Eat Evolved

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You are what you eat. Eat what you've evolved to eat.

Archive for April, 2011

Plank Grilled Salmon with Ramp Pesto and Roasted Sunchokes

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Today was the first farmer’s market of the year. I look forward to this day to a ridiculous degree, and very rarely does it live up to my expectations, as there’s just not too much in season right now. But this year? AWESOME. I found a bunch of stuff I rarely ever see, including the world’s most perfect ramps. Ramps, for those of you who don’t know, are a wild spring onion, also referred to as wild leeks, even though they look nothing like the leeks you’re familiar with. If you can only find the bulbs, use them in the same way you’d use garlic. If you’re lucky enough to find them with the leaves still attached, they look like this.

fresh ramps

Whole wild ramps make awesome pesto. Take 10-15 of them. Remove the bulbs and chop them coarsely. Chop the stems and leaves coarsely as well. Make a pile of bulbs, a pile of stems, and a pile of leaves.

cut ramps

Over medium heat, saute the bulbs only in olive oil for about two minutes, until they start to brown a bit. Add the stems and saute it for another minute, then add the leaves and saute until wilted, about another minute more.

cooked ramps

Put them in the food processor with about a half cup of toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Pulse a few times. Add a half-cup of Parmesan cheese and a pinch of Kosher salt. Pulse again a few times. Slowly add a half-cup of olive oil, pulsing occasionally. You don’t want it to be a puree–you want some chunkiness to it.

ramp pesto

Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes (which are neither artichokes nor from Jerusalem), are a nice low-starch tuber. They’re ugly as hell, though, and they supposedly make you quite flatulent, although I ate mine about 3 hours ago and have yet to get that particular symptom. You can eat them raw or cooked–they’re quite versatile. To roast them, start with two pounds. Peel half of them, and leave the skins on the other half–you’ll want to scrub those with a sponge under warm water to get all the dirt off. Cut them in bite-size chunks.

sunchokes

Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. I did mine for 30 but they could have gone 10 more minutes and been a bit creamier. But like I mentioned, you can eat them raw, so it’s not like they’re gross if they come out a little undercooked.

For the planked salmon, heat your grill to about 450 degrees. Soak an alder or cedar plank in water for at least an hour. I let mine soak for most of the afternoon. When your grill is ready, put the plank on it for 10 minutes, lid down. Flip the plank and put your salted and peppered salmon filets on it, skin side down. A standard-size plank should fit 4 salmon filets–if you’re making more than that, you’ll need more planks. Close the lid again, and let the salmon cook on the plank for 12 minutes. Remove promptly. The skin should stick to the plank, leaving a nice soft salmon filet to put on your plate.

Serve it with ramp pesto and the sunchokes. Eat it outside, take a bite before you take a picture, and marvel at the new leaves, the birds and sunshine, and all the bounties of another wonderful spring.

salmon sunchokes pesto

Speaking of the bounties of another spring, tomorrow I’ll show you the morels.

Chicken Cauliflower Coconut Cashew (or Almond) Curry

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Every now and then I manage to surprise myself. Last Saturday night, I did it by completely winging it and making a dish so good that I wish I’d paid more attention when I was making it.

I’ve been trying to eat more coconut lately, so when I had a package of chicken breasts I needed to use, I decided to go the curry route. Problem was, I couldn’t find a recipe I particularly wanted to follow, so I just came up with my own. All measurements of spices and such are approximate, because I wasn’t really paying much attention–I was just throwing stuff together.

Take two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and cut it into bite size pieces. Brown it in batches over medium-high heat in 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, putting the browned chicken pieces in a bowl when they’re finished. After all the chicken is browned, open a bag of frozen cauliflower and brown those as well. Put it in the bowl with the chicken.

chicken and cauliflower

As the chicken and cauliflower are browning, prepare your spices. I used one minced shallot, three cloves of minced garlic, about two teaspoons of grated fresh ginger, a tablespoon of red curry paste, two teaspoons of red chili and garlic paste, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder. Once the chicken and cauliflower are done, add another tablespoon of coconut oil if the pan is dry, and then put in all the spices. Toast them all for about two minutes. The pastes will likely stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, and that’s fine.

