Side Dishes

It’s been a couple months since my last soup post, so this one is long overdue. Soups are a vital part of my diet; they are versatile, easy to prepare, and a seamless way to integrate more homemade broth into my eating routine. Today’s lettuce soup is a nice change of pace, and a unique way to avoid the incessant crunching and chewing that comes from eating a plateful of lettuce.

There are two main cuisines with a history of enjoying lettuce in their soup. In Chinese cuisine, it is added as a finishing vegetable, much in the same way you’d add herbs like cilantro or scallions; for example, our local Vietnamese restaurant serves its Chinese-inspired Hu Tieu soup with lettuce on top. Today’s recipe favors the French preparation of lettuce soup, which is often blended (or run through a sieve) and flavored with cream.

Any lettuce will do for this recipe, with the exception of iceberg, because it probably won’t add much flavor. This dish is served both cold and hot, and we prefered the hot version. Lettuce soup has a flavor that’s hard to describe – earthy but not dirty, sharp but not biting. I’ve found that cooking down a leek in the chicken broth enriches and balances the soup; adding a few sprigs of parsley and some lemon zest help brighten its top notes as well.

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September is here, Labor Day has come and passed; it’s time to get autumnal.

Ratatouille is a Provençal vegetable stew, first originating in the city of Nice (near the Southeast tip of France). Its base ingredients, namely tomatoes and eggplant, are indicative of its Mediterranean influence; there are similar dishes in other countries that border the Mediterranean, like Pisto (Spain), Camponata (Sicily), and Briám (Greece).

But who am I fooling – you are probably already aware of this dish. If you’re like me, you were pretty inspired by the 2007 film; to me, it captured the beauty of cooking in a way that few films have. Truth be told, few animated films have stuck with me as long as Ratatouille (but I think Pinocchio will always be my all-time favorite).

For today’s preparation, I kept things simple. Just the right ingredients, done in an hour, and mostly hands off – it’s the perfect accompaniment to a more labor-intensive main dish. In fact, it’d be the perfect time to try out that Chicken in Champagne Sauce recipe you’ve been eyeing for the past few months!

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Summer’s heat is finally, lazily, starting to wane here in NW Florida; but it’s nowhere near stew season yet. And judging from recent reports, the rest of the US is experiencing some pretty hot weather, so you’re likely not ready to crank on the oven right now, either. So I think it’s the perfect time to share my Gỏi Gà (Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad) recipe.

Gỏi is the common salad dish in Southern Vietnam (called Nộm in Northern Vietnam), with Gỏi Gà, its chicken variety, being the most popular. While many shredded chicken salad recipes call for boiled chicken, I just can’t stomach the idea of boiling chicken – it seems like such an impersonal way to prepare meat, and it runs the risk of creating a dry, mealy texture.

I respect the reason why boiled chicken is used for shredding, as the water-saturated chicken is easy to break apart. But today, we’ll employ a technique I first learned in a restaurant job, nearly 20 years ago, to get the best of both worlds: we’ll grill the chicken to give it a nice crust and flavor, then dunk it in an ice water bath to cool. This has a secondary effect of preventing the grilled chicken from shrinking, making it a breeze to shred.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste. For example, we’ll fry up some shallots and garlic as a salad topping, then cool and use the oil to create the salad dressing – infused with toasted shallot and garlic flavor.

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Bubble and Squeak is a traditional English dish, served as a hash of leftover roasted vegetables. It can be made from a variety of vegetables, but potatoes and cabbage are almost always included; it can be served at any meal, and is a common accompaniment to a full English breakfast. This dish was first mentioned in the 1800s, but really fell into its own as a way of elongating meals during World War II, when food rationing was common.

The name “bubble and squeak” refers to the name that the vegetables make as they fry in the pan. There are some similarly fun names for other dishes that share the same technique, like Panackelty (NE England) and Rumbledethumps (Scotland).

Prepared traditionally, Bubble and Squeak is kind of tragic, because that means you could only enjoy it on those rare occasions when you have leftover roasted vegetables in the fridge. As a solution, the recipe below is written using fresh vegetables – you roast the vegetables while you boil the potatoes, then toss them all together for the final, beautiful creation. Of course, if you have leftover vegetables, this recipe will work, too; just skip directly to step #3.

