vegan

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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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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Mangú is a staple food of the Dominican Republic, and often served with breakfast. It is a signature element of los tres golpes (“the three hits”), served alongside fried eggs, fried cheese (specifically, a firm, salty cheese called queso para freir), and salami or longaniza (a dry-cured sausage not unlike chorizo).

There are two ideas as to the origin of Mangú. The first, and likely more accurate, story is that the dish and name are both byproducts of the Dominican slave trade. But there also exists a popular folk tale, in which this dish of mashed plantains was served to American soldiers during the American occupation of the country in the early 20th century, and that one of the dining soldiers exclaimed, “Man, good!”, and the rest is history.

Regardless of its etymology, there’s no denying that Mangú is an excellent way to start (or end) your day – it’s equal parts hearty starch and tropical comfort food – all topped with pickled red onions for a bit of extra zing.

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The other weekend, I was killing it in the kitchen. I had just finished off development and photos for a couple new recipes (my recent Curried Beef Stew and Garlic Smashed Potatoes dishes), and I was digging into two new creations: this week’s Skillet-Roasted Winter Vegetables, and next week’s Center-Cut Pork Rib Roast. Everything was going well, and my timing was just right – the dishes were going to finish just as the afternoon sun would be in the perfect position for photos.

But as anyone who’s visited Florida can attest, the weather can change in a blink of an eye. Case in point was this day, because in the course of a few minutes, my early afternoon sunshine transformed into a late evening sky, just as a tornado watch warning chimed on my phone. Clouds rushed in, winds gusted; the ambient light near the window I use for photography disappeared. So, picture this: in the middle of a storm, I rushed outside to our screened-in porch, laid down my photography surfaces, and desperately snapped some photos in near-dark conditions. Sure, I probably could have just waited for a different day, but I also enjoyed the challenge that mother nature threw my way.

The point of this story is to say that sure, my picture came out a bit blurry, but I will likely have fond memories associated with this photography session for years to come. I think it’s moments like those that I appreciate having a food blog in the first place; while cookbooks are often very particular – run through a team of editors and designers – blogging can be as fluid as the author defines. And really, the photo looks much better than some of the photos from this site’s early days, anyway!

This week’s recipe isn’t glamorous, and one we make often. Since the vegetables have varying cooking times, the best approach is to par-boil the hardier vegetables – carrots and parsnips, in this case – and then finish them all off together in the oven. Feel free to swap out the carrots and parsnips with other vegetables, like turnips or beets.

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While we typically eat Basic Mashed Potatoes with our daily meals, you can’t deny the fun that is Smashed Potatoes. In few other recipes can you treat a food so poorly–smashing it with the heel of your palm!–and still come away with something that’s both perfectly crispy and secretly fluffy.

This recipe takes a bit longer than a typical mashed or roasted potato, mostly because you’ll need to cool the potatoes for about 10 minutes, but the extra effort is an excellent way to periodically spice up your relationship with America’s favorite tuber.

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I’ll admit it – sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cabbage. I think this recipe will change your mind a little bit. Roasting the cabbage provides for a subtly sweet flavor, and slicing it into thick steaks gives them an unexpected heft.

That’s not to say that cabbage is without merit. For starters, it’s very affordable, and mildly-flavored. Next, it’s easy to prepare: this dish literally takes seconds to prepare, and then you toss it in the oven until it’s ready to be devoured.

Cabbage has a long history in Europe, traced back at least 3,000 years as a cultivated vegetable. Its English name is derived from the Latin word caput (“head”); ironically, the actual Latin word for cabbage is brassica, derived from the Celtic word bresic. Quite a journey for one word to make!

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Yep, it’s getting to be about that time of the year again. You know, when it’s just too dang hot outside to fire up the oven or stovetop. A popular food blogger trend is to eventually post a Gazpacho recipe, so I figured it’s about time for me to share my own take on the dish. This is what I would consider a classic take on Gazpacho, although since I’m still coming down from my incredible visit to the Tabasco headquarters in April (see here), I couldn’t resist spicing this soup up with some of their original pepper sauce.

Gazpacho is an ancient cold soup first developed in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain. It is believed to have been introduced first by Arabic culture as a soup made from leftover bread, and possibly influenced by the Romans with the soup’s telltale inclusion of vinegar. Tomatoes, now an integral part of modern Gazpachos, came much later, once Columbus returned from the Americas bearing a weird, red ornamental fruit that was eventually used in culinary circles (after everyone got over their belief that tomatoes were poisonous).

In my opinion, the key to a good Gazpacho is to find a marriage of contrasting flavors, namely fresh cucumbers, tart tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, and biting onion. So that’s what we’re going to use as our base, and then complement the vegetables with garlic for immediacy, lime juice for brightness, olive oil for body, vinegar for tanginess, Tabasco for heat, and a pinch of basil for that last bit of spark to round things out.

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I have a long history with Bill and Hayley of Primal Palate. We first met online on, of all places, a Paleo diet forum in early 2011. I had recently changed my eating habits and was looking for a place to share my thoughts on the burgeoning movement; I remember that someone on the forum asked for a jerky recipe, and both Bill and I posted the recipes from our freshly-minted blogs, and the connection was made. If someone had told me that a few years later I’d be a guest at their wedding, I would have laughed them out of town. But I was! Over the years, we’ve both been at it nonstop – I’ve kept this little blog trucking (and wrote a cookbook or two along the way), while B&H wrote four cookbooks, created an iOS app, redeveloped and redesigned their blog multiple times, started their own frozen Paleo cookie dough, and have now begun a really neat project which I’m excited to share today: organic spices.

While their landing page will give you all the info you need to know on these newly-announced spices, I wanted to share a bit about them from my experience. I was lucky to be one of the first to taste-test the spices, and I was immediately impressed with their quality. The ginger, garlic, turmeric, and oregano are extremely potent and fresh – they put the spices in my spice rack to shame. The spice blends they developed (Adobo, Barbecue Rub, and Meat & Potatoes) are impeccably balanced, with distinct aromas and flavors that aren’t overbearing. I’ll admit it, I’m not the type of guy who gets excited about pre-made spice blends (I tend to make my own from scratch), so I think it means a lot when I say that I will likely be ordering replacements for my test bottles pretty soon.

If you’re interested in upgrading your spice cabinet, or if you are looking to stock up on some of the spices that are featured in Paleo Takeout, I encourage you to check out their selection.

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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