Pour in a can of coconut milk and a quarter-cup of cashew or almond butter. Scrape up the stuff that’s stuck on the bottom of the pan and let it dissolve into the sauce. Add the cauliflower and chicken back to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until it’s all heated through–about five minutes.

I didn’t take a picture until it was almost done, because it was so good that I forgot.

CCCC

Swiss Chard and Fiddlehead Quiche

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

I actually made this for Easter morning, but my mother was in town until yesterday, so I haven’t had time to post it until now. I’m hoping that my regular readers (all five of them) can still find fiddlehead ferns–they’re perilously close to out of season already–if not, keep this one in mind for next year, or just go without–the chard would be lovely on its own.

Speaking of the chard, the majority of this dish will involve getting it ready for the quiche. Take one bunch of Swiss chard–I prefer the rainbow variety, because hey, rainbows!–and tear the leaves off the stems, then tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. You’ll end up with about six cups of leaves, give or take. Rinse it in a salad spinner, but don’t care too much about getting them dry–they will cook better damp.

torn chard

When they’re clean, saute them over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, until they’re nice and wilted. Squeeze them to remove any excess liquid and put them in a bowl.

Meanwhile, you’ll want to take 6-12 fiddlehead ferns (I always think more is better) and trim the tips off of them.

fiddleheads

I also like to get out as many of the fuzzy inner leaves as possible. I do this by putting them into a bowl with cold water and rinsing them, then draining the water, then repeating until the water runs clear. Once you’ve done that, put the fiddleheads in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes. Drain them and put them aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat two eggs, a cup of milk or cream, 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, the grated zest of one lemon, a pinch of Kosher salt, and black or white pepper to taste. Add your chard and stir until it’s well-incorporated. Pour it into a greased 8″ square or 9″ round cake pan. Top it with the fiddleheads.

uncooked quiche

Pop it in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing it–it’ll be custardy and just barely set.

finished quiche

Coconut Meatballs

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

I’ll admit, I did not have particularly high hopes for this recipe. I had absolutely no plans for dinner tonight. I got home and started scrounging around the freezer for something that would thaw quickly. I settled on some ground beef. Since I made burgers last night, I wanted to do something a bit more interesting, but I didn’t have much time to work with. I found a recipe for coconut meatballs and decided to modify it a bit to please a Toddler palate. Next time I won’t bother–she only ate maybe three-quarters of one. But it turned out so yummy and satisfying that I had to share it. I apologize for only taking one picture.

Start by getting a cup of coconut milk. Take four tablespoons of it and put it in a large bowl. To the four tablespoons of coconut milk, add a pound of ground beef, two cloves of crushed garlic, a small minced onion, and an egg. Then add three or four large pinches of Kosher salt (about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon), several grinds of black pepper, a splash of fish sauce, and a heaping teaspoon of red curry paste. Blend all that together until all the ingredients are uniformly distributed.

In a skillet, heat three tablespoons of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Make meatballs that are about ping-pong to golf ball size, and put them in the pan. Cook them on one side for 5 minutes, then flip them and go for another five. If they’re still a bit undercooked, you can start to roll them around the pan a bit just to cook them all the way through. You may need to do this in two batches. Once they’re done, take them out of the pan and put them in a bowl to the side.

When all the meatballs are cooked, take what remains of the cup of coconut milk and pour it into the pan. Scrape up all the yummy browned bits until your coconut milk starts to get a rich brown gravy consistency. Lower the heat and put the meatballs back in, tossing them in the gravy until they’re heated through. Serve with the gravy on top.

coconut meatballs

Grain-Free Game of Thrones Feast

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Husband and I are huge fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I read the first book when I was 18, and Husband read it before we were married, on my suggestion, and got even more into the series than I did. And then, lo and behold, they go and make it into an HBO series. Ever have a wish granted? For (getting to be well) over a decade, I’ve been picturing how this series would go if they brought it to the screen, and last night, it happened.

