paleo

We’re just coming out of the stretch of what I like to call “roasting weather”, wherein I adore the comforting smells and radiating warmth of cranking on the oven. This week’s recipe capitalizes on those aromatic smells I like so much, what with its flavors of sauteed onion, roasted apple, and a sweet and tangy maple glaze. The pork isn’t bad, either!

This roast is an excellent opportunity to showcase the types of meats available through my friends at ButcherBox, who contributed the pork sirloin you see in this picture. Pork is one of those meats I have a hard time buying at my local grocery store, since the conditions in which conventional pigs are raised is usually far from ideal. Moreover, it is often difficult to find farmers who raise happy, healthy pigs, since the price of conventionally-raised pork is so cheap that it can discourage farmers from raising animals they know will cost much more at the market. ButcherBox does all that work for us, by sourcing responsibly-raised pork from heritage breeds who are free of antibiotics, ractopamine, and hormones; I also appreciate the fact that they curate their monthly meat boxes, combining familiar and new cuts, which keeps me in a creative mood while in the kitchen.

Today’s recipe looks (and sounds) fancy, but it’s not far from many of my other dry-roast recipes: bring the pork to temperature at a moderately low heat (225F), then add onions, apple, and glaze, and finally finish everything off in a very hot (500F) oven for that perfect external texture.

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I’m not sure what it is about 2017, but I’ve really appreciated ground meat more than usual. Much like last month’s Beef Tinaktak, I appreciate the ease and brevity that comes from these quick meals, both done in less than 30 minutes.

Today’s recipe for Keema Matar is a North Indian and Pakistani dish characterized by mincemeat (typically lamb or goat) and peas. The word “Keema” (mincemeat) appears to have a universal origin; in addition to being the same word in Hindi (क़ीमा), Punjabi (ਕ਼ੀਮਾ), and Urdu (قیمہ), similar words can be found throughout Europe and Asia, like the Greek κιμάς (kimás), Turkish kıyma, and Armenian ղեյմա (gyemah). This has led scholars to believe that the Greek “kimas” and English “mince” may share the same origin, from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey-, a word that translates to “small, little”, and eventually led to our modern words like “minute”, “diminish”, and “minimum”. Others believe that the Greek “kimas” is derived from the Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), which translates to “piece, that which is cut off”, and which later became our modern word for “comma”. Isn’t language fun?

While many diners may not recall experiencing Keema Matar as an entrée, they’ve likely seen it before, used as a common filling for everybody’s favorite Indian savory pastry, the mighty samosa.

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Moqueca is a fitting representation of Brazil’s diverse culinary background. There are several variations of this dish today, but Moqueca Baiana, from the Northeast state of Bahia, is one of the most interesting reflection of the traditions embedded in Brazilian cuisine.

Originally a seafood stew prepared by the native people of Brazil, Moqueca has taken on a new form over the past few hundred years. Some signature flavors of today’s Moqueca Baiana recipe include coconut milk, first introduced by Portuguese colonists who planted coconut trees as they removed other trees for wood, and palm oil, brought over by African slaves as part of the sugarcane trade.

Although palm oil contains some health benefits, there are ecological concerns with its production. I prefer to use Nutiva palm oil, which is certified organic and fair trade, and they ensure that no deforestation or habitat destruction results from the growing and harvesting processes. We also pop our popcorn in this oil, which gives it a rich, buttery flavor.

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The other day, as I was experimenting with pressure-cooked rice to enjoy with my recent Simple Saag recipe, I thought it was long overdue to discuss the merits of white rice in my diet. I usually mention this every year or two, and I’ve touched on it in each of my books, but it’s always good to open up the discussion from time to time.

The use of rice on a Paleo-friendly website might seem counterintuitive, since most Paleo resources suggest avoiding grains. The reasoning is typically that grains are relative newcomers to humankind’s three-million-year history, since agriculture didn’t spread until the start of the Neolithic era, some 12,000 years ago. But historians estimate that the progenitor of rice existed over 130 million years ago (you know, about 127 million years before humans appeared). It’s so old that similar strains were found in both Africa and Asia, indicating that it was around before the continents first shifted to where they are today.

There is evidence that wild rice was eaten by prehistoric peoples when available, and it was first domesticated around 13,000 years ago, before the end of the Paleolithic era and a couple thousand years before wheat was domesticated. So it’s been around for a long time, much longer that many other foods on our dinner plates – like tomatoes, which were exclusive to South America until about 600 years ago, and cultivated in the Andes only for about 1,000 years prior to that. I’m not picking on tomatoes, because they’re delicious, but you get my point: worldwide, they’ve had 1/12 the culinary lifespan of rice.

