Paleo Eggplant “Lasagna”

If the cheese is your favorite part of lasagna, this might not be your favorite. If you like the other stuff, you’re in for a treat.

My understanding from listening to people who’ve actually spent time in Italy is that the food isn’t actually all pasta and cheese. You wouldn’t know it from looking at what’s on the menu at the average Italian restaurant here in America, though. Everything’s a carb-fest with a side of melted mozzarella.

That means turning Americans’ favorite Italian dishes into something paleo can be a bit of a challenge, and the results are never quite the same as the original. The classic example is spaghetti-squash-spaghetti. Sure, it tastes good, and it can help get you past a pasta craving, but no one would claim that it tastes like regular spaghetti. I guess what I’m saying is that if you bite into today’s dish thinking it’s going to taste exactly like lasagna, you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re interested in something that’s in the same general family as lasagna but is delicious in its own way, you should keep reading.

From this angle, you can't really see the onion and garlic, but they're there. I also had to add a second can of tomato paste when I realized that one wasn't going to be enough.

Ingredients

3-4 eggplants
2 green bell peppers
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 to 1 1/2 lbs italian sausage
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 6oz cans tomato paste
3 tbsp dried italian herbs (2 tbsp for the meat and vegetables, 1 tbsp for the sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup of salt for the eggplant

Equipment

Draining Rig
Pan
9×13 Casserole Dish
Mandolin (recommended)

Start by slicing the eggplants length-wise. You’ll need to remove the top of each eggplant, and the slices should be between and eighth and a quarter of an inch thick. I sliced mine with a mandolin, and I recommend using one if you’ve got it. Lay the slices out on a draining rig and liberally salt one side. Wait one minute, turn the slices over, and liberally salt the second side.

This many slices take up a lot of room. I had to pull out my backup draining rig to hold them all.

 

Let the eggplant sit for about an hour. This will give the salt an opportunity to pull moisture from the slices. When an hour has passed, rinse the eggplant slices under cold water and set them aside.

The liquid that gets pulled from the eggplant is bitter. Rinse it and the excess salt off of the slices before using them.

 

Chop the bell peppers and the onion into medium-sized pieces.

The pieces should be about the size of your thumbnail.

 

Mince the garlic.

The garlic should be as finely minced as you can make it.

 

Put a pan over medium heat. Depending on your pan and your sausage, you may want to add a little olive oil to the pan, but usually the sausage will have enough fat in it to keep it from sticking.  For this dish, you want the sausage to crumble like hamburger, so it needs to be removed from the casings. Slice all the way down one side of each sausage with a knife, and peel the casing away. Add the sausage to the pan, and break it up into small pieces as it cooks.

Your sausage should look like this when it goes in the pan, not like sausage links.

 

When the sausage has browned, move it to the sides of the pan. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, and 2 tbsp of the italian herb seasoning to the center of the pan. Allow the vegetables and seasoning to cook for about 2 minutes before stirring them into the sausage.

Adding the ingredients into the center lets them cook in the juice from the sausage for a few minutes.

After combining the vegetables and sausage, let everything cook for another minute. Set everything aside in a large bowl. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan you’ve been using to cook everything else. Cook the mushrooms in the pan for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Using the same pan for the sausage and the mushrooms will help the mushrooms pick up some flavor.

 

When the mushrooms are done, mix them in with the sausage, onions, and peppers. Combine the two cans of tomato paste with two cups of water, 1 tbsp of italian herbs, about a teaspoon of salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Stir the mixture to combine it into a tomato sauce.

I actually did mine in two batches, because it's a lot of sauce.

 

Get out a 9×13 casserole dish, and pour a little of the sauce in the bottom. This should just be a small amount to help keep the eggplant from sticking to the bottom of the dish.

I like a glass dish because it heats everything evenly. Any kind of casserole dish will work, though.

 

Lay out a layer of eggplant slices in the dish, and spread a little more of the sauce on top of them.

Try to cover as much as possible with each layer of eggplant.

 

Add about a third of the meat and vegetable mixture on top of the eggplant. Pour a little of the sauce on top of it.

Don't make this layer too thick, or things will fall apart badly when serving.

 

Repeat the layering steps two more times (eggplant, sauce, meat, sauce, eggplant, sauce, meat, sauce). Then finish with a layer of eggplant. Pour any remaining sauce over the top layer of eggplant.

It should end up looking sort of like lasagna. See?

 

Bake the dish uncovered at 350 for about 30 minutes. Then, increase the heat to 425 and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow the dish to cool for a few minutes before serving.

The sauce on top will caramelize a little. This is crucial to avoid an eggplant-in-tomato-juice flavor.