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When one blogs about their food experiences, some patterns start to show. For example, over the past 5+ years writing for this blog, I’ve only posted four salad recipes. That’s not because I think salads aren’t worth making, but rather, it’s an indication of how I view salads: as something you throw together using the vegetables available in your crisper, or on your counter.

In truth, there is still some merit to writing salad recipes. Sometimes, it’s good to have a solid blueprint for future cooking endeavors. Case in point is this Winter Slaw, modeled after European-style cabbage salads.

Out of the countries who count their cabbage intake, Russians consume the most – about 40 pounds per person, compared to 9 pounds per person in the United States. Cabbage often carries a bad reputation, since some folks experience a negative response after eating it; this is due to the trisaccharide raffinose, which is found in cabbage, beans, broccoli, and asparagus. That gassiness is caused by the trisaccharide fermenting in your lower intestine.

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Today is a big voting day here in the United States. If you’re one of the 12 states (or American Samoa) participating, be sure to let your voice be heard! While I’m not in a voting state today, I’m holding a mini celebration by peppering this post with election-related vocabulary. How many words can you spot?

You may have noticed a vegetable side dish peeking out from last week’s Furikake Ahi recipe. It happens to be one of my favorite ways to prepare leafy greens, and until today, the recipe could only be found in my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table. That’s all going to change today, as we’re going to have a bit of a…well, super Tuesday today with this recipe.

There’s a lot of flexibility in this dish, but the technique remains the same: prepare a sauce, simmer the greens in the sauce, then remove the greens and thicken the sauce before reuniting them in a savory, delicately-flavored superdelegate. I can’t be upset if you elect to add a few other ingredients, as the absolute majority of the flavor comes from the primary components of broth, ginger, and garlic. Other write-in options would be tamari, chopped cashews, dried shrimp, or fried shallots.

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Recently, I stumbled upon J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s technique for pressure-cooker risotto, and decided to take it for a spin using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Considering that risotto has been around for 600 years, it’s nice to see a new spin on a classic preparation.

This technique worked perfectly (big surprise), so I have been using it frequently as a means to make perfect risotto without all that stirring. I even had to buy a new bag of arborio rice this past weekend, which is a rare occurrence – risotto rice always seems to last forever. If you don’t have a pressure cooker (yet!), don’t worry, I’ve included stovetop instructions as well.

To highlight this new take on risotto, I decided to err on the side of decadent: duck fat, mushrooms, prosciutto, and orange zest all fit together seamlessly to form a dish that’s equal parts familiar and exotic – and surprisingly dairy-free, to boot.

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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).

I know what you’re thinking – two recipes in one week? That’s right folks, in anticipation of one of the biggest cooking days of the year next week, I’m providing you with 200% of my typical weekly recipe spread. Tuesday’s recipe for Devilish Eggs makes for a perfect appetizer, while this simple cranberry sauce is fitting for any Thanksgiving plate: Paleo, Primal, gluten-free, or even gluten-laden.

I’m going to be on the road for most of next week (one last family vacation before our second child arrives next month), so I want to give you a few news updates before your holiday shopping reaches full swing.

First, the Kindle version of my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table will be on sale November 24th (this coming Tuesday) for $2.99, 66% off its normal price! This is part of a large-scale, one-day Paleo eBook sale; follow this link to sign up and be notified the moment the discount is available. Also, I’ll post the full list of eBooks on sale at the bottom of this recipe – it’s an excellent selection!

Next, the folks behind TX Bar Organics are offering 35% off all orders over $100, with free shipping on orders over $175 using the code “HOLIDAYS” (all caps). This is an excellent opportunity to fill your freezer with high-quality organic grass-fed beef.

Finally, I’ve recently started writing for Yahoo Food, which has been a lot of fun. Check out this recipe for New Brunswick-Style Potato Stuffing. This stuffing rounds out the perfect holiday meal, when paired with the cranberry sauce recipe below plus some other favorites: Devilish Eggs, Smoked Turkey, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

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