Friday, October 29, 2010

Coconut Pancakes & Nostalgia

Nostalgia does funny things to the brain.  Smells are more intoxicating, textures more adventurous, and tastes meet the pinnacle of everything that is good in the world.  When I'm nostalgic I want my Dad's french toast... big thick slices of sourdough gooped in egg and splashed with cinnamon and vanilla, then fried to perfection.  However, present day me with present day stomach/eating habits doesn't actually want that, but at times I do crave that smell, that Saturday morning experience... of time spent with some I love and admire.

I've mentioned before that we eat a lot of eggs and I never get tired of them, but sometimes nostalgia gets  the best of us.  

1 cup coconut flour, 2+ cups coconut milk (from the carton, and I like to use the vanilla version), 4 eggs, dash of salt, dash cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract (if you used unflavored coconut milk). Ladle into a pan - I use a really small pan and make 1 at a time, not the most efficient, but I haven't found a better way to make them a uniform shape.  I usually top with almond butter and a little honey.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spicy Scallops, Chopsticks Required

My scallops are crowded.  Anyone who's ever cooked these delicious bivalves will tell you 3 things. Get the pan screaming hot, don't overcook them, and don't crowd them.  For all the ways I love the lengthy process of preparing a good meal, I also loathe it.  Let's face it, I'm human and I get hungry and if I'm not fed in a timely manner I can also get a little cranky.  At times, it's best for all involved to get a tasty meal out quickly.  So my scallops are crowded.  Mea culpa.

This dish is my take on a lot of 'dynamite' scallop dishes you see at sushi restaurants, sans the copious amounts of mayo and MSG.  I'd recommend using chopsticks, or these suckers will be gone faster than you can say arigato. 

Saute some sliced leeks, finely julienned carrots and couple dried Thai chilies (remove these before eating) in a pan until the leeks are translucent.  Add 1 can coconut milk, 2 tbs fish sauce, 1 tbs minced garlic, salt & pepper, a healthy squirt of Srircha hot sauce, and a couple drips of chili oil if you're feeling adventurous.  Simmer until reduced to about 1/3.  In a separate pan sear scallops, remembering they are not sardines.  

Serve scallops and sauce over a bed of diced avocado and cucumber.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keeping Breakfast Hot

Alarm. Snooze. Coffee, on a timer (genius). Walk dog. Shower. Get dressed, shirt needs ironing. The morning routine, totally relaxing right?  Amidst the chaos of trying to get out the door looking somewhat presentable with all of our wits about us, there has to be some sustenance.  We're not the skip breakfast type and we usually need protein to function as humans (and coffee too, let's not kid ourselves).

We eat a lot of eggs.  I never get tired of simple scrambled eggs, but like any relationship you have to mix things up to keep it hot.  Enter the frittata.  Traditionally, frittatas (quiche sans crust) have a lot of  milk or cream in them, and while they are decadent and delicious - they're not your easy paleo every day breakfast.  The best thing about a frittata, is you can pretty much throw whatever you want in them.

This week, I browned about 5 slices diced prosciutto and 1/2 sliced bell pepper in a pan. In a bowl, whisk eggs with a couple tablespoons of water, a couple very heavy pinches of salt and pepper, and sliced chives.  Pour into a baking pan, stir in prosciutto/peppers, and put in a 375 degree oven until the eggs are set in the middle. (I put some sliced heirloom tomatoes and basil leaves on top after it had been in the oven about 15 minutes so they 'float').  Voila. 

Try throwing in some ground beef, some onions, a can of green chilies...whatever meat, herbs and produce you may have on hand.  You might discover the newest addition to your morning routine. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall at the Farmer's Market

Nothing says "Sunday" like bribing your beloved with breakfast in bed so he'll go to the farmer's market with you. It was a typical beach morning, with a thick layer of coastal fog and the distinctive chill of fall in the breeze, so we put our jeans on, grabbed a coffee and the dog and off we went.  We  - who are we kidding - was ecstatic when we got a farmers market  a few blocks from our house this summer, and within weeks it had such a phenomenal variety of vendors, it rivaled some nearby ones that have been around for years.  Recently, with the change of seasons we're seeing some great fall produce come in and there was a plethora of sunset colors - reds, oranges, deep purples - in everything from fruit to flowers.