 

Notes

  • Three eggplants were the right amount when I made this. If your eggplants are small, or if you slice them too thick, you may need four.
  • You can assemble this dish ahead of time and bake it later. Just store it covered up in the refrigerator. If you do make it ahead of time, put the dish in the oven while it’s pre-heating to 350. Then cook it like the original instructions say.
  • Because it doesn’t have any cheese to help bind it together, this dish falls apart much easier than traditional lasagna. I was able to serve reasonably intact pieces by letting it cool a little and using a nice big spatula.
  • Your sauce may initially seem a little thick, but remember that the vegetables in this dish will add some water to the mix while they bake.
  • I used a mild italian sausage, but I think that a spicy italian sausage would work even better. If you try it, please let me know with a comment.
  • Miriam suggested that adding some black olives to this dish would be a good idea. If you like olives, go for it.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jerk Chicken

Like BBQ, jerk chicken is one of those dishes that has a thousand different recipes, each one claiming to be THE authentic way of doing it.

For our honeymoon, Miriam and I went to Jamaica, where we stayed at a resort and basically made no effort to experience Jamaica’s culture. To be fair, “Jamaica’s culture” didn’t have swim-up bars and all the pina coladas you could drink, whereas the resort did. This was well before our paleo diet days, so we ate a lot of junk, but one thing we ate that actually fits very easily into the paleo diet was jerk chicken. I’m not saying it did anything to offset the three pina coladas I usually drank along with it, but in and of itself, it’s pretty good for you.

Jerk chicken is just chicken marinated in a particular kind of marinade, and then grilled. While I was researching this recipe, I stumbled across a website run by a Jamaican cultural center that claimed that the most authentic way to cook jerk chicken was over a fire made with “pimento wood.” Pimento is what Jamaicans call allspice, so the site was saying that If I had any wood from an allspice tree, I should use that. I don’t have any allspice wood, so I used charcoal. I do recommend that you make this chicken with the smokiest cooking method you can manage. Charcoal grilling is probably the best option, followed closely by grilling with propane.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but the food processor does most of the work for you.

Ingredients

6 green onions
6 cloves garlic
2 small onions
3 habanero chiles
4 tsp salt
4 tsp thyme
4 tsp allspice
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tbsp olive oil
Approximately 3.5 lbs of chicken (Roughly one chicken cut into pieces)

Equipment

Food Processor (recommended)
Large Zip-top Bag (recommended)
Grill (recommended)

Remove the white bulb end of the green onions and discard them. Cut the green onions in half and place them in the food processor. Remove the paper from the garlic, and place the whole cloves in the food processor with the green onions. Remove the outer layer of the 2 small onions and cut off their root ends. Cut each onion into four pieces and put them in the food processor. Carefully remove the stems and seeds from the habanero peppers and discard them. Place the peppers in the food processor with the other vegetables.

Try not to handle the pepper seeds very much. If you do handle them, don't touch your eyes for about a day.

Pulse the vegetables several times in the food processor until they are roughly chopped. Add the salt, thyme, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger to the food processor.

The newer your spices are, the more flavor they have. This might be a good time to replace that container of allspice that you bought back in college.

Pulse the vegetables and spices a few times to combine them.

You might need to scrape down the sides of the food processor if everything keeps trying to climb out.

Add the vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil to the food processor, and turn it on for about 15 seconds, until the marinade is a smooth, loose paste.

Not the kind of paste you used to eat in kindergarten.

Place the chicken and two-thirds of the marinade into a large zip-top bag. Close the bag and get as much air out of it as you can. Make sure that the chicken is evenly covered with the marinade, and place the bag in the refrigerator for several hours (overnight is even better). Save the remaining third of the marinade for use while grilling.

Plastic bags are the best container for marinating, because they hold the marinade right next to the food.

Grill the chicken using indirect high heat for about 30 minutes. Leave the lid of the grill closed as much as possible to promote smoking. Turn the pieces several times, and use the marinade that you set aside to baste them as they grill.

You should try to arrange the pieces so that the smaller ones are on the cooler parts of the grill. Otherwise, they may dry out before the larger pieces finish cooking.

When the chicken has finished cooking, allow it to rest for about five minutes before serving.

Notes

  • You may have noticed the three habanero chiles in this recipe. I won’t deny that this chicken is spicy, but it’s not as spicy as the three habaneros would make you think. Removing their seeds really removes a lot of the heat, and they’re distributed across a whole chicken.
  • If you’re still worried that this will be too spicy, you can substitute jalapeno peppers for the habaneros. I wouldn’t leave the peppers out entirely, though. I think the chicken wouldn’t turn out very well with absolutely no spice.
  • If you don’t have a grill, you can bake the chicken in your oven. I would recommend doing it at 350 for about 25 minutes, and then increasing the heat to 450 for 5-10 minutes to sear the outside a little.
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you could make the marinade in a blender. To do that, you should put all of the liquids in the blender first, and chop the vegetables finely before putting them in. Set your blender to its highest setting, and it should work pretty well.
  • The best way to create “indirect high heat” on a charcoal grill is to pile the charcoal in the middle and then place the chicken in a circle around the outside. On a propane grill, light all the burners but one, and place the chicken over the unlit burner.
Posted in chicken, main dishes, marinade | Leave a comment

Grilled Balsamic Eggplant

I think it's funny that I get better grill marks from my grill pan than I do from my actual grill.

