Saturday, August 20, 2011

The classic French omelet - Paleo-style

I'm not going to tell you how to make the omelet. I'll leave that to the expert below, Jacques Pepin. But to make it Paleo, here are the ingredients:

1 tsp. rendered duck fat
3 pastured eggs
chopped chives
filling of your choice

Damn! He's good! I need more practice.

Chilled Cream of Leek and Zucchini Soup

Another recipe to use up those ever-invading zucchini. I have found lots of leek soup recipes that involved potatoes, but since I'm not eating those things right now, I had to substitute something to help add veggie-volume, and the zucchini that I got from the CSA last week were screaming, "Pick me! Pick me!" It worked!

This recipe serves, as a first course, six slightly inebriated hungry middle-aged Mermaids who are watching their figures...

Leeks, 4 cups, chopped
Zucchini, 2 to 4, chopped
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low sodium
2 cups half and half (*but to make it strictly Paleo, use Aroy-D Preservative-Free Coconut Milk)
Zest of one lemon, finely minced
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, heat the oil to medium heat. Add the leeks and stir around for about a minute, till it starts to soften. Then add the zucchini, also stirring into the leeks and oil. Put a lid on the pot, turn the heat down a little, and let the vegetables cook for 7 - 10 minutes (depending on how much zucchini you used), until soft. You'll need to pick up the lid and stir everything around a few times to make sure it doesn't burn.

Add the stock, put the lid on the pot and let the whole thing simmer for another 10 minutes. Take it off the stove and let it cool enough so you can work with it. In small batches, run the soup in the blender (or use a stick blender right in the pot - my favorite method) until it's quite smooth. It's important to run small batches in the blender so that your soup doesn't explode through the lid!

Return the soup to the pot. Add the half and half plus the nutmeg, stirring in well. Taste for seasoning. I added about 1/4 tsp. white pepper, but black is fine, and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Add the lemon zest. Pour the soup into a container and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least four hours to chill properly.

You can serve this from a pretty clear glass pitcher and pour it into shorter clear glasses, or even martini glasses. Garnish with chives or dill and a lemon slice. You could also top it with just a little chopped smoked salmon or some caviar.

*If you make this soup with the coconut milk, skip the nutmeg, add some ginger slices and lemongrass sticks to the pot while it's simmering (but remove them when ready to blend), add lime zest instead of lemon, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and a few drops of chili oil.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cucumber Pineapple Salad

My cook in Indonesia used to make a salad similar to this for lunch at least once a week. The traditional recipe calls for adding sugar in the dressing, but I always found the Indonesian pineapple was more than sweet enough. Pineapple from the US isn't as sweet, but I still don't add sugar. It's up to you.

By the way, this is spicy! The recipe is Sumatran in nature, so chilies are required!

2 cucumbers
1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped coarsely
1 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
Juice of a lime
2 Tbs. safflower oil
salt and white pepper to taste

Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut them in half again, lengthwise, then dice into 1/2" pieces. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add to that the pineapple, green onions and cilantro. In a small container, blend the Sriracha, lime juice and oil. Pour over the salad. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour for flavors to meld.

Serves 4 to 6

Friday, August 12, 2011

Zucchini Yogurt Dip

I just worked this recipe out today. Not very Paleo-diet with the yogurt, but I live in 2011 and I needs me some dip sometimes!

(Thanks to Sheri, Ramona, Alyce, Sharon, Eileen and Jill for being the brave tasters.)

This is a delicate-tasting dip, so you don't want to serve it with anything too powerful. Good for dipping veggies, but crackers or toast would be okay. I imagine it would be good on a baked potato too!

3 medium-sized zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I used the full-fat kind, but I supposed you could go with a lower fat, if you're into that)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet at medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add shredded zucchini and saute for a few minutes, just until soft and barely cooked through. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt to soften. Fold in zucchini, then walnuts. Add oregano, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Roasted Vegetable and Herb Salad

calories: 183; protein: 7g; carbohydrates: 23g; fat: 7g; fiber: 7g

I just made this for my high school reunion. It was a very large salad. The bowl was empty at the end of party! I calculated for healthy portions, so this salad will serve 12 hungry people. It's nice with some grilled chicken.

