Potatoes

Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá is a traditional dish from Porto, in Northwest Portugal. As I’ve written in an earlier post using bacalhau, the Portuguese were one of the first European cultures to fish for cod, off the coast of Newfoundland after Columbus discovered the New World. Salted cod has been an integral part of Portuguese culture, and it’s often said that you can cook a new dish using bacalhau every day of the year – it’s often cited that there are over 1,000 total recipes to be found.

Advances in fishing technology in the mid 20th century had collapsed the Northwest Atlantic cod market by the 1990s – cod takes a long time to mature, and overfishing had run rampant. Today, bacalhau is most often made using cod harvested from Arctic waters under more strict quotas.

Bacalhau is made by salting and drying the fish in the sun; while it was originally a method of preservation (salted cod keeps a long time even without refrigeration), its unique, strong flavor is unmistakable and delicious, and its popularity endures today. The only downside to eating bacalhau is that it requires a bit of foresight, since it needs to be soaked overnight to reconstitute the fish.

If you’re new to using bacalhau, you might be surprised to find that it’s available in many common grocery stores, often sold near the cured meats section. For example, my local Publix grocery store sells a few different varieties of bacalhau. I like to keep some in the fridge at all times; I’ll generally throw some in a bowl of water, then put it in the fridge to soak overnight, and either pan-fry it to enjoy with my breakfast, or making something fancy like today’s recipe.

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It’s a New Year, which means many folks are just starting (or restarting) a new healthy eating adventure. One of the more popular eating challenges is the Whole30 (heck, it’s the #6 book on Amazon as of this morning). It’s been a few years since I’ve done a Whole30, which is a 30-day program with explicit guidelines. It doesn’t stray far from the way I eat anyway, other than the fact that it’s more stringent on honey, alcohol, dairy, and rice than my typical diet.

One thing I remember from my last Whole30 (in 2012, if memory serves me) was that I had a hard time keeping up my carb intake – at the time, the only carb-heavy foods allowed were sweet potatoes, beets, and plantains, which grew tiresome after a month of eating them. Luckily, the folks behind Whole30 remedied that in 2014, when they added white potatoes to their list of allowed foods. Hopefully this recipe – which includes two starchy vegetables – will make this month’s Whole30 a bit easier for everyone (also, don’t forget about this guide which transforms 94% of the 250+ recipes in Paleo Takeout to be Whole3o-compliant).

The turnip is one of the first cultivated vegetables, with some records dating back 17,000 years. Turnip roots aren’t as popular in the US as their greens, which are similar to mustard greens in taste. This soup is one of my favorite ways to prepare turnips, as it accentuates the natural creaminess of the root; serve this to your guests, and they won’t believe you that it’s dairy-free. Adding potatoes to the soup adds more body and heft to the dish, warming the belly on these cold winter evenings.

Fun fact: the rutabaga, another common root vegetable, was originally a cross-cultivation of the turnip and cabbage. It is also referred to as “neep” in some countries, likely a carryover from the Old English word næp (and before that, the Latin word napus), which meant “turnip”. Rutabagas and turnips are often confused for one another, with a common misconception that rutabagas are just large turnips.

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I recently partnered with Reynolds Kitchens to develop some unique Fall and Holiday recipes for their Endless Table project; some were reimagined classics (see: Tender Eye of Round Roast), while others were new creations designed to capitalize on the versatility of tin foil (see: Roasted Sausage and Sauerkraut, Oven Roasted Artichokes).

I enjoyed the opportunity to dive into one specific product, and it end up maturing the way I think about tin foil – no longer relegated to simply preventing foods from sticking to a baking sheet, but rather as an instrument that can molded to fit a number of circumstances.

For one recipe, these Bacon-Wrapped Sweet Potato Bites, the tin foil solved one particularly pesky problem: how to roast sweet potato pieces so that they are fully cooked but not dried out. The solution is simple – cover the sweet potato bites with Reynolds Wrap for the first half of the cooking time, then remove the foil and let the oven crisp up the outside of the potatoes. Adding bacon, as expected, raised the dish’s flavor to a whole new level; and the strategic use of tin foil allowed me to ensure the bacon and sweet potatoes were cooked just right, and in tandem.

The full recipe is hosted on the Reynolds Kitchen website; click here to check it out. Also be sure to watch the video above – these sweet potato bites make a cameo appearance mid-way through the shot (they’re on the right).

Pommes Anna is a famous French preparation of white potatoes, borne in the mid 19th century. The story goes that the dish was named after Anna Deslions, a well-known Parisian courtesan, who frequented Café Anglais where chef Adolphe Dugléré invented the dish to honor her (and the wealthy clientele that she brought into the popular restaurant).

The idea of naming food after celebrities appears to be a time-honored tradition. Some examples: Beef Wellington was named after the Duke of Wellington (in celebration of his victory during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815), Pizza Margherita was named after Queen Margherita, Beef Carpaccio is named in honor of painter Vittore Carpaccio (who worked with vibrant reds), and who could forget the Arnold Palmer?

At other times, the food itself turns folks into celebrities: Caesar salad is not named after Julius Caesar but Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who invented the salad in 1924 while living in Tijuana, Mexico; and nachos are purportedly the invention of Ignacio Anaya, a boy who in 1943 whipped up the dish to feed some hungry soldiers in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

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Tuna Casserole is one of America’s most divisive meals; some love the idea of recapturing treasured childhood moments spent digging into this comforting dish, while others wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. I think there are enough folks in the first camp to provide me a steady stream of requests for a health-minded adaptation over the years, so here we are.

Initially, I couldn’t fathom why people were asking me to recreate Tuna Casserole – the dish I grew up with was made with egg noodles, and pasta is a no-go on the Paleo diet (well…I’m okay with rice pasta, but I digress). Turns out there is a segment of the population that feels a true Tuna Casserole is made with potatoes instead of noodles; once I got word of this concept, throwing the rest of the casserole together was cake.

As with a couple other recipes this month (see: exhibit 1 and exhibit 2), I was approached by Sharp to create dishes using their Convection Microwave, and this casserole seemed like a good fit; the microwave’s convection oven function worked like a charm. One advantage I discovered while making this dish in the microwave was that I could soften the onion in the microwave itself instead of dirtying an extra pan; I used the bottom roasting element to act as a conventional stovetop, then switched it to the convection oven setting and baked the rest of the dish. If you don’t own the microwave (yet?), I’ve provided conventional stovetop and oven instructions below.

I’ve also teamed up with Sharp to give away one of the microwaves that I’ve been using during these cooking adventures. See the bottom of this post for directions on how to enter.

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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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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 and her book, 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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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. You don’t never every single starch to make a flavorful stew – just use what you have available to you. 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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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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