I love to grill. In fact, I just got a new grill that lets me use either propane or charcoal, and has enough total cooking surface that I could cook two sets of those massive ribs that flip Fred Flintstone’s car over in the opening sequence of the cartoon. Before the new grill was delivered, I decided to have one last hurrah with the old one (which served me well for over five years despite much abuse). I wanted to grill some steaks, but I was presented with a common griller’s dilemma. What kind of side item could I make that wouldn’t have me running back and forth between the grill and the stove, hoping that one or the other didn’t catch fire while I wasn’t in attendance? I decided to pull out an old favorite that I learned to make from watching Good Eats. Alton Brown’s eggplant episode is a good one, and it demonstrates a great technique for making eggplant that’s simple and very grill-friendly.

I don’t remember what Alton’s eggplant marinade was, but I’ve always liked to keep it simple with just some balsamic vinegar. Brushing a little onto the eggplants a few minutes before grilling them gives them a nice hit of flavor without making you wonder why you’re eating a vinegar sponge. The marinade isn’t really the important part, though. The key to this recipe is in how you prepare the eggplant slices. By leeching some of the moisture out of them with salt, you remove some of the bitterness that eggplants naturally have, and make them more ready to absorb the liquid of your choice.

A simple set of ingredients are nice sometimes.

Ingredients

3 eggplants
about 1/4 cup kosher salt
about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Equipment

Draining Rig
Grill or Grill Pan
Basting Brush (recommended)

Start by slicing your eggplants into half-inch thick rounds. Discard the stem end, and the last piece of the bulb end. Place the slices on a draining rig in a single layer.

As usual, my draining rig is some cake racks over a cookie sheet. Paper towels don't work very well as a draining rig in this case, because the water can't drip away. In a pinch, you could put the slices directly on your oven rack with a cookie sheet underneath.

Heavily salt the top side of each slice. Wait two minutes, then flip the slices and heavily salt the other sides.

Wait two minutes before salting the second side, because the salt will leech a little moisture out and stick to the eggplant when it's upside down

Let the salted eggplant sit and drain for about an hour. You will see liquid collect on the top of each slice.

That liquid has a bitter taste, and removing it will make the eggplant taste better.

Rinse the slices quickly under cold water to remove any excess salt. Pat them dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Baste both sides of each slice with balsamic vinegar, and allow the slices to sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid.

Placing the slices back on the draining rig is a convenient way to lay them out for basting.

Grill the slices over indirect heat (or medium heat if you’re using a grill pan) for about five minutes per side. The eggplant should be tender when they’re done.

Notes

  • You can substitute lots of different liquids for the balsamic vinegar. I’d recommend something that’s a little tangy and a little sweet.
  • The quantities of salt and marinade that you’ll use will vary with the size of your eggplants and how thickly you slice them. I used about 1/4 cup of each.
  • Make sure to rinse the extra salt off of the eggplant. You need a generous coating to pull moisture out of the slices, but you will not enjoy the taste if you leave it on.
  • If you have a larger grill, you can grill these while you’re grilling some steaks. Put the steaks in the middle of the grill over the highest heat, and put the eggplant around the sides. If you cook your steaks to medium rare, the eggplant will be done at about the same time.
Posted in eggplant, side dishes | Leave a comment

Chicken Cacciatore

The scientific name for the tomato is Lycopersicon esculentum,
which means “wolf peach.”

“Cacciatore” is Italian for “hunter,” so chicken cacciatore is “hunter’s” chicken. I’m not really sure if the idea was that hunters would make the dish while they were out hunting, or if their wives were supposed to have the dish ready when they came home. Either way, it’s a pretty solid meal to have if you’ve been tramping through the woods after an animal all day. One source I found suggested that chicken cacciatore comes originally from renaissance Italy, but I find that hard to believe, given that a lot of Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous at the time. If the original really was a renaissance dish, I suspect that the ingredient list was drastically different.

Regardless, modern chicken cacciatore has many variations in both ingredients and technique. Chicken is a constant, and tomatoes are pretty standard, but the supporting vegetables and herbs are all over the place. I needed to make a dish for a potluck dinner, so I came up with a recipe that fit my needs. First, it’s easy. It’s made in a crock pot out of ingredients that need very little preparation. Second, it makes a lot at once. This recipe was easily 8-10 servings. You could cut it in half without too much trouble if you’re not making it for a group.

Canned tomato products are a lifesaver for any dish that you’re going to cook a long time.

Ingredients

1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 8oz. package of sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp dried Italian herb blend
1 tsp salt
2 6oz. cans of tomato paste
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes

Equipment

Crock Pot
Medium Bowl

Start by chopping the onion into large pieces. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper and chop it into large pieces as well. The pieces should be about the size of your fingertip.

Do not include any actual fingertips in the dish.