Two weeks ago, I came up with the crazy idea of finding foods mentioned in the books and making a feast for Premiere Night. And I did it. Six hours of cooking, and here’s what you get:

feast

Clockwise from top: Goat cheese served with baked apples, Rack of lamb crusted in garlic and herbs, A roasted onion, dripping with gravy, and Mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter. All titles of the food come directly from the books.

Not pictured are fearsomely strong cider, flagons of mead, and a grain-free version of the book’s ubiquitous lemon cakes. For those, I added about a tablespoon more lemon juice than it called for, and the zest of the lemon I’d squeezed. I’d say stay closer to 3 tablespoons of honey than 5–they’re pretty sticky-sweet with 5. I also made a fried bell pepper salad from my friend at Paleo Middle Eastern, but I forgot and left it in the fridge and we didn’t remember it until we started putting away leftovers. I added a few spicy peppers and some hot sauce to the mix so it would approximate Fiery Dornish Peppers.

Some notes about the recipes: Rutabagas (yellow turnips) may have been the best thing on the plate. A bit high in carbs, but it’s a root vegetable and not a nightshade and it makes a really good mash–the texture is velvety smooth and not at all watery, and the flavor is mostly a good approximation of a slightly sweet potato–like potato blended with caramelized onions. I’ve already decided that this recipe is making the Thanksgiving rotation. The lamb is excellent and not at all difficult to make. We grilled them instead of roasting them so as to free up the oven for the onions and apples. The apples were the weakest link (in part due to the fact that I don’t like fruit), but if you’re an apple person, I’d imagine they’re quite good. The onions? Well, keep in mind this is a Cooking Light recipe. I modified it a bit–used about two tablespoons of olive oil at first instead of whatever ridiculous CW amount they asked for. I also used my homemade bone broth rather than prepackaged beef stock. I should have used a cup rather than 2/3–toward the end it was a scorched syrup on the bottom of the pan, very difficult to baste with. It took lots of time and elbow grease to get that pan clean–perhaps more liquid might have helped. But oh, were they good. Like eating French onion soup on a plate. And if you’re dairy-free, the cheese is entirely unnecessary for its goodness. Pretty sure the rutabagas would have been fine with coconut oil instead of butter, too, if you need them to be.

So that’s what I did yesterday. All told, it took six hours of kitchen time. I was sore until this morning, but I managed to stay awake for the premiere!

Oh, and yesterday I also took measurements. These are my 4th, so it’s been 3 months since I started taking them. In those three months, I’m down almost 20 pounds, and 3 inches each on my waist and hips. 2 inches on the chest. This stuff works.

Tostones

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Every now and then, there comes a time in a grain-free person’s existence when said person REALLY, REALLY wants something along the lines of chips and salsa. Alas, unlike what most people think, corn is not a vegetable, so tortilla chips are right out. Even delicious kale chips are not meant to stand up to even the runniest dips. So what’s a grain-free girl to do?

That’s where this one comes in. Tostones are, simply put, twice-fried green plantains. Plantains are interesting. The black ones are sweet, about on the same level as a green banana. The green plantains have a more savory flavor and a very firm texture. They’re starchy, and as such should probably not be eaten by someone eating VLC and trying to maintain ketosis. But there’s nothing wrong with having them every now and then.

For tostones, take your desired amount of plaintains (I found one large green one was a nice snack for me, Husband, and Toddler) and slice them into rounds about 1/2-3/4 of an inch thick. Heat your choice of healthy high-temp oil in a Dutch oven or deep skillet (or deep-fryer, if you have it) to 375. Fry the plantain rounds for 3 minutes, then remove and put them on top of some paper towels that are placed on a clean, flat surface that won’t get ruined if you hit it with a hammer. Keep the heat on your cooking oil while you do this, because after this step they go back in.