3 globe eggplant, peeled and diced into 1/2" cubes
4 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, depending on personal preference
1 jar Mezzetta sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. Greek oregano
2 handfuls arugula
2 cups curly leaf parsley, stems removed
Crumbled Feta cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Into a large bowl, toss together the eggplant and zucchini with a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of the vegetables onto two baking sheets. Don't let the vegetables be too crowded in the baking sheets. Roast the veggies for about an hour or until cooked and a little dry. You don't want them to be soggy. Allow the veggies to cool.

In another baking sheet, spread the potatoes, onions and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, just like the other veggies, and roast them for about an hour, until the potatoes are cooked through and a little crispy on the edges. Allow the potatoes to cool.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the arugula and parsley. Add the vegetables and potatoes. Also add the entire jar of sun-dried tomatoes and the oregano. Toss the salad well. Taste for additional seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of crumbled Feta cheese on top.

You could also roast some peppers to add to the salad, and also add some pitted Kalamata olives. The salad doesn't need additional dressing because of all the olive oil in the sun-dried tomatoes.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

calories: 100; protein: 2g; carbohydrates: 18g; fat: 35g; fiber: 7g

Makes about two cups of dip, so I'm calling 1/4 cup a serving

This is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant. Even my kids will eat it like this.

2 large globe eggplant, trimmed
2+ cloves fresh garlic (up to 4 cloves...depends on strength of garlic and if you're going out or not)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup chopped fresh curly-leaf parsley
1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil (go Spanish or Greek)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a 350-degree oven, roast the eggplant for 45 minutes to an hour. You can also roast it over coals in the barbecue, for a smokier-tasting dip, which is pretty awesome! You're shooting for a nice, soft eggplant when it's done roasting. When done, remove the eggplant from the oven and let it cool enough so you can handle it. You can also put it in the refrigerator and to make the dip the next day if you like.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a cutting blade, quarter the eggplant, add the garlic and lemon juice and pulse until it's all well-blended. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil to the eggplant until well-blended. Then add the parsley and pulse a few times until it's mixed in a little, for texture and fresh flavor. Season with salt and pepper, if you like.

You can use this as a dip with pita chips, but it's really nice for dipping other veggies in it, like carrots and celery. Also good in place of mayonnaise in a sandwich.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spiced Coconut-Creamed Spinach

calories: 437; protein: 10g; carbohydrates: 25g; fat: 35g; fiber: 6g

I really love what they do to spinach in India. YUM! I came to love the flavors of spinach married to coconut, definitely not a flavor combination that I've grown up with but one that works well in a Paleolithic diet. This recipe borrows it's flavors from the great subcontinent, with a little tweaking of my own. (Marla, this one's for you!)

1 Tbs. ghee, a.k.a. clarified butter, or unrefined coconut oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1" fresh ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
12 oz spinach, washed and chopped well
1/2 can coconut milk
1 lime
1 1/2 Tbs. unsweetened coconut, toasted

Finely mince the shallot and garlic. Grate the ginger. Heat fat in a large skillet at medium temperature. Toss in the pepper flakes and stir around with a wooden spoon to toast till nicely fragrant. Add the shallot, garlic, ginger and salt, stirring so that it doesn't burn, for just another minute, then add the spinach.  The spinach will wilt slightly and only needs a little time to heat through, then add the coconut milk. Turn down the heat and let the coconut milk come to a slow simmer to heat up. Take the skillet off the stove and squeeze the lime over the spinach to brighten the flavor. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.

This recipe makes two servings. It would make a lovely side dish with grilled curried chicken, salmon or shrimp.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Briam (A Greek dish of roasted vegetables)

calories: 293; protein: 10g; carbohydrates: 33g; fat: 14g; fiber: 12g

I really love this! When the tomato roasts down, it caramelizes and offers a really beautiful depth to the dish. The vegetables melt down and meld flavors. It's even nice the next day.