Finely mince the garlic cloves.

The finer you mince garlic, the more flavor it adds to a dish, so go nuts.

Cut each chicken thigh in half, and remove any large pieces of fat or skin that may still be on the meat.

You don’t have to worry about removing smaller pieces of fat from the chicken.
Just try to get rid of any chunks of fat that have their own zip code.

Add the chicken, onion, pepper, garlic, and mushrooms to the crock pot. Also sprinkle 2 tbsp of dried Italian herbs and 1 tsp of salt on top of the meat and vegetables.


Before you add them, check your mushrooms just to make sure they don’t have any dirt on them.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the diced tomatoes (with their liquid) and the tomato paste. Stir them together so that they form a thick sauce.

“Sauce” might be a little generous at this point, but this stuff will really improve while the dish cooks.

Add the tomato sauce to the crock pot. Try to evenly distribute the sauce across the top of the chicken and vegetables.

The juices from the other ingredients will mix with the sauce, thin it out, and make it delicious.

Cook everything in the crock pot on low for about 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, gently stir everything to even out the sauce.

I put mine in a casserole dish for transport to the potluck.
Big mistake – it was too full and I got sauce everywhere.

Notes

  • A lot of recipes for chicken cacciatore want you to brown the chicken in olive oil before braising it. I think that’s a waste of time when making it in the crock pot, because any browning gets basically dissolved over the extremely long cooking.
  • I used some cremini mushrooms for this dish, but regular white button mushrooms work just fine. You could also change things up with some more exotic types if you wanted.
  • You can use other pieces of the chicken in this recipe, but I find that boneless, skinless chicken thighs are generally the best performers in the crock pot. White meat dries out too much, and I think drumsticks have too much connective tissue.
  • I went with some packaged items in this recipe because I needed something I could throw together before work without a lot of hassle. You could certainly use fresh tomatoes instead of the canned diced tomatoes, and you don’t have to buy your mushrooms pre-sliced. If you want to use fresh herbs, go for it. I’m pretty sure that Italian herb blends are mainly oregano and basil, with maybe a little thyme thrown in.
  • If your sauce is really watery after you stir everything up, you can try adding about a tablespoon of arrowroot powder to thicken it up. Sprinkle it on top (to help avoid clumps) and then stir it in very gently. Let everything cook on low for another 15 minutes, and the sauce should get thicker.
Posted in chicken, main dishes | 2 Comments

Koobideh Kabobs (AKA Ricky Channels His Inner MacGuyver)

Lets just acknowledge that some foods are more photogenic
than others and move on with our lives, OK?

You’ve probably made kabobs before. They’re really easy to make, and just about everyone likes them. You stick some chunks of meat and vegetables on a few sticks and throw them on the grill, and you’re done. Most restaurants that serve kabobs also have a type that you probably haven’t made, though. They’re called “koobideh” (along with about fifteen other slight spelling variations.) Koobideh are made from ground meat and spices wrapped around a skewer and grilled in the same way as other kabobs.

They’re already paleo without making any adjustments, and they’re also a good way for me to curb my never-ending craving for steak without setting off Miriam’s “steak, again?!!” alarm bells. Since the recipe is really simple, I thought I’d take the opportunity to grind my own meat. If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can just use hamburger from the store, but sometimes I like to get crazy with the kitchen tools.

Also, you may have noticed in the picture that I didn’t wrap the koobideh around regular skewers. There’s a very good reason for that. Most standard skewers aren’t really wide enough to handle koobideh very well. As the meat cooks, it shrinks a little, and eventually a standard skewer will just spin inside the meat without letting you turn the kabob. If you, like me, don’t have a set of super wide skewers, you’ve got a couple of options. You could use popsicle sticks. You could also use those bamboo chopsticks that come connected to each other (don’t separate them). If you use either of those, make sure to soak them in water for a while before putting them on the grill. I decided to use some of the cheap butter knives that I’ve got hanging around my kitchen. They’re about the right length, and they’re wide and flat, so they help turn the meat even after it’s cooked.

Skewer vs. butter knife. Notice how much wider the knife is.
That beef actually is grass-fed and organic. It cost about a million dollars.

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/4 lbs hamburger (I ground my own, you can use pre-ground if you want.)
1 tbs minced onion flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric

Equipment

Meat Grinder (If you’re grinding the meat yourself)
Large Bowl
Wide Skewers (or an appropriate substitute)
Grill or Grill Pan

If you’re grinding the meat yourself, you need to cut it into 1 to 2 inch cubes so that it will fit into the grinder. Leave the fat on the meat; it will help make the kabobs juicier.



The size isn’t really important. You just need to get it small enough to shove into the grinder.


Add the onion flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and turmeric to the meat before grinding it.

Adding the spices now is the easiest way to get them mixed into the meat.
The grinder does all the work for you.

