Category Archives: Herder-gatherer Paleo Diet
On Saturday, my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, picked a Really Big daikon radish from the fields at Crooked Sky Farms during CSA Member Day.
My husband Martin asked me, doubtingly, “What are you going to do with that?”
I replied, “I’m pretty sure you can make kimchi out of daikon.”
Martin gave me one of those looks and said, “I hope you don’t expect me to eat that.”
I think the grand count is now up to six or seven things I’ve made in our nearly-20 years of marriage that he doesn’t like. Maybe eight. I think his presupposition that he won’t like radish kimchi is based solely upon reputation, and report of friends who have gone to South Korea on ministry trips.
I found a recipe, and I’m making it right now — waiting for 30 minutes while the cubed radish “sweats”.
I’m really happy with all the ingredients. Nearly all of them are organic: the daikon, of course; the green onion; the dried red chile; the sugar — all from Crooked Sky Farms, save the sugar. I’ve also used sea salt, fresh garlic, and gluten-free soy sauce, simply because I’m out of fish sauce.
I just realized that I do not have fresh ginger, so my kimchi will be ginger-less.
And that big daikon only made one quart plus about 1½ cups of kimchi. I’m only fermenting the quart container. The end result didn’t seem as “wet” as the recipe suggested, so I ended up pouring all the “radish juice” back into the mixture. From other fermented items I’ve made, the veggies must all be submerged in the liquid, and it took adding it all back in to bring the liquid to the top of the quart jar.
I had the thought, “I wonder if slightly adventurous cooks in Korea get a hold of, say, tomatoes, and determine that they will make ketchup, that ubiquitous and widely eaten American condiment.” And their spouses look askance and wonder if they have to eat it.
The author of the recipe suggests that kkakdugi pairs well with a simple bone-broth soup. Sounds good to me; I have bone broth in the fridge right now! I wonder which of my family will eat Korean Ox-Bone Soup accompanied by Kkakdugi… I’ll try to remember to report back.
On a tangential note, there is a lady in the weekly small group Bible study I attend, and one of her daughters is a health-nut. Nearly every week, my friend will report to me of the inedible culinary disasters her daughter has created in the name of health. When I make a dish, I simply cannot make it in the name of health alone; it must actually TASTE GOOD. What’s the point of cooking your asparagus in coconut oil if no one enjoys the flavor, and it ends up in the trash? (Personally, I think coconut oil is over-used. However, that is a tangent to my tangent.) I’ve only brought snacks twice in the last number of months, and both times, she asked repeatedly, while eating with gusto, “This is gluten free?? It’s healthy??” To which I usually reply, “Well, it’s not healthy, as it has way more sugar than anyone should be eating. But, it’s gluten-free and it’s nearly all organic.” She just can’t believe that homemade goods can be better-for-you AND tasty. I believe that they should be tasty. I don’t believe in eating something solely because it’s good for you; food should be enjoyed.
I’ll admit it: In this age of expert home food stylists and Pinterest beauty, I’m hesitant to post new recipes. I snapped a pic of this with my phone, not my Nikon SLR (I don’t own a Nikon SLR or any other fancy camera). It’s not gorgeous. But, it is SO VERY delicious that I had to share. And, it’s just in time for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, it will become a wintertime staple in your home, as my family has proclaimed it must be in mine.
This recipe calls for a 2½ lb butternut squash, but you can use any orange-fleshed winter squash: baking/pie pumpkin; Hubbard; Delicata; Kabocha; Red Kuri, and others. Personally, I wouldn’t use acorn squash or spaghetti squash. But, just about any other variety would do wonderfully. You can even substitute yam. You may also use MORE than 2½ lb. You could use up to four pounds of squash without tampering with any of the other ingredients.
I implore you not to substitute any other ingredients. This perhaps may seem like an odd mishmash of ingredients, but when it comes together, it’s perfect: savory, sweet, a bit spicy, warm, bright, FRESH. However, if you do find any subs that work beautifully, do return and comment here!
Also, recent research has shown that it’s more important than ever to buy organic winter squash!
Winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. PAHs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. When winter squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like PAHs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of winter squash in mobilizing contaminants like PAHs from the soil. For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to containundesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs. ~from The World’s Healthiest Foods
In other words, squash does an excellent job of decontaminating the soil: It pulls contaminants from the soil as it grows. However, where do those contaminants go?? Very likely INTO the food you’re eating. You can wash the outside of a conventional squash, or peel it. But, you can’t wash the flesh of the pesticides and other contaminants that the growing plant has pulled from the ground.
Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries
makes 12 servings
- 12 oz nitrate-free bacon, chopped
- 3 oz shallots, sliced thinly (about two large cloves)
- 2½ lb organic butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced into ¾” cubes
- 4 small Granny Smith apples (or other tart apple), cored, peeled, and diced small
- 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries (you can use unsweetened just as well)
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (plus more for garnish)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- zest of one lime
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, cook chopped bacon and sliced shallots, stirring often, until bacon is crisp. Set aside to cool slightly. Do not drain.
- In a large, heat-proof bowl (such as a glass or ceramic bowl), toss together the diced squash, diced apples, dried cranberries, minced fresh sage, sea salt, allspice, lime zest, and white pepper.
- Scrape the bacon, shallots, and rendered bacon fat over the squash mixture and toss to mix well.
- Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish (or two medium-sized ones), and spread evenly.
- Cover tightly and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once, or until the squash is tender.
- Garnish with additional chopped sage (or Italian parsley, cilantro, or other pretty green).
- Serve hot.
Ah, those artichokes… Who knew they could be such trouble-makers?
My seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, is still recovering.
Actually, it’s not the artichoke’s fault.
Having a wee bit of organic gardening experience under my belt, I can often (not always, but often) discern the difference between beneficial insects and harmful ones. More squeamish minds may disagree, but it always pleases me when I see a beneficial, crawling in the weekly produce I get from Crooked Sky Farms. It just makes me think, “The food is alive! It was just picked!! These bugs are HAPPY here! It’s a GOOD bug!!”
I usually scoop up these little garden treasures on a leaf and have one of my kids go deposit it in my own garden. Lately, I’ve been telling them to put the bug right on one of my dill plants, which are now in bloom and are (hopefully) operating as an aphid trap plant…
However, during a recent family dinner, while Audrey was happily peeling back the petals of her ‘choke, dipping each in mayo, she encountered a ladybug. A dead one. Dead from me cooking it, encased in its previous home. Loud wailing ensued, along with accusations of heart-heartedness, “HOW COULD YOU KILL A LADYBUG?? HOW COULD YOU COOK HIM???”
And of course, being seven, she is just not letting this drop. It has been nearly a week now, and she still isn’t letting me live it down. “Remember the cooked ladybug I found? Mommy, why would you cook a ladybug? Couldn’t you have found him first? I don’t ever want to eat a ladybug. I don’t think I want artichokes anymore. If you make artichokes, will you please make sure that all of the ladybugs are out of their homes? Open up each artichoke and check it first. Please don’t cook anymore ladybugs.” And this patter is still frequently accompanied by tears.
And, yes, this is the same daughter who will no longer eat pork, since we read Charlotte’s Web about a year and a half ago.
In related news, I think the CSA members are getting tired of artichokes; quite a few traded in their allotment of five. As the CSA coordinator and host, I’m the recipient of the cast-offs. Plus, I think the farm shipped extra yesterday. The result?? I have FORTY-SIX artichokes. Forty-six. Plus, they’re all quite small. Not quite babies, but still, quite small. I’ve been looking at my crate of ‘chokes, and decided that I needed a new recipe.
I usually prepare artichokes by the fairly standard method of cutting off the top 1/2″, steaming cut-side-down in salted water to which I’ve added lemon slices and garlic cloves…. Then dipping the leaves (petals, actually) in mayo (homemade is best, of course, but I usually purchase mayo from Trader Joe’s — all natural, in a glass jar).
I decided to Google “cooking small artichokes” and one of the first options that popped up was this:
Immediately, it made me reconsider the bounty, and that so many artichokes aren’t a bad thing at all…
The recipe, Sautéed Baby Artichokes, calls for Herbes de Provence — of which I have none. I will cook these tonight, and use minced fresh basil instead, and subbing pecorino romano for the called-for parmesan cheese.