This recipe makes 2 servings.

1 small eggplant, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
4 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 8-oz pkg mushrooms, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup water
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lemon
1 tsp. dry Greek oregano
sea salt and black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees F. Prepare vegetables to make assembly of the dish faster. In a baking dish, drizzle the bottom with a little olive oil. Cover the bottom with a layer of eggplant and zucchini slices and then mushroom slices. Add garlic, 1/2 of the onion and parsley, then season with salt and pepper. Next spread the tomatoes, green beans and peppers, then the last of the onion. Top with the scallions, last of the parsley and the oregano. Pour the water and remaining olive oil on top, then squeeze the lemon juice over the entire dish. Season again with salt and pepper.

Bake the briam in the upper-middle rack of your oven for about an hour. It will be deeply golden in color and the liquid will be syrupy in texture. This makes an excellent side dish with roast poultry, or even on its own. Some add potatoes on the bottom layer, but I don't eat them.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pantry list

(I'm editing this post because I've changed how I eat since I wrote it. Edits will appear in fuchsia.)

I love to cook but don't always find the time to spend creating something fabulous and complex for my meals. I also find that when I'm really hungry, I make poor choices once I get to the kitchen. I'm also not a meal planner. So I keep meals as uncomplicated as possible and make sure my pantry, refrigerator and freezer are full of choices that support how I want to eat.

Other issues I struggle with are a sensitivity to soy (which is used in an incredible amount of processed foods), type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The last two make losing weight a real chore for me, mostly due to insulin resistance and greatly increased carbohydrate sensitivity. It's why going Paleo was so necessary for me.

Because I have very little willpower when I'm hungry, angry, stressed, etc., only one processed snack food is allowed in my kitchen. Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate with Lemon. I keep it in a pantry section in my laundry room, so I don't see it all the time.

Protein sources
  • Wild-caught seafood - I try to eat seafood three to five times a week. Sometimes I have more. I keep the sources wild-caught because I don't trust the food sources of farmed fish. It's also been shown that the toxin levels in farmed fish is much higher than that of wild-caught fish. I try to buy fresh seafood when in season, but I do have a stock of canned wild-caught Alaskan salmon, trout, tuna and Portuguese sardines. I have to be careful to choose canned fish not processed with soybean oil. Brands I like include Vital Choice, Angelo Parodi and Crown Prince.
  • Free-range poultry - I have sensitivity issues with a lot of poultry on the market, even the organic ones. Despite what scientists have told me, I've found that I need to stick to poultry not fed grain that includes soy. I get my eggs from a local CSA that doesn't feed their chickens soy, and through a process of elimination, I've found some chicken and turkey that I can live with. Trader Joe's caries their store brand of cage-free egg whites that work for me. I've just purchased a Cuisinart Electric Rotisserie so I can roast chicken at home. (After just two uses, the rotisserie stopped working! I can't recommend it.)
  • Grass-fed or wild red meat - I love beef, bison, venison, lamb and goat. (Not really a pork fan.) But my choices are limited to grass-fed meat. It's easier to find ground grass-fed meat these days, but other cuts tend to be pricier and harder to source. I can get organic grass-fed ground beef or bison at Safeway. I can find other cuts of red meat at Trader Joe's and Wholefoods (about an hour from my house). I don't usually eat sausage or sandwich meat since it's normally got preservatives, excess salt and I don't know what the meat sources are. However, sometimes I get a serious hot dog craving, and I feed that with either the Trader Joe's Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, or, more recently, the Applegate Farms Uncured Beef Hot Dogs. I've not had a soy reaction to either brand. I recently discovered Steve's Original grass-fed PaleoStix and grass-fed beef jerkey., Entirely soy and carb free! And really tasty too!
Carbohydrate sources
  • Seasonal organic fruit - Since I'm really watching my carb intake, I don't drink fruit juices. Too much sugar! But I will eat fruit that's in season, and only in small portions. Not doing dried or frozen fruit either, no jams and jellies. I'm fortunate to live in California and it's easier to find seasonal organic fruit here than in practically any other place. I will eat an avocado a day during the season. Because of how much the sugar in fruit affects me, I pair it with coconut cream. This slows the digestion down and my blood sugar won't spike as much.
  • Seasonal organic vegetables - Same applies to the vegetables available to me. I get a lot from my local CSA, a few from the local supermarket and local farmer's markets. I love a good variety, but my current staples are spinach, kale and other greens. I stick to non-starchy veggies. No potatoes or corn. I no longer eat beets and sweet potatoes, but when I have a big carb craving for them, I try to find alternatives that will suffice. Like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, and shredded zucchini patties instead of potato latke.
  • I don't eat grains any more. Most of my "sandwiches" I eat "protein-style" or wrapped in leaf lettuce. I do a lot of lettuce wraps.
  • I don't eat added sugar. I usually don't have more than 15g of sugars on a daily basis.
Fat sources
  • I'm not afraid of eating fats. The right fats are essential. I don't limit my fats if I'm eating the good ones.
  • Avocados are a big deal for me.
  • I use olive oil, but no other vegetable oils. I forgot! I also love to use unrefined coconut oil.
  • I use ghee and, more recently, rendered duck fat. Yum!
  • I make my own mayonnaise and Hollandaise.
  • My pantry has a lot of fresh, raw nuts for me to snack on: almond, pecan, walnut
Un-Paleo stock