Add the meat to your grinder and follow it’s instructions to grind the meat. (With mine, I turn it on and start slowly feeding the meat into it, then the hamburger comes out the other end. Yours probably works similarly)

Put the meat in along with all its spices…
and seasoned hamburger comes out the other end.

If you’ve been grinding your own, your hamburger should now be seasoned and sitting in a large bowl. If you bought your hamburger pre-ground, you should put it into a large bowl with all of the spices and use your hands to mix everything together.

Make sure that the spices are evenly distributed through the meat.

Now, use your hands to form the hamburger into tubes around your skewers. You’ll need to pack the meat pretty tight to make it stay put. Depending on exactly how much hamburger you used and the size of your skewers, you’ll get anywhere from four to six kabobs. Set your kabobs in a dish that you can cover and put in the fridge for about an hour. This will let the fat in the meat firm up a little, and will also help hydrate the onion and garlic.

They’re basically meatloaf-on-a-stick.

After refrigerating, put the kabobs onto a hot grill or grill pan. Cook them on their first side for two minutes, and then roll them one quarter turn. Repeat for all four sides. Then, reduce the heat to medium and cook each of the four sides for one additional minute. When you’re done, you will have cooked the kabobs for twelve minutes in total.

The grill pan gets used a lot because it’s easier to photograph.
Given a choice, I actually prefer a regular grill.

Remove the kabobs from the heat and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

My trusty draining rig makes its one-thousandth appearance.

Notes

  • Whether you grind your own hamburger or not, you need to have some fat in the meat. An 80/20 blend of hamburger is a good bet. For grinding your own, go with chuck.
  • You don’t have to stick to beef for this. Lamb or chicken are also popular choices for koobideh. Although it’s not traditional, there’s no reason pork wouldn’t also work.
  • I’ve seen some recipes for koobideh that include an egg. It’s in there to help hold the meat together, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you’ve got hamburger with a decent amount of fat. If you make this with chicken, you might want to add the egg.
  • My butter knives have really flat handles, so they’re a good substitute for wide skewers, If your knives have really thick handles, they may not work as well.
Posted in kabobs, main dishes, stealth steak | Leave a comment

Strawberry Pulled Pork

Pulled pork with strawberry barbecue sauce.
Sounds weird, right?
It turns out to be a really good combination.

I was looking through some of my favorite food blogs the other day, and a weird recipe caught my eye. It was over at Stuff I Make My Husband, and it was a recipe for Strawberry Pulled Pork. I’ve already posted a more traditional recipe for Barbecue Pulled Pork Shoulder, but the idea of using strawberries in a recipe like this was too intriguing not to try. I figured if it turned out to be gross, I could just forget about it, and if it turned out to be good, I’d have an interesting recipe for the blog. Luckily, it turned out to be really good, so I’m sharing it with you.

I changed the original recipe a little. I left out the molasses and the rosemary, changed the ketchup to tomato paste, and added a little cayenne pepper. The rest is pretty much the same, though.

The sauce that this recipe makes is really good. Better yet, I added absolutely no sugar to it beyond what’s naturally in the ingredients. Because of that, you can feel free to use a generous amount of sauce on the pulled pork without stepping into indulgence-land. Just remember that it’s not a beverage and you’ll be fine.

I usually get whole pork shoulders, but all I could find this time was a pre-trimmed one.
Either kind will work fine for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 pork shoulder
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
16 oz strawberries (I used frozen, but fresh is fine too)
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

Crockpot
Sauce Pot
Strainer
Gravy Separator (Recommended)
Large Bowl (Recommended)

Crockpot recipes are always simple. This one is no exception. Just put everything into the crockpot and turn it on low for 8-10 hours. Try and get the spices primarily on the meat instead of around the sides of the crockpot, but even that is more of a guideline than a rule. Use several heavy pinches of salt, and a similar amount of pepper.

It’s a good thing we’ll be making a sauce, or this would be the dullest post ever.

After the pork has cooked in the crockpot, remove it and place it in a large bowl. Use two forks to shred the meat. Remove any bones or large pieces of fat if you see them.

You will eat some as you shred it. It’s OK. I know you can’t help it. I do the same thing.

You need to strain the liquid in the crockpot to remove all the large, solid bits. You can use a strainer directly over your sauce pot, but if you’ve got a gravy separator, I would recommend straining the liquid into that first. That will let you remove some of the fat and will make your sauce a little smoother. Whether you use the separator or not, you need to put all of the liquid into a sauce pot, without any of the solids.

Solids would make a very chunky sauce. We’re not going for chunky.

To make the sauce, you need to reduce the liquid by at least half, and by two-thirds if possible. It took me about 25 minutes of reducing over high heat to get the sauce to the right consistency. Your time will vary depending on the size and shape of your sauce pot. It’s ready when the sauce has thickened and the bubbles start to stack up on each other in the pot.

You can see the bubbles stacking up in this picture.

Once the sauce has thickened, taste it to see if it needs any extra salt. Mine needed a few extra pinches. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool. You can put it into a condiment bottle if you have one. That will make it easier to serve.