Another reason to avoid grains is the fact that many contain low-grade toxins and antinutrients, which can be disruptive to the digestive system. White rice has the lowest toxicity of all the cereal grains, and most of its toxins exist in the bran found in brown rice. A common concern is that grains contain phytic acid, which binds to dietary minerals like zinc and iron, causing them to be less digestible and potentially leading to micronutrient deficiencies. While brown rice carries a significant amount of phytic acid (about the same amount as whole wheat bread), white rice is much lower; in fact, it has less phytic acid than many foods approved by common Paleo diet standards, such as coconut, avocados, walnuts, almonds, and spinach. Finally, the majority of toxins that remain in white rice are destroyed in the cooking process. For this reason, I prefer white rice over brown rice (and it tastes better, too). I like to think of it this way: consider that rice has a reputation among many traditional cultures as being a safe food for digestion, and it is often given to children and the infirm as a way to provide safe, digestible calories. Rice is not nutrient dense, so it’s a good idea to cook it in broth and eat it as part of a nutrient-packed meal; we often top our rice with furikake, a Japanese rice seasoning made from seaweed.

Glycemic load is also a concern when eating rice, and I think my friend Paul Jaminet summed it up perfectly several years ago, here. To paraphrase, the GI of white rice is tempered by a number of factors, including its type (basmati is better than average), cooking method (boiling is best), and the presence of other foods which contain dairy (butter!), fat (meat!), fiber (veggies!), or acids (wine! fermented veggies!). So while the glycemic index on paper looks scary, rice is rarely eaten in a vacuum, but as part of a complete meal.

Last sticking point: it’s true that like other plant-based foods, rice absorbs inorganic arsenic, and there are some pretty frightening reports about the arsenic content found in rice products. First, it’s important to note that the vast majority of rice products with high arsenic content come from brown rice, not white rice. Moreover, the source of your rice is also critical; for example, most rice grown in the US is from Texas, Arkansas, or Louisiana, typically on former cotton fields. Those fields contain high levels of arsenic in their soil, as a result of using pesticides to combat boll weevils, and these rices absorb that arsenic. Alternatively, rice grown in California, East Asia, and South Asia generally contain less arsenic than rice grown in the Southern US. The type of rice also influences its arsenic content, with basmati rice containing the lowest amount of arsenic. While the effects of inorganic arsenic is often disputed, to play it safe, we stick to white rice grown in California or Asia (or Europe, if buying risotto or paella rice).

Okay, I hope I’ve made my point, that white rice isn’t some predatory frankenfood that should be avoided at all costs. So let me leave you with one last example: most people would agree that a meal of sautéed chicken, steamed broccoli, and a bit of olive oil is technically “healthy” meal (albeit one that would have me craving pizza afterwards). So how would that meal compare to the flavor, satisfaction, and nutrients found in this Seafood and Sausage Paella, made with broth, seafood, a bunch of veggies, and 1 1/2 cups of white rice spread among six servings? Case closed. Let’s make some rice.

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I’ve been to the small Pacific island of Guam about a dozen times in my life, but never for long – usually I was disembarking from a US Navy ship and headed to the airport, on my way back home. There were a few moments when I was lucky enough to spend a day or two on the island before catching a flight, relaxing by the beach and reveling in the novelty of not having to wear a uniform 24/7. Regrettably, though, I never got a chance to enjoy a homestyle meal while in Guam. To be fair, the last time I was there was well over 10 years ago, in the dark period before smartphone apps like Yelp–at the time, my food explorations usually just consisted of eating wherever was within walking distance.

I think the fact that I missed out on some of Guam’s homestyle cuisine is what draws me towards one of Guam’s signature comfort foods, and today’s recipe, Beef Tinaktak. In essence, this dish is like a taste of what could have been, had I the opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal there. Beef Tinaktak’s pairing of ground beef, tomatoes, green beans, and coconut milk sounds a little strange on paper, but the resulting flavor is anything but; it’s immediately comforting, while wholly unique.

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One of my favorite popular dishes in Indian cuisine is Saag, a leaf-based side commonly served with bread or rice. Years ago, I found myself ordering it in local restaurants, often for a steep price, and wondering how to recreate this dish at home. It’s been a staple in the house ever since, and I even included a popular variation, Saag Paneer (served with homemade, pan-fried cheese), in The Ancestral Table.

While I love Saag Paneer, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with making your own cheese, it is pretty time consuming. Lately, I often stick with a simple version of Saag, which is basically just the greens with some basic spices. Additionally, my friends at Primal Palate recently added Garam Masala to their collection of spices, so it felt like to perfect time to post my Simple Saag recipe.

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To truly understand the beauty of Erdäpfelsuppe, I’m going to run you through a quick language lesson. When Columbus first encountered the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean in the late 15th century, they presented him with the sweet potato–batata in the Taíno language–which he first brought to Europe. But on subsequent trips, explorers returned with the white potato, first cultivated in the Andes mountains–papa in the Quechuan language–and people started confusing the two. In truth, it was a little unfair to introduce two very similar tubers, with similar names, to unsuspecting Europeans. This confusion endures today; the Spanish word patata, and English potato, are the result of compounding both batata and papa.