Hit your plaintains with a hammer. Seriously. I use a meat mallet, but whatever you can use to pound them flat will work–the bottom of a heavy glass, a frying pan, whatever. You can see here where I’ve smashed some and some are still just slices.

smashing tostones

Once you’re done smashing, put your tostones back in the oil for another 3 minutes. Remove them, drain on paper towels again, then salt and serve. You can have them with your favorite salsa or dip, or just do what we did and eat them plain. Toddler was a huge fan.

finished tostones

Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Most people who have been eating Paleo for any length of time have seen the standard recipe for kale chips. Take one bunch of kale, remove the stems completely, tear the leaves into smaller pieces, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt, and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The kale leaves get nice and crispy and kind of melt in your mouth when you eat them. They’re not potato chips by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re craving crispy and salty, they get the job done.

My secret is to add a half-tablespoon to a tablespoon omaypole cider vinegar to them. It gives a nice tart taste to cut the salt a bit. You may need to cook for 20 minutes to dry out the extra liquid, but trust me, it’s worth it. Toddler ate about a cup of them, making these the second vegetable I’ve managed to get in her since she went from Baby to Toddler.

I was raised on southern greens, which are salty (thanks to all the bacon) and cooked all to hell with stock and apple cider vinegar and hot sauce. The vinegary kick you get from these is a bit reminiscent of home cooking, but with a totally different texture. Give it a shot!

kale chips

Spiced Ground Beef with Cauliflower Zucchini Puree

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Lately, I’ve been perusing the recipe forum over at Mark’s Daily Apple. One of the posters there runs an awesome blog based on Paleo versions of classic Middle Eastern dishes. I kid you not, it seems like every other post is a dish that I absolutely love the non-Paleo version of, so it was only a matter of time before I made one. Tonight was the night to try my first one out.

I moved last August, away from a neighborhood that had a ton of restaurants within walking distance. One of the restaurants I frequented, pre-Paleo, was called Aladdin’s. They served a dish of spiced, browned ground beef on top of hummus, with pine nuts and diced tomatoes. When I saw Paleo Middle Eastern’s version, I was intrigued. I wasn’t sure how the cauliflower and zucchini would work to approximate hummus. I also wasn’t sure what 7 spice was–I had to Google it. Turns out it’s an equal mixture blend of cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, nutmeg, fenugreek, cloves, and ground ginger. Amazingly enough, I had all spices on hand, so I toasted up everything but the ground ginger, tossed it in the coffee grinder, and added the ginger to the ground spices.

Homemade 7-spice made, I worked on the “hummus” puree. I had two large zucchini on hand, so that’s what I used. I must have had small lemons, because the three I had left only netted me a quarter-cup of juice–I had to run out and get more. I split the difference and used 3/4 cup of tahini. I also used a bag of frozen cauliflower, and since I used frozen, I ended up not adding the 1/2 cup water to the mix. Nobody’s going to be fooled into thinking that this is hummus, but it’s delicious nonetheless. Toddler, who is utterly repulsed by vegetables and by cauliflower especially, went insane for this. She kept begging for it while I was cooking the beef, and probably ate a quarter-cup of it before we even got to the table. And at the table, she ate it with a spoon and completely ignored the beef–generally the opposite of how dinner usually goes down at our house. This alone is enough for me to recommend this recipe.

The beef is awesome too. Nicely spiced and stirred while browning into a fine mince, it’s a perfect accompaniment to the puree. This made me feel like I was at Aladdin’s again. If you are not nightshade-sensitive, garnish it with a few pieces of seeded, diced Roma tomato. A drizzle of olive oil would also be a nice touch.

License to Grill

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Here’s three quick and easy recipes for grilling season, only one I’ll have pictures for.