To serve, put some of the meat on a plate and top it with the sauce. (Of course, if you couldn’t figure that out on your own, chances are you’re having trouble just reading this)

Notes

  • This will make a lot of pulled pork. It’s a good party recipe, or you can freeze some of it. The sauce can be frozen too.
  • I bought a couple of those plastic bottles that burger joints put ketchup in. They cost me less than a dollar apiece, and they’re really useful for storing sauces.
  • Reducing and boiling are the exact same thing. Just don’t try to reduce a sauce with the top on the pot. All the evaporated liquid will just condense and run back in.
  • Eight hours is the minimum for this recipe. I really recommend at least ten, and if you’ve got time, go for twelve. The meat will be more tender, and the strawberries will break down more, making the sauce better.
  • To tell if your sauce is thick enough, you can dip a spoon into it and hold it up sideways. If the sauce just runs right back off of the spoon, you need to keep reducing. If it does a pretty good job of hanging on, you’re at least close to the right consistency.
  • Be careful when reducing the sauce. It’s possible to burn it near the end, when a lot of the liquid is gone. Just keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally.
Posted in main dishes, pulled pork, strawberries | Leave a comment

Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

See how they’re shiny? That’s because they were cooked in bacon fat.

As far as I can tell, about sixty percent of children’s popular culture is devoted to disparaging brussels sprouts. Unlike spinach, they have no quirky sailor to stand up for their good name and health benefits. They are constantly fed to the sitcom family’s dog. Well, it’s time to grow up. Brussels sprouts are good for you, and you should give them a chance.

Cooking brussels sprouts isn’t very hard. Your best bet is either to steam them or roast them. Usually, roasting wins out in paleo recipes, because it’s easier to add paleo items to roasted brussels sprouts than steamed ones. This is basically a roasting recipe, but the sprouts will spend a few minutes on the cook top to get them started. Since it’s also loaded with bacon, it should be a good way to tempt the vegetable-phobes into trying something new.

The quantities in this recipe are largely based on the sizes of packaging at Trader Joe’s.
You can adjust them a little without really harming the recipe.

Ingredients

2 lbs brussels sprouts
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
12 oz bacon

Equipment

Oven Safe Pan (I used cast iron)
Large Bowl (recommended)

Start by placing the brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Examine them to make sure they don’t have any large blemishes or pieces of the stalk still attached. Trim them if necessary. Toss them with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

You should basically trim away anything that isn’t green or white.

Chop the bacon into small pieces.

A little larger than bacon bits, but not big enough to even be called “bite-sized”

Add the bacon to a cold, oven-safe pan and turn the heat on to medium.

Adding the bacon before heating the pan will make more of the fat render out.
That’s good, because you’ll need it to coat the brussels sprouts.

Cook the bacon until it is brown and crispy. Remove it from the pan and let it drain. I recommend using a few paper towels on a plate as a draining rig.

Bacon fat is a valid paleo ingredient. How awesome is that?

You may need to pour off some of the bacon fat, if your bacon was particularly fatty. You need to keep about an eighth of an inch in the bottom of the pan, but don’t keep more than a quarter inch. Add the brussels sprouts to the pan and turn them carefully to coat them with the bacon fat.

Cast iron works well, because it has no problem surviving in the oven.

When you put the brussels sprouts in the pan, turn your oven on to 350. Continue cooking the sprouts on the stove top over medium heat while the oven finishes pre-heating. Turn them occasionally. When the oven has finished heating, try to arrange the brussels sprouts into a single layer in the pan. Then put the pan into the oven and let the sprouts cook at 350 for about 20 minutes.

They’ll be deeply browned. They shouldn’t be blackened.

Before serving, add the bacon pieces to the sprouts and toss them to combine.

Notes

  • I ended up getting about a cup of fat from my bacon. I used about half of that to coat the brussels sprouts.
  • You may need to add a little salt to the sprouts after cooking them. It depends on how salty your bacon was. Just taste them and decide for yourself.
  • I really recommend using a cast iron pan for this. It holds heat well, and your oven will melt before it will. If you don’t have one, it’s worth the investment. A company called Lodge makes good cast iron products, and you can pick up one of their 10-inch skillets for about fifteen dollars.
  • You may be interested to know that several studies have shown that adding fat to vegetables greatly improves your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients from those vegetables.
  • You may also be interested to know that bacon is awesome.
Posted in bacon, brussels sprouts, side dishes | Leave a comment

Mango Salad With Chili-Lime Shrimp (AKA The Triple Threat Post)



I’m told that bright colors are important when composing a dish.
I couldn’t really say, because my food generally disappears
before I get a good look at it.

This is sort of a three-in-one recipe. The three parts add up to a great salad, but on their own, they’re great building blocks for other dishes. The chili-lime shrimp could be served on their own as a main course, or tossed with some spaghetti squash and a few spices to make a good paleo pasta dish. The mango salad without any meat on it would make a great side salad that you could serve as the first course in a fancy dinner. It would also pair up very well with other kinds of meat – chicken or crab would be excellent choices. The salad dressing is my all purpose vinaigrette. I’ve put it on every salad I’ve made for about the past year, and it’s worked with every single one.

