8 – Side Dishes

Super simple recipe this week, for Preserved Lemons. The process highlighted in my recipe below is modeled after the North African tradition of preserving lemons in salt — salt helps prevent microbial growth, and the citric acid found in the lemon (and as a byproduct of fermentation) helps to further preserve the lemons. But what we’re most interested in — that is, the deep, lemony flavor that comes from cooking with preserved lemons — will be in next week’s recipe.

Don’t have three to four weeks to spare preserving your own lemons? Check your local Middle Eastern grocery, they often have these shelf-stable favorites. Or, they can also be found online at a surprisingly affordable price.

Read Full Article

Here we are, folks: less than two weeks left to order the limited edition physical version of The Heritage Cookbook! I’ve been busy putting the final touches on this print edition, which I’ve redesigned from the ground up. I’m very proud of how it’s progressing, and I think you’re going to love it. Mark your calendars: the hardcover book will only be available for purchase until June 30th, and won’t be available in stores or on Amazon (after that, the digital edition will be the only version available).

Speaking of loving things, here’s a recipe from the book – one of my favorites. This curry noodle soup has a hefty ingredients list, but most of these can be tucked away in your pantry for other creations, like Thai Red Curry, Thai Green Curry, or Chicken Panang. So it’s really like an investment in deliciousness.

Read Full Article

Ajiaco is a soup found in both South America and Cuba. Its name comes from the word aji (“pepper”), originally traced to the indigenous Oto-Manguean family of languages that were prevalent in present-day Mexico as far back as 7,000 years ago. Today, the aji pepper refers to a specific pepper fruit (Capsicum baccatum) popular in South America, and is also known as the “bishop’s crown” pepper throughout the Caribbean. This aji pepper serves as the flavor base for the soup, giving it a subtle intensity and unexpected bite.

Another signature element of this dish is the potato. Nearly 10,000 years old, potatoes originated in the Andean mountain regions of present-day Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and it is estimated that over 4,000 native varieties of the tuber exist in these regions. This dish is traditionally prepared with a variety of potatoes, a testament to the diversity of potatoes available in South America.

This recipe is modeled after the Colombian version of Ajiaco, which always features chicken, corn, and potatoes (and the aji pepper, of course!). Like peppers and potatoes, corn is native to the Americas. The Colombian version is also spiced with guasca leaves, which are in the daisy family and native to South America. If you can’t find these dried leaves at your local international market, you can easily find them online.

The Cuban version of Ajiaco, also very popular, is a bit thicker (more akin to a stew), and features chicken, beef, and pork – what a feast. The Peruvian version is quite different from these soups, in that it isn’t served as a soup at all, but ran even thicker dish of braised potatoes and peppers (often without meat). And while all of these dishes now include ingredients that weren’t native to the Americas, such as garlic and onions, they still capture the spirit of the original (and likely forgotten) native dishes that inspired them.

And last but not least, a gentle reminder that the limited edition print version of my latest cookbook, The Heritage Cookbook, is only available for purchase through June 30th. Once they’re gone, they’re gone – they won’t be available in stores or on Amazon! These physical versions are really special to me; because I am publishing and shipping them myself, I can make the book look exactly how I envision it to be, and can sign/personalize each copy as I ship it out to you. CLICK HERE to learn more and to grab a copy for yourself!

Read Full Article

I’m going to be upfront with you – if you don’t like bitter foods, you probably won’t like this week’s recipe. Much as I’d like to tout that I’ve developed a way to eliminate the bitter momordicin compounds which make this vegetable one of the most astringent foods on the planet, that’s just not going to happen. But, there’s a bit of fun to be found in diving into this historically medicinal gourd; a new taste sensation is especially exciting for those who prefer their coffee black.

In truth, there are a few tricks to make bitter melon more palatable. First, salting and squeezing the melon extracts some of its bitter juices. Pairing the bitter melon with tangy amchur (green mango) powder, sweet coconut palm sugar, and a generous amount of spices also help balance the overall flavor. Finally, giving the melon slices a nice crisping near the end of cooking, and garnishing them with fresh cilantro as they come off the heat, give the dish an ideal texture.

There are two main varieties of bitter melon: the warty, light green Chinese cultivar, and the spiny, dark green Indian version. Both work fine for this recipe, but I prefer the exotic look of the Indian variety.

Read Full Article

Hi everyone, today’s recipe will be short and sweet – I’m currently feeling under the weather, but wanted to make sure I got a recipe out to you this week. Rather than entice you with a recipe from my upcoming cookbook, let’s check out one of my favorite recipes from Paleo Takeout: Singapore Rice Noodles (新洲米粉). It comes together in 20 minutes, and doesn’t need any exotic ingredients; if your pantry is stocked with curry powder, white pepper, and ground ginger, you’re halfway there.