Another great reason to support your local market is to chat with the vendors.  You can learn so much about what's in season, where it comes from, great ways to prepare it, and even some great stories.  We chatted for a bit with the cheese guy, and he knew about every wedge he had in his case. 

I think it's absolutely magical that you can walk a few blocks away and buy a 1/4 of a grass fed cow, some purple artichokes, a homemade tamale, a wedge of chapparal cheese, brownie cookies, dinosaur egg pluots, gluten free gelato, and a lovely bouquet.  All on a quaint street in Newport Beach

All photos courtesy of Patrick Flynn, who braved a very bitter honey vendor to capture these beautiful shots. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Engaging Your Senses & Arabic Beef Stew

As I very carefully removed the kabocha from the oven, it reminded me that how you plate and present your food can make a substantial impact on the overall enjoyment of your meal.  When you focus on colors, smells, textures, presentation - it engages all of your senses and as those neurons fire sending messages up to that big brain, it amplifies all of the excitement about what's in front of you.  

If you take time to plate your food and note what's going on with all of your senses, you might get more out of your meal than you expected, you might get an experience.  Mireille Guiliano, former Veuve Cliquot CEO and author of "French Women Don't Get Fat" suggests using linens and sitting down at the table for even the most mundane of meals.  You'll enjoy it more and actually eat less.  

A Kabocha is also called a Japanese pumpkin, and is a variety of winter squash that makes a fantastic, tasty vessel for all of your cool weather stews.  This adaptation was made paleo friendly by yours truly after I saw a recipe in Sunset on unusual spice blends.

Heat 1 tbs oil in a large dutch oven and brown about 1 lb of beef stew meat.  Remove the beef and add 2 very large diced shallots, 1/2 diced yellow onion and 1/4 cup beef broth.  Cook until shallots and onions are browned.  Return meat to pan and sprinkle with baharat*.  Add 2 more cups beef broth and stir.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about an hour.  Stir in grated cauliflower, 1 diced tomato, 1 chopped rutabaga, 1 chopped carrot, and 1 chopped zucchini.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.  Cut and hollow out the kabocha just as you would a pumpkin you're about to carve on Halloween.  Brush the interior with olive oil, prick it in a few places with a fork, and put it on a baking sheet.  Fill the squash with as much stew as it can hold and replace the top. (the rest can be left to simmer on the stove, or placed in the oven in a baking pan covered with foil). The recipe says to bake for 70 minutes, I had mine in for 90 minutes - but just make sure the squash is tender.

Remove squash very carefully - this was a 2 person job - and stir in 2 heaping tbs of sliced chives. When you're serving the stew, be sure to scrape some of the kabocha out with it. 

*What the heck is baharat you ask?  It's an arabic spice blend that I had trouble finding and didn't have time to order online so I had to make it.  I used a combination of allspice,  pepper, cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, 1 ground clove, 5 ground cardamom pods, cumin and paprika.  While these are the correct spices in the blend, I'm unsure of the ratios, so I had to wing it. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Hors d'Ouvres Dilemma

Cocktail hour.  That special time when you glance at the clock and deem it appropriately late enough to have your favorite libation (or pop as my mom likes to call it, as if it's a secret code). Whether you're at home after a rough day at work, on vacation, happy hour with the girls or at a swanky gallery opening, it's always nice to have some sort of solid food to ingest so as not to get too mimsy.  This witching hour can, however ruin your diet (and your night) if you're not careful.  Normal tray passed appetizers include the likes of spanakopitas, mini quiches, salmon canapes and things on crostini.  Tantalizing flavors most of the time, but all wrapped and cheesed up beyond recognition. 

We recently had friends over for dinner and and about 10 minutes prior to their arrival I realized I had been so consumed about the main course, that I nothing set out for appetizers.  A good hostess always has something set out for her guests to munch on while they wait for dinner, what's a girl to do??  The quick answer - olives and charcuterie.  It satisfies any paleo panic during happy hour, as well as your non paleo guests who rarely notice the difference.

Charcuterie is the art devoted to cooking and curing of meats, and dates back to when you had to salt everything to keep it from going bad.   I had salami and proscuitto on hand, but it can include pancetta, sausage, coppa, bresaola and the list goes on.  Pates and terrines can also fall under this umbrella, so it's not always paleo.  