Nutritionally, I’d not only say that you can eat this every day, I’d encourage it. As far as I know, there isn’t a diet in existence that wouldn’t heartily endorse this dish. It’s got plenty of protein from the shrimp. It’s pretty low carb, and those carbs come primarily from fruits and vegetables. It’s got some healthy fats from the olive oil, but not enough overall fat to make the fat-phobics twitch. You just can’t go wrong.

Ingredients

Peeling and de-veining shrimp is a task so tedious it could be used in psychological warfare.
I spend the extra few cents and let someone else do it.
For the Shrimp

1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 lime

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp pepper

I bought my mango peeled and seeded.
Peeling and seeding a mango isn’t as tedious as de-veining shrimp, but it is more dangerous,
so the two tasks come out even in my mind.
For the Salad
1 mango, peeled and seeded
2 small tomatoes
3 baby bell peppers (or 1 normal bell pepper, red or orange recommended)
1/4 cup cilantro
6 cups salad greens of choice
I never get super fancy balsamic vinegar, because it tastes exactly the same as the cheap stuff to me.
 
For the Dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
 
Equipment
Pan (for the shrimp)
Large Bowl (for the salad)
Empty Condiment Bottle (recommended for the dressing)
Make the shrimp ahead of time, if possible, so that they can cool down in the refrigerator before being added to the salad.
Start by removing the zest from the lime. I recommend using a fine cheese grater or a microplane grater. Just make sure to get as little of the white part of the skin (the pith) as possible. Once you’ve removed the zest, juice the lime and save the juice for a later step.
Interestingly, the zest of a lime will make a dish taste more like lime than the entire pulp of the lime will.
Next, combine the salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, pepper, and lime zest. Mix them thoroughly.
It’s easiest to combine the spices if you put them into a container with a top and just shake them up.
Toss the shrimp with the spices. Try to evenly coat the shrimp.
If your shrimp were particularly wet, it might be best to pat them dry with a paper towel before adding the spices.
Add a little of your favorite oil (I used coconut oil) to a frying pan over medium heat. When the pan gets hot, add the shrimp and cook them for about 1 minute. Add the lime juice to the pan, and turn the shrimp over. cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the meat of the shrimp is white.
Shrimp cook fast. Once the meat turns white, remove them from the pan immediately, or suffer shrimp jerky.
Remove the shrimp from the pan and put them into a container that can be refrigerated. Refrigerate the shrimp for about an hour, so that they are cold when they are added to the salad.
By “a container that can be refrigerated,” I mean
“a container with a top that will keep your whole fridge from smelling like shrimp.”
The salad is easy to prepare. It’s basically a lot of chopping. You need to chop the mango and the tomatoes into half-inch pieces. Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers, and chop them into quarter-inch pieces. The cilantro should be chopped finely.
Do this.
Once everything is chopped, either add the salad greens, mango, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro to a large bowl and combine them, or place the greens onto your serving plates and top them with the other items.
The dressing is even easier than the salad. Just combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper and mix them well. I recommend adding them all to an empty condiment bottle (I used an old hot sauce bottle) and shaking them vigorously, but you could also whisk them together in a bowl if you don’t have a bottle.
Choose your bottle wisely. Some bottles say “high class,” others say “white trash.”
To serve the dish, put the salad on a plate and top it with a little of the dressing. Then put the shrimp on top. I recommend putting the shrimp on after the dressing because they look prettier if they don’t have brown blotches on top of them, but it’s your choice.
Notes
  • I used frozen shrimp that I defrosted. If you do the same, make sure you’re buying frozen raw shrimp, not frozen cooked shrimp. Also, a dirty secret of the grocery store – unless you live in sight of the water, the shrimp that you think are fresh at the fish counter are probably previously frozen anyway.
  • Shrimp are sold in different sizes. I used size U15 shrimp, which are pretty big. You don’t have to use shrimp that big, but I wouldn’t recommend using really tiny shrimp.
  • I bought my mango pre-peeled and pre-seeded because I hate seeding and peeling mangoes. They’re hard to hold onto while slicing the fruit away from the seed. If you have to do it, here’s the basic method. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the skin of the mango away. Stick a fork into the tip of the mango (the smaller end) to help you hold it upright while cutting it. Rest the bottom of the mango on a cutting board, holding the fork at the top end. Slice down the sides of the mango, staying as close to the seed as you can. (The seed of a mango is shaped like an almond). It’s a pain.
  • I used some baby bell peppers that I found at Trader Joe’s in the salad. You can use a regular red or orange bell pepper if you want. There won’t be any difference.
  • When I make salads, I just buy some mixed greens. You can use whatever salad greens you like.
  • While there is (apparently) a difference between a four-dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar and a hundred-dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar, I maintain that the only difference between a four-dollar bottle and a twenty-dollar bottle is sixteen dollars.
  • I got two generous servings from this recipe. You could probably stretch it to three.
Posted in dressing, main dishes, salad, shrimp | Leave a comment

Work In Progress

I’m in the process of migrating Technically Paleo from its current blogspot home to its own domain. Until I get it up and running over here, you should visit it at http://technicallypaleo.blogspot.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple Crisp

Mmmm. Apples. Tastes like America.

