food

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.

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One of my favorite dishes from the past few years is my original Chicken Korma recipe; I liked it so much that I ended up adding it to the second print edition of Paleo Takeout.

When developing recipes for my next book, I knew that I wanted to approach the dish again, but with a more authentic feel: using whole spices instead of powders, and yogurt for creaminess (as opposed to blended cashes as in my last recipe). Additionally, I wanted to add a contrasting bite to the curry, and I found that lotus root fit the bill perfectly; if you can’t find any at your local Asian market, simply omit.

As I mentioned in my previous post, “Korma” comes from the Urdu word ḳormā, which means to braise. This dish, as with other braised dishes like Rogan Josh, is characteristic of Moghul cuisine, which was first introduced to Northern India by the Mughal Empire in the 16th Century; the Mughal were a predominantly Muslim people of Turko-Mongol descent (some claimed to be direct descendants of Genghis Khan).

This dish is moderately spicy, thanks to its use of kashmiri red chili powder; to minimize the heat, reduce the amount accordingly.

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As many of you probably know, I’ve been blogging about my journey with the Paleo diet (or some approximation of it) for about seven years now. But what most people don’t realize is that I posted recipes on this site well before I decided to change my dietary lifestyle, albeit to a much smaller audience. There are very few remnants of the old site today, but one of them is this chili recipe, published about a month before I changed my diet.

I think it’s about time I updated that recipe – the pictures make me cringe every time I see them. In truth, I have updated the recipe twice before; it was featured in both The Ancestral Table and Paleo Takeout. Today’s creation differs from those recipes because it’s more in line with traditional Texas chili; in other words, it focuses mainly on the flavor that comes from dried chilis.

Before we get started, a quick caveat to any Texans reading the recipe: yes, I used tomatoes (considered sacrilege in certain circles). I found that by grating a couple tomatoes and cooking them down a bit, it adds a fruity balance you can’t get from dried chiles alone. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

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Around this time every year, my Perfect Smoked Turkey starts making the rounds, and for good reason – it’s relatively simple (with a little practice), and comes out great every time. But sometimes, with so many other things on your plate during Thanksgiving, the idea of tackling a new smoked turkey recipe can be daunting; lots of folks have told me that they would like to try the recipe, but never manage to get to it. So for everyone else, here is how I oven-roast my turkeys.

There’s really not much to this recipe, and that’s the point. This recipe uses a couple handy techniques first discovered by kitchen wizard J. Kenji López-Alt over at Serious Eats: start with a dry brine, then roast the turkey over a hot baking stone.

For the dry brine, you simply rub the turkey all over with kosher salt, pepper, baking soda, and cream of tartar and leave it in the fridge overnight. Baking soda and cream of tartar (which paired together in a 1:2 ratio create baking powder) help to raise the skin’s pH, which more efficiently breaks down its proteins to create a crispier skin.

Placing your baking sheet directly on a hot baking stone will give the lower, dark meat a head start in roasting, so that both parts reach their optimal temperature at the same time: 150F for breasts, 165F for legs and thighs.

When it comes to stuffing the bird, I prefer to use just a few aromatics to fill the oven with delicious aromas without inhibiting air circulation…

…and that’s about it. This simple recipe will give you a chance to focus on other dishes on the big day, like Cranberry Sauce, Basic Mashed Potatoes, Devilish Eggs, or New Brunswick-style Potato Stuffing.

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This past weekend was probably one of our last opportunities to grill in nice weather – it was a cool 45F outside, just enough to require my jacket and a careful eye on my charcoal. I’ll likely grill through the winter, but I figured now would be a good time to share this recipe for Inihaw na Liempo (Filipino Grilled Pork Belly).