First thing is two marinades, one for chicken breasts and one for flank steak. Both of these things are very grill-friendly, and they taste great cold, which is perfect for a lunch salad. If you’re going to fire up the grill for steaks or chops, I suggest throwing these on the coals as well, and you’ll have lunch meat for the week.

Chicken one is ridiculously easy. Put your chicken breasts (about a pound to a pound and a half’s worth) in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Pour in a half-cup each of lemon juice and soy sauce. Add 3-4 spoonfuls of jarred minced garlic (you just want the flavor, not the texture, so the jarred stuff is great in marinades) and about the same of grated ginger. Grind in about 15 grinds worth of black pepper, then close the bag, squeezing out as much air as you can. The best way to do this is to close the bag about halfway, and then fold the top half of the back back over the bottom half, so the liquid stays in the bottom but the air goes out the opening. Then close it the rest of the way, shake it up so all the garlic and ginger and pepper mixes into the marinade, and put it in the fridge. 30 minutes to 8 hours later, take it out and grill it.

Flank steak is a bit more complicated, but still delicious. You’ll want another gallon Ziploc bag, and about a 1.5 lb flank steak. Put the flank steak in the bag. Since the marinade has a lot of ingredients, I like to do this one in a separate small mixing bowl and pour it in after it’s all made. Start with a half-cup of olive oil, a third-cup of soy sauce, and a quarter cup of red wine vinegar. Squeeze in the juice of a small lemon, or half of a large one. Add two or three spoonfuls of that jarred garlic, 1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and another 15 or so grinds of black pepper. Whisk it until the oil is well-incorporated, then pour it into the baggie and seal it up. This one takes about 4-8 hours in the fridge to marinate–you’ll want to turn it over halfway through.

The third recipe is for keftas. For two to three pounds of ground beef or lamb, you’ll want to start with two large handfuls of flat parsley leaves–no stems. You can also add the tops of 2 green onions, or some mint if you’re using lamb. You can also use a little bit of minced garlic, some sumac, or whatever other Middle-Eastern spices you want. I prefer to keep these relatively simple. Mine just have the parsley, green onions, and about a teaspoon of dried sumac. For a good idea of the total amount of herbs to use, this is a full-sized salad spinner in this picture.

kefta herbs

Finely mince your herbs (I use the food processor) and then mix them in with your meat. Add at least a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper as well.

To make the keftas, you’ll want to get a palmful of the meat mixture and make a long, narrow tube. Think the approximate size and length of a toilet paper roll.

rolled keftas

Once they’re all rolled, they’re ready to grill. You can put them on skewers, but it’s not necessary if you’re careful turning them.

While they’re grilling, make your tahini sauce. Pour half a cup of tahini into a small mixing bowl. Add about 3 cloves of fresh crushed garlic and two pinches of kosher salt. Whisk in two tablespoons of olive oil and a quarter-cup of lemon juice. If it’s too thick, add warm water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

Serve your keftas with a green salad, kalamata olives, some seedless cucumber, feta cheese if you’re into dairy, and the tahini sauce.

finished keftas

Birthday Cake!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Here’s the recipe I used, from Food Lover’s Primal Palate. I made some alterations, mainly due to what I had on hand. I subbed melted homemade butter for the melted coconut oil in the cake, and honey for the maple syrup. Did you know that maple syrup can go bad? I didn’t, until I saw mold floating on ours the last time I tried to use it. I didn’t buy more because I don’t consider it to be Primal–I’d rather use honey or agave nectar as a sweetener. The honey worked fine, and I’m sure agave nectar would have as well. I used dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, too.

In the frosting, I added three pinches of Kosher salt, because all that chocolate and nuts just seemed too rich. I’m pretty glad I did–it really brought out the flavors in both. I used three tablespoons of coconut oil instead of four tablespoons of palm shortening in the ganache, and it hasn’t set yet after four and a half hours–it’s still pretty runny. Delicious, though! I think I’m a better Primal baker than I ever was a SAD baker. This one caused Husband to utter expletives after his first bite, and here’s why.
birthday cake