But as the potato traveled across the continent, filling the bellies of hungry Europeans along the way, people perceived the vegetable differently. For example, the Italians first supposed that the potato looked a lot like a truffle–tartufolo–and the sentiment spread to Eastern Europe (examples include the German kartoffel and the Russian картофель).

Personally, I think the French had the most elegant interpretation. Although they first went the truffle route, with the word cartoufle, they eventually switched to pomme de terre (“earth apple”). You see, the concept of earth apples isn’t new – the phrase had been used throughout history for various vegetables, including cucumbers and melons, as documented in Old High German, Old English, and Middle Dutch. And the French weren’t the only one to make this connection, because the word Erdapfel appears in Switzerland, Austria, and Southern Germany–all used to describe potatoes.

So in reality, today’s Erdäpfelsuppe is not really different from the more famous German Potato Soup (Kartoffelsuppe), but it’s an excellent moment to highlight the connection that many of us shares at the dinner table…no matter which name we use.

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In June of 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte led the French army to a decisive victory against the Austrian army in Marengo (present-day Italy), an important battle during the French Revolutionary Wars. Legend has it that the French supply carts failed to catch up to their soldiers, and so Napoleon’s chef had to forage for ingredients in the local village. Returning with a chicken, olives, and some crawfish, the chef threw them together into the dish now known as Chicken Marengo, and served it with grilled bread topped with a fried egg. Napoleon, who was known to have bad digestion due to wolfing down his meals, enjoyed the dish so much that he requested it after every subsequent battle.

History has its fair share of eccentric leaders. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) had three of his eight(!) wives banished to spend their remaining days in an abbey, and legend has it he had an elephant executed when it refused to bow before him. Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916) supposedly had awful table manners and an insatiable sweet tooth. US Presidents have been fairly interesting too, from Chester A. Arthur, who wore several changes of pants each day, to James A. Garfield, who could write with both hands at the same time, in different languages (Latin and Greek). Ulysses S. Grant smoked over 20 cigars a day (but later succumbed to throat cancer). FDR supposedly enjoyed driving around in Al Capone’s armored car, which had been seized by the US Treasury Dept when Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion. Also, two US Presidents (Carter and Reagan) have claimed to witness UFOs.

Today, Chicken Marengo is only rarely made with crawfish – shrimp are a fair substitute – but given that crawfish season just started here in the Florida panhandle, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try the real deal. Instructions for both shrimp and crawfish are provided below!

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Happy Friday everyone! I just wanted to send along a quick note to let you know that I’ve released a new, 2017 edition of my eBook, The Safe Starch Cookbook.

In this update, I’ve added 27 new recipes to the eBook, 42% more content than the previous version. I’ve also updated the cover, graphics, and some of the recipe formatting. The Safe Starch Cookbook now contains 221 pages. Here’s a short list of what you’ll find inside the book:

  • 91 recipes (24 rice, 28 potato, 15 noodle, and 24 other starch dishes)
  • a picture for every recipe, taken by yours truly
  • comprehensive recipe index with thumbnail hyperlinks to each page
  • a look at portion sizes and meal timing for optimum health
  • tips to save money using starches (nearly $1,000/year per person!)
  • a breakdown of meal-planning in the context of carbs
  • a thorough substitution guide for common food allergies
  • all recipes are gluten-free and developed using a whole-food mindset
  • my argument for why white rice should be considered “Paleo”
  • rice-buying guide to avoid arsenic and other toxins
  • 221 pages total

For more info, please check out The Safe Starch Cookbook‘s main page. Happy cooking!

As I mentioned in last week’s recipe for Skillet-Roasted Winter Vegetables, I recently had quite an adventure photographing a couple dishes in the middle of a Florida storm. This week’s recipe for Center-Cut Pork Rib Roast is the last dish I photographed during that session, and I was lucky enough to get a pretty good shot of the meal. In hindsight, a tripod would have helped stabilize the photo above, but I’m so used to shooting by hand that I didn’t think of it in time.

Today’s cooking method will work for most bone-in cuts of meat; try it with beef prime rib or roast. The key is to cook the meat at a low temperature (250F) so that the center reaches an ideal temperature without overcooking the outer layers, then to finish it off in a searing-hot oven after a brief period of rest. The timing works out perfectly, as you can rest the roast while you crank up the oven heat – I’m a big fan of this type of efficiency.

Another reason I like this roast is that it is the counterpoint to my popular Eye of Round Roast recipe (which celebrated its five-year birthday earlier this month). The older recipe starts at a high heat, then finishes the roast at a very low heat; while both methods consistently result in tender roasts, I also like the sense of control that comes with searing the roast at the end, as in today’s recipe.

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