Apple pie is the quintessential American dessert. You’ve heard the phrase “as American as apple pie,” and I bet you swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. Well, here’s the dirty truth – apple pie predates America by at least four hundred years. Decent apples aren’t even native to the new world. When European settlers got to America, they were a little dismayed to find that the only apples that grew natively were crab apples. (Just so you know, crab apples suck.) It wasn’t until Johnny Appleseed came along that apples worth eating became widely available in America. (His legend is a little exaggerated, but he did plant a lot of trees and increase the American interest in growing apples.)

A much more accurate phrase might be “as American as apple crisp.” For a long time, the idea of baking a pie crust in the new world was laughable. Pretty much no one had an oven, and building them wasn’t exactly high on the list of priorities for the settlers until they moved out of the “likely to be eaten by bears” phase of settlement. Nonetheless, people want dessert, and cobblers, grunts, and crisps were quickly created by enterprising women who had the oh-so-pleasant task of trying to make entire meals using a fire and some cast iron pots. Until apples became available, other fruits were used, but after Mr. Appleseed worked his magic, apples quickly became a favorite crisp ingredient.

A paleo apple crisp isn’t too hard, because you can use chopped nuts as the primary ingredient in the topping. Because apples have their own sweetness, you don’t really need to add sugar to them. There is a little bit of honey in the recipe, but it falls well within the description, “an amount I’d be willing to steal from bees.” I’m putting this in the indulgences category, but it’s so close to the line that you’d probably be OK with eating it pretty often, just not every day.

I forgot to get the coconut oil and salt before I took the picture.
Just pretend they’re behind the walnuts or something.

Ingredients

For the filling
1 lemon (you will need all of the juice and half of the zest)
1 tsp minced ginger
4 granny smith apples
1 tsp honey
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the topping
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pecans
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp arrowroot powder
a pinch of salt

Equipment

Large Bowl
9×9 Baking Dish
Food Processor (recommended)

Preheat your oven to 350.

Strip the zest from half of the lemon and mince it very finely. Also go ahead and mince the ginger.

Zest on the left, ginger on the right.

Before you start working on the apples, you should fill a large bowl about half full of water, and squeeze the juice of your lemon into it. As you chop the apples, place the pieces into the water. Doing this will keep them from turning brown.

Peel the apples, core them, and chop them into medium-sized pieces (I got 48 pieces per apple, if that helps with the definition of “medium-sized.”) As you chop them, place the pieces into the bowl.

The acid in the lemon juice disables an enzyme that would otherwise cause the apples to brown.
Science – it’s super fun!

Once all the pieces have been chopped, drain the water out of the bowl. (a colander is probably the easiest way to do it.) Add the lemon zest, ginger, honey, arrowroot powder, and cinnamon to the bowl, and mix them in with the apples so that everything is evenly coated. Place the apples into your baking dish.

I prefer a glass baking dish, because it heats everything just a little more slowly than a metal one.

To make the topping, you need to chop the walnuts and pecans into small pieces, and then mix in the coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, arrowroot powder, and salt. If you’ve got a food processor, you can just throw everything in and pulse it about 10 times (or until it looks like granola). If you don’t, you can chop the nuts by hand, and then mix the other ingredients in with your hands or a spatula. Once you’ve got the topping prepared, place it evenly on top of the apples and press it down just a little.

Making it even will help prevent any nuts from burning.

Bake the crisp at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. The apples will still be a little firm, and the topping will have started to toast, but not burn. Take the crisp out of the oven, and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, so that any juices have a chance to gel.



You can see that the apples are still holding their shape.

  Notes

  • Use granny smith apples for this recipe. They are, in my opinion, the best apples for making any kind of pie, crisp, cobbler, or crumble.
  • When you serve this, the topping will get all mixed in with the apples. That’s good, because some of the topping will be in every bite.
  • Be careful when baking the crisp. It’s very easy to let it go too long and burn the topping. I started checking it pretty often at the 15 minute mark, and it was exactly right at 20 minutes. If you start to see any bits of the topping get very dark, take the crisp out of the oven immediately.
  • I like my apples to still be firm in a dessert like this. If you want your apples mushy, you can bake them by themselves for about 10 minutes before you put on the topping.
  • One more piece of pie trivia: early pie crusts were so crappy that it was just expected that you wouldn’t eat them. The filling was baked in one, but you’d eat the filling and throw away the disgusting crust.
Posted in desserts | Leave a comment