Pork has a long history in Filipino cuisine; the Tagalog word for pig, baboy, is likely derived from the Indo-Malay babi/bayi, indicating that pork spread to the Philippine archipelago alongside its early inhabitants. For reference, there is evidence of humans living in the Philippines some 67,000 years ago, but they were likely displaced by several other arriving groups until about 6,000 years ago, when Malayo-Polynesians first arrived from East Asia. There is no perfect way to determine whether the pigs are an ancient member of the archipelago, but the fact that pigs have cultural significance on the islands is a good indication; for example, the seafaring Sama-Bajau, an ethnic group who live mostly in the Southern Philippines, used simple pig-shaped constellation clusters to navigate prior to the arrival of Europeans and their more advanced navigational methods.

Inihaw na Liempo is a more modern preparation of pork belly, using ingredients with both short and long histories in the Philippines. Many recipes today call for banana ketchup, which was a replacement for tomato ketchup invented during tomato shortages in World War II. Intrigued by the idea, I decided to mash a couple bananas into my marinade, and was pleasantly surprised by the fruity notes that complemented the crispy pork belly. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye on the grill – the natural sugars in the banana tend to encourage browning. For that reason, I like to slice my pork belly relatively thin, at 1/2″, to ensure the pork cooks through before getting too browned (plus, thinner slices = more crispy surface texture).

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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.

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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.

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The history of the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family is surprisingly complex, as I recently found. They are one of the first cultivated foods; there is indication they were domesticated as far back as around 15,000 years ago. The Cucurbitaceae family is broken into five main groups, all important to humans for different reasons:

1) the Lagenaria genus, indigenous to Africa, includes bottle gourds (aka calabash), used as a container and musical instrument.
2) the Citrullus genus, also from Africa, includes watermelon and egusi (whose seeds remain an important food in Africa today).
3) the Cucumis genus, is of unknown origin (but likely the Middle East) and includes cucumbers, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.
4) Luffa is a genus of fibrous gourds, grown in Asia and eaten when immature, or matured and dried on the vine for use as body scrubs (this is where the word “loofa” comes from).
5) and finally, the Cucurbita genus encompasses today’s subject – pumpkins and squash.

As you probably know, the winter squashes we know today – pumpkins, acorn, butternut, and the like – were first domesticated in the New World, and are relatively new additions to other cuisines. But when you look up the origins of other squashes, like zucchini, the results are not so clear. As I dug through recipes for Kousa Mahshi, many would describe this dish as an ancient favorite, as if this delicious stuffed squash was enjoyed in Constantinople a thousand years ago.

In truth, zucchini (and all summer squashes) are simply immature cultivars of the Cucurbita genus, eaten while the rind is still edible. Zucchini in particular was first developed in Northern Italy, and not introduced to the rest of the world until the 1930s – a far cry from the Byzantine Empire!

So in the face of these facts, it’s safe to say that Kousa Mahshi is a relatively new invention, likely a reinvention of the older Sarma/Dolma (stuffed grape leaves) dish common in the Mediterranean, Balkans, and Persian Gulf.

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I’m currently sitting at my computer with a blanket and a cat on my lap, and wearing a hoodie and house slippers for the first time this year. Sounds like the perfect time to break out a stew recipe.

Pichelsteiner is a very typical stew, found in similar shapes and sizes all over the world. There are several stories to explain its invention, a common trait among stews. One folk tale details how a farmer’s wife fed the stew to a group of marauding soldiers, saving the day (and her family) with this new culinary invention. Another tale explains how a Bavarian chef prepared Pichelsteiner for party atop Büchelstein mountain (allegedly, the name of this dish morphed from there). Finally, the small Bavarian village of Regen, along the Czech border, claims ownership of this dish as well, which they have communally served at the anniversary of their church’s dedication in 1874.

Pichelsteiner shares another feature with other regional stews: it serves as the solution to those pesky leftovers that creep up in the fridge. As truly communal fare, the stew incorporates a spectrum of ingredients available to pre-industrial Germans: mushrooms, onion, carrots, leeks, cabbage, potatoes, and three types of meat. So if you don’t have all the ingredients, or if you have a couple extra that aren’t listed below, don’t fret – there’s a lot of wiggle room here.

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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.

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