I prefer to use rice vermicelli for an authentic texture, but feel free to use spiralized vegetables (like zucchini or yellow squash), or sweet potato noodles, depending on your preference.

Read Full Article

As we enter into November, I have exciting news – I’m just about done with developing and photographing recipes for my next cookbook! I’ve been at it for nearly two years straight – researching, testing, and retesting. I’m looking forward to moving to the next stage of the book-writing process, as I organize the contents, design the layout, and edit the manuscript. To be honest, editing is my favorite part of writing books; I like making small, incremental tweaks to refine my voice, and perfectly lining up every little element of the narrative.

So in celebration of moving on to the next (and arguably the most complicated) stage of the process, let’s enjoy this simple Greek stewed okra recipe. These okra fall into the lathera (λαδερά), or oil-based, dishes commonly found among Greek home chefs – simple to prepare, but packed with flavor. This dish works well as a hearty side, but really shines during Lent or other fasts, since it is remarkably filling thanks to its generous helping of olive oil.

Read Full Article

Every once in awhile, I get a big craving for beets. The craving doesn’t hit me often, but when it does, I typically turn to my Vinegret (винегрет) recipe from The Ancestral Table. So without further ado, here is the text from the book:

Vinegret is the name of a Russian salad that is likely not of Russian origin, but rather borrowed from German or Scandinavian cuisine. In traditional Russian cuisine, salads were pretty rare. Vinegret is often cited as the first Russian salad, first mentioned in the 19th century.

Another Russian favorite is Olivier salad, which has a much more interesting history. It was invented by Lucien Olivier, a Belgian chef working in Moscow in the 1860s. The original recipe was a closely held secret and was never truly duplicated. Documents reveal that the salad likely included caviar, crawfish tails, aspic, and veal tongue. Over the years, these rare ingredients were replaced by common ones. Instructions for making Olivier Salad are also found below, as the method is similar.

Read Full Article

Salad Shirazi is a herb and vegetable salad from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. It’s enjoyed year-round as a side dish, but is often served as a full meal during the hot summer months. While the vegetables are often diced – giving them an appearance not unlike Pico de Gallo – I have found that using larger chunks give each ingredient a bit more distinction, and results in a livelier eating experience.

There isn’t much to this recipe; theoretically, you could just throw all of the ingredients together and chow down. But I prefer to soak the onions in cold water first, which removes some astringency, and to salt the tomatoes and cucumbers to leech out a bit of their juice. That way, most of the salad’s moisture comes from more flavorful sources, like olive oil and lime juice.

Read Full Article

Hey folks, we’re going to enjoy a short, simple dish this week. I’m in the middle of prep for a two-week stretch of recipe development, hopefully my last big push in the kitchen before I focus on writing other parts of my next book!

I think there’s something unfairly simple about wedge salads. They’re a cinch to put together at home, but I often find myself ordering them at restaurants, despite the fact that I’m paying someone to simply chop a head of lettuce into quarters. This week’s recipe is the classic preparation of the dish, which is wonderful in its ease and approachability; for something a little more challenging, I encourage you to check out my Muffuletta Wedge Salad recipe from last year.

A little history on wedge salads, from The Ancestral Table:

Salads served wedge-style date back to the 1910s and reached peak popularity in the 1960s. Iceberg lettuce, the staple lettuce used in this dish, has slowly been replaced by leaf lettuces over the years, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for this crispy, blank-canvas lettuce; it stays fresher longer than leaf lettuces and pairs better with creamy dressings and heavier toppings, as in this recipe.

Read Full Article

One of my new favorite discoveries while developing recipes for my next cookbook is the versatility of green bananas.

I’m definitely comfortable cooking with plantains, both as a hearty side (see: Mofongo and Mangú) or as a complement to dishes like Jerk Chicken, Picadillo Cubano, and Ital Stew. As I started to dig a bit more deeply into Caribbean cuisines, I grew to appreciate the simplicity of just grabbing a few unripe bananas and giving them a quick boil – their texture is not unlike potatoes, but with a rib-sticking quality that is maybe a tiny bit more satisfying than your typical boiled spuds. They even do well in a cold salad, like this week’s recipe.

Guineitos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas) is an excellent example of how you can take seemingly discordant ingredients – bananas, onion, garlic, olives, and vinegar – and come up with something that blends together pleasantly (and unexpectedly). Escabeche is a process of marinating food in a vinegar solution, most commonly used to preserve delicate fish in the Mediterranean and Latin America. For this dish, which is most associated with Puerto Rico, bananas take the center stage; try it as a side for your next summer cookout!

Read Full Article