For any locals out there, the Side Door in Corona Del Mar does some fantastic charcuterie - and they have a chef to help you make selections while you enjoy the English pub atmosphere and eavesdrop on the conversations of the OC housewives.   

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Burnt Toast Artichoke

When a friend of mine first told me about the burt toast artichoke, I was skeptical.  He assured me this was a delicious, and even common prep of this thistle (it really is a thistle, who knew?).  The recipe is exactly how it sounds:  You put a piece of toast in the toaster and burn it, then scrape off the burned bits - this is something I'm sure we all can relate to - but instead of tossing them, you put them in a little bowl.  You put the piece of toast back in the toaster, burn it scrape it.  Rinse and repeat until the piece of toast is practically gone and you have a bowl of burnt toast scrapings.  The you brown some butter, add the bits to the pan and pour them over the top of a steamed artichoke. Genius.

Here's the paleo/gluten free adaptation of the burnt toast artichoke.  I have no idea who to give due credit for coming up with such a simple, yet adventurous recipe, so shout out if you know where it comes from.

Clip the thorny ends off each leave of the artichoke and put about 1 cup of water, a big dash of coarse sea salt and a splash of red wine and steam artichoke for about 45+ mins (mine was a big guy). 

Pulse peans, walnuts, and almonds in a food processor until they're about the consistency of fine bread crumbs - place on a baking sheet and roast at 400 until they are just about to burn.  

Brown some butter* in a saucepan and add the toasted nuts.  Pour over your artichoke, making sure to get some in every little nook.

*put some unsalted butter in a pan on low heat, and the butterfat and milk solids will separate.  The butter goes from foamy and starts to darken and gives it a really rich, nutty flavor 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paris, Pork Chops & House Guests

I love everything about food.  Learning about, shopping for it, experimenting with it, peeling it, chopping it, braising get the idea.  I love the textures, tastes, smells, colors - my very own nightly "Moveable Feast, minus the fact I'm not slurping delicious metallic oysters with extremely creative people in 1920's Paris, but I digress.  Of all the reasons to be connected to your food, I think human interaction is one of the most satisfying.  Food brings people together in a way that caters to our basic need to sustain life, and most of the time if you have good friends and good food in a room, you'll have a memorable time.   I cooked this recipe from the Les Halles cookbook (with a few modifications of course) for my friend who was visiting from New York City, and I hope she flew back the East coast with fond memories of our shared meals and catching up on old times.

The original recipe "Palette de porc a la biere" is from Les Halles, which is a phenomenal cookbook (and I'm not saying this just because I have a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain) for classic French bistro fare, but it's also a great place to get tips and tricks to improve your technique. 

Season pork (the recipe calls for a 4lb shoulder, but I used pork loin chops I already had in the fridge) with salt and pepper.  Heat a couple tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter in dutch oven.  Once it's hot, sear both sides of your pork until sides are brown.  Remove from pan.  Add some fresh oil to the pan, and cook 2 small chopped carrots, 1 small diced onion, and 4 garlic cloves until soft.  

Stir in 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and 12 oz beer, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan, and cook until the liquid is reduced well past half.  Add 1 cup chicken broth, bring to a boil, and return the pork to the pot.  Cook covered on low for 2 hours (for a large shoulder) or about 20 minutes (for loin chops).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, remove finished pork from the pot and brush with 2 tbs mustard.  Then press flaxseed meal (or finely ground walnuts) into mustard covered pork.  Place in the oven until tops are browned.  While that is on the oven, reduce the liquid/veggies in the pot and whisk in 1 tbs mustard.  

Serve pork with sauce, grilled apples, and mashed turnips. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Weekday Breakfast Out

There's something great about going out to breakfast.  It's usually eaten much more leisurely than the quick frittata we shove in our mouths as we get dressed and rush out the door for work  It's a time to visit with friends, enjoy someone topping off your coffee - as well as doing the cooking and the cleaning - and possibly even eat something more adventurous and complicated than what normally comes out of your own kitchen.  One our favorite local restaurants is a little converted house in Newport called Alta, where while they're known for their baked goods, they also have some paleo friendly omelettes and egg dishes.  They also give you a random coffee mug, and today, it seemed they wanted me to imagine I was in Hawaii. 

