressure cookers have been integral in many restaurants and home kitchens ever since. They work by sealing in the steam from cooking, allowing you to cook foods at higher temperatures and with less energy since hardly any heat escapes during cooking. In fact, pressure cooking is the most energy efficient way of cooking out there. There are many out there who swear by conventional stove-top pressure cookers, and after my latest success with an electric pressure cooker, I’m starting to eye a few conventional models on Amazon.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

30 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Although I consider Butter Chicken to be the ultimate Indian chicken curry (I saved that recipe for my cookbook), Chicken Tikka Masala takes a close second. In fact, there is little difference in the dishes – both are usually made by adding roasted chicken pieces to a tomato-based curry sauce. Butter Chicken has more, well, butter.

The origin of Chicken Tikka Masala is disputed. It’s commonly believed that it was first whipped up in Indian restaurants in the UK (Glasgow in particular is often cited), but many argue that it was first influenced by dishes from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan well before it appeared in UK restaurants.

Putting the curry together is actually pretty simple – start to finish in under an hour. It gets a little complicated when the chicken comes into play, since it should be marinated for at least 6 hours beforehand (overnight preferred). But with a little forethought, this is an excellent weeknight meal.

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Homemade Fish Stock

23 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

There are two types of people: those who make stock all the time and don’t need or want someone else to tell them how to do it, and those who are intimidated by the process and never start in the first place. The other day, when writing my Blue Crab and Chipotle Bisque recipe, I realized that simply calling for fish stock was a little mean to the latter group, since they might not have some fish stock handy. Honestly, it was a little negligent of me to have this blog for over four years and not post a fish stock guide – after all, what if it was the only thing stopping you from making my delicious Brudet recipe?

One thing in particular I like about fish stock is that it’s surprisingly cheap to make. For example, most fish markets will give you their unused fish heads for free or super cheap. Additionally, I find that the best herbs for making stock are actually the stems of fresh herbs, which means you can save the actual herbs for other cooking creations. Fish stock keeps well in the freezer; we tend to divide the stock into pint jars and leave them in the freezer until we need them. We often use it to whip up a quick fish-based soup, or to add to risotto or fish curries.

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Blue Crab and Chipotle Bisque

9 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

NFL team loyalty is a crazy thing. Growing up in Washington state, we were diehard Seahawks fans; after all, who else can you root for all the way up in the Pacific Northwest? Moving away and living in Hawaii for seven years really messed me up, since football games come on so early – over the years, the whole sport dropped off my radar. That all changed six years ago when our family moved to Baltimore, the proud home of the Ravens, and I was immediately drawn to this tough, talented, and admittedly dirty team. Today, I’m torn between who to support – Seattle or Baltimore – but luckily they rarely play each other so it isn’t that big of a deal.

It’s been hard for me to follow games closely after canceling our TV service a couple years ago, but since our family is moving once again this fall (to Pensacola, Florida this time), I can’t help but feel a little sentimental knowing this is our last season in the heart of Ravens madness. The folks behind Tabasco recently asked me to come up with a dish that used ingredients that were indicative of my local NFL team, and something with blue crab immediately came to mind. Since crab cakes are already in my cookbook, I went with my next favorite crab dish – bisque.

A bisque is a cream-based soup of French origin, typically made with shellfish. Seafood bisques are very popular in Maryland, and can be found in just about every diner menu (and we have a lot of diners). I like the type of bisque you find in Maryland – simple, honest flavors – so I whipped up a basic recipe for the home chef, adding a little Chipotle Tabasco in for some kick.

My next challenge: picking a Florida NFL team to follow.

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Soft-Boiled Scotch Eggs

2 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Scotch eggs are a common picnic and party dish in the UK, and have been around for over 200 years. I first had one at the local Maryland Renaissance Festival some years back. Several restaurants and markets claim to have started the craze, but it’s likely that the dish was originally inspired by a North Indian and Pakistani dish called Nargisi Kofta, which encases a hard-boiled egg in spicy ground meat.

We make Scotch Eggs at home from time to time, basically any time we have some loose sausage on hand. But lately we’ve been soft boiling the eggs, which has shifted this dish from something comforting to something exquisite (and still comforting). Typical Scotch Egg recipes call for breading the sausage before frying, which gives them a nice crunch and helps the sausage stay in place; over the years we’ve come to prefer the ease and simplicity of not breading the eggs.

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Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

26 Aug


Gluten-Free, Perfect Health Diet

Dolma are stuffed grape leaves, originating in Turkey but expanding all over the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond. Their filling can be anything from tomatoes, to eggplant, to meat – really, you can’t go wrong with stuffing these little guys. This particular recipe is the Greek variation, called Dolmathes (an interesting use of Greek plural endings in a foreign word); they are made with rice, ground beef, and fresh herbs. And lemon juice! A whole lemon’s worth. The resulting flavor is both sour, salty, and rich, and is a perfect party dish to accompany other finger foods.

I was first drawn to this dish because it’s a one-stop-macronutrient-shop; it’s equal parts carbs, protein, and fats, ending up in a deeply satisfying experience. The only break from the norm that I adapted in this recipe was to cook the rice in chicken broth instead of water, in order to increase its nutritional profile and tastiness.

Before we move on, let’s have the white rice talk again. As you may know, I find rice to be a perfectly healthy and Paleo-friendly food, since it is very low in toxins (compared to brown rice, and even some common Paleo foods, like coconut). Common questions I get: But what about its glycemic load? Basmati rice (like in this recipe) has a very low glycemic load even compared to other rices, and when paired with protein, fats, and acids, it’s further reduced, and significantly so. But what about arsenic? There are some studies that show there is arsenic in rice, but the amount of arsenic in rice is lower than the arsenic found in other foods (3x less than what’s found in drinking water, for example). But it’s nutritionally poor? Cook it in broth, like in this recipe!

Anyway, those are the most common rice questions I get – be sure to leave more in the comments below if you have any. At the end of the day, I think that white rice is a good thing to have on the table; it’s delicious, and if having a bit of rice as part of a meal helps keep cravings for other (unhealthier) foods at bay, go for it – provided you tolerate it well.

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Yassa Poulet (Senegalese Grilled Chicken)

5 Aug


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Yassa Poulet (sometimes called Chicken Yassa) is a West African dish originally from Senegal, characterized by its spicy marinade of peppers, lemon, and onions. I was initially drawn to this dish because the marinade uses a crazy amount of onions, and they’re not wasted; instead, they are recombined with the chicken during cooking.

Many traditional recipes call for the chicken to be browned in a skillet and then braised with the marinade until tender. That sounds good, but our nice summer weather always compels me to grill, which left me with a conundrum; how do I reincorporate the onions into this dish after grilling? The answer turned out to be simple – caramelize the onions while the chicken is on the grill. Combining the sweet, delicate flavor of the caramelized onions and the bright, crispy grilled chicken was a pretty awesome move.

I’ve also found that this makes a perfect weeknight dinner – throw together the marinade before work (or the night before), then finish the dish in less than an hour when you get home. Since both the chicken and onions are relatively hands-off, it gives you plenty of time to prepare other accompaniments along the way. Sure, it’s a bit more work than something like my Simple Grilled Chicken Drumsticks recipe, but it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.

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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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