I'm not religious about the Paleolithic diet. There are exceptions. Like canned tomatoes. Gotta have them on hand, but I get the sodium-free organic ones. I keep boxed broths in the pantry, organic and soy-free. I use heavy cream in my coffee everyday. I eat cheese, but no more than an ounce or two a day, and I try to find the stuff from grass-fed sources.
By the way, I have a well-stocked wine closet and liquor cabinet. I drink a glass of something no more than once a week. But I've been known to have a bit more on occasion. That usually leads to poor food choices! Which is why I don't go out much.

Zucchini Frittata with Feta

calories: 366; protein: 32g; carbohydrates: 14g; fat: 19g; fiber: 2g 

1 Tbs. butter
2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 large egg
3 egg whites
1 oz Feta cheese

Turn the oven on to 350-degrees. Heat a stainless steel pan with a metal handle to medium-high heat on the stove. Melt butter in the pan, then toss in the shredded zucchini. The zucchini will cook down and give off moisture. Cook until moisture has cooked down. Take pan off the heat.

Beat egg and whites together and pour into pan, stirring till well incorporated into zucchini. Top with crumbled feta cheese and place into the oven to bake until set, about five to ten minutes.

This recipe lovely for brunch with a baby arugula salad dressed in olive oil and lemon juice on the side.

Garden Tomatoes, Red Onion and Spinach Scramble

calories: 410; protein: 31g; carbohydrates: 36g; fat: 18g; fiber: 18g

1 Tbs. olive oil
2 ripe whole tomatoes, chopped
1 medium red onion, diced finely
4 cups spinach, coarsely chopped
1 large egg
3 egg whites (I like to use the Trader Joe's Cage Free egg whites)
Salt and pepper

In a skillet, over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook until they start to wilt. Add the tomatoes and cook until they get really soft. They will start giving up moisture. Continue to cook until the moisture mostly evaporates. Throw in the spinach and stir it around. Put a lid on it for a couple minutes until the spinach wilts.

Beat the whole egg with the egg whites. (You don't need to use a whole egg. It can be all whites if you like.) Pour the eggs over the vegetables, stirring it around until the eggs are set. Turn the stove off. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Alternately, you can cook up the vegetables, simmering until nearly all the liquid is gone. You can break an egg or two into the pan and put a lid on it, poaching the eggs. Equally delicious!