This is the South of the Border omelette - but in full disclosure, I got it with the cheese.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Barramundi & Coconut Vegetable Chowder

I have a bunch of cookbooks and get a few food magazines (I cry a little every time I think about my beloved Gourmet), and I really enjoy the challenge of taking recipes that sound delicious, but don't necessarily fit in with our style of eating, and turning them into paleo-friendly dishes.  I channel my favorite chefs, put on one of my many aprons, crank the iPod and have my own little test kitchen session.  Sometimes it works...other times, it's pretty apparent my modifications were less than stellar and our dog Brody gets a nice meal, but in any case it's an adventure.  This recipe came out better than I could have imagined, and there were no leftovers to be had.

I adapted this recipe from the October Bon Appetit magazine, where they took it from Happy Restaurant in Boulder. 

For the chowder:
Heat 1 tbs oil in a large pot - add 1 cup diced onion, 3 kaffir lime leaves (if you can't find them, you can use the zest and juice frPublish Postom 1 lime), 3 large fresh basil leaves, 1 tbs minced fresh ginger, 1 chopped jalapeno with seeds, 2 smashed garlic cloves.  Stir occasionally for 4-5 minutes, then add 3 cups canned coconut milk, 2 cups vegetable broth, 2 tbs salt, 1-2 tsp chili oil, and 1 15oz bottle fresh carrot juice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.  Strain out the solids - pressing them to get all the liquid out - and return liquid to pot.

Peel and cube (removing the seeds) of 1 small acorn or delicata squash, then boil until soft.  Add the squash cubes, 1 carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks, 1 red bell pepper cubed, 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts, 1 small head of grated cauliflower and 2 cups chopped sugar snap peas to the broth.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are just soft.

For the fish:
Rinse and pat dry 4 small fillets (I used Barramundi, but you can use any fish really).  Add salt and pepper, and 1 tbs flax seed meal to each fillet, pressing the flax seed meal into the flesh.  Heat up 4 tbs coconut oil in a saucepan, and place fish skin side up*/flax seed side down into the pan.  Cook approx 4 minutes each side.

Serve with avocado slices, lime wedges and fresh basil

*note on cooking fish, the skin side attracts the heat, so if you're broiling fish, skin goes down, if you're grilling/frying, skin goes up! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rainy Days & Butternut Squash

I woke up to gray.  Not marine layer gray, which always feels like a billowy curtain ready to break up at any moment, but a deeper, heavier gray.  The gray that makes you want to stay home in a hoodie and socks and watch movies and drink tea. We just had a heat wave, what was this??  Summer really never arrived, much to my chagrin, and the oven blasting type of heat we'd been having the past week had set my spirits on such a what the eff was this?  And then it rained.  And I'm not talking the normal sprinkle we usually get - which sends all of us running for cover, a laughable action to most other climates - this was RAIN.  Rain that would make even a Seattle native pull out an umbrella, and they never do that.  So from elevating heat, to dark and stormy seas, the kitchen had to make a change...

I must capitalize on this soup weather.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons for one reason - squash.  When I start seeing squash at the market I get excited for fall.  Granted, I'm usually still in shorts and sandals, but there's a chill in the air!  I can eat squash any way but this (in my opinion) the most delicious, simple dish there is.  Butternut squash has such great no-fuss flavor, and you can make this dish in a flash.  There's something about warm soup that is very comforting to me, and during the cold months - well cold for coastal California - I eat soup most days of the week.  Another thing I love about this is the ingredient list:  butternut squash, onion, salt, pepper, chicken broth.  A few simple, wholesome items can make a big bowl of comfort on a chilly night.

Peel the butternut squash and cube it, removing the seeds.  Put the squash cubes, 1 large diced yellow onion, a little olive oil or butter, and a couple tbs of the chicken stock in a pan and simmer.  Let everything get soft, and the onions get sweet.  Transfer to a food processor or blender* and pulse while adding chicken stock until you get your desired texture.  My favorite garnishes are crumbled turkey bacon and green onions. I also like my soup pretty hot, so I usually put it back in the pot to simmer for a bit.

*if using a blender you may have to batch it, and be careful as the steam can cause the top to pop off and that will equal a major mess


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