In the meantime… I’m trying to give away 20 of the artichokes on Facebook, but the only takers so far are from out of state. 😀
I hate to call any food endeavor on which I embark a “diet”.
But, I guess how I’ve been eating for the last 3+ weeks qualifies, since I’m counting carbs.
It took me a bit, but I figured out that I need at least 80 net carbs daily to NOT lose weight. My goal is NOT to lose weight; it’s to maintain or to gain weight more slowly. By 21 weeks, I had gained 22 lbs. Once my morning sickness was over (bless God) I was packing on two pounds a week, all while eating GOOD FOOD. Now, I’m eating MORE good food, but fewer carbs.
Here’s my history:
- I have veinous problems. I have varicose veins including up into my lower abdomen. More weight gain is even harder on weak veins. And my particular kind of veins increase my risk (moderately) of hemorrhaging during birth. Not good.
- I also want to limit the stress on my heart during pregnancy by limiting weight gain. (I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, which is fairly benign, but worrying symptoms ramp up during pregnancy.)
- I have a history of macrosomic babies. My smallest was 8 lbs 13 oz. My largest? 10 lbs even. Large babies increase one’s risk of hemorrhage.
- This is my 6th baby. For every baby >5, a mother’s risk for hemorrhage increases quite dramatically.
- I am planning a home birth and want to maximize my chances for success — to actually BIRTH in our home, not have to transfer due to blood loss.
- I did a similar diet under an OB for my last birth — I gained zero weight from weeks 28 onward — and the baby was STILL 8 lbs 13 oz.
- I have never had gestational diabetes but for baby #5, my oral glucose test (the nasty syrup) was “borderline-borderline” for GD, and I figured that a lower carb, no-sugar, high-protein diet wouldn’t hurt anything. It didn’t. 🙂
- In pregnancies #1-4, I gained 37-50 lbs each, ALL WHILE EATING A HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOODS DIET. My first OB told me that, for some women, their bodies go into “starvation mode” and operate with extreme efficiency, grabbing onto everything it possibly can and storing it as fat. He was pretty certain that that is what my body does. I did a food diary for him for a month (as I recall — it was 16 years ago!) and he was impressed with my diet. The only thing he recommended was taking out fruit. I didn’t, which is why I probably gained those 50 lbs.
- With pregnancy #5, on the lower-carb diet, I gained a total of 17 lbs, produced that 8 lb 13 oz baby, and recovery was immeasurably smoother for me, post-pregnancy. It was fairly easy to lose that extra 10 lbs, as opposed to being faced with a whopping 40 lbs to lose. I didn’t even have to try to lose those 10 lbs. They just melted off with a return to my regular metabolism, plus nursing.
For this pregnancy, in a couple of weeks, my midwife — who does offer the syrup-based oral glucose test, which I declined — is going to test how my body handles a “normal”/high amount of carbs via a large meal. I’ll go into her office at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll do a blood draw and test my blood-sugar levels. (She’s also going to re-test a couple of other things that were abnormal in an earlier blood test.) Then, I’ll go home and eat a “regular” breakfast — not one that contains 100 grams of glucose like the oral glucose test though it will be higher in carbs than I would normally eat for breakfast; I’ll probably eat eggs and a homemade muffin or two and shoot for 50 g carbs or so. Then, she’ll re-test my blood at 10:30.
We’re testing mostly out of curiosity. No matter what the results are, I’ll still maintain my current diet.
So, what am I doing in this “current diet”?
- Eating about 75-100 grams of protein daily, which is very similar to the Brewer/Blue Ribbon Baby Diet. (However, I’m not tracking my protein consumption down to the gram.) I eat 3-4 eggs every breakfast. I eat meat at lunch and dinner. My snacks tend to be high-protein, as well — nut-based or plain yogurt.
- Limiting myself to about 80 grams non-fiber carbs daily. (I have discovered that with fewer than 80g, I lose weight, which is not the goal.)
- Eating an additional 30+ grams of dietary fiber carbs daily.
- Eating at least NINE servings of veggies daily.
- NOT tracking fat consumption. At all. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a high-fat diet.
- Sticking to foods that are MOSTLY Paleo: veggies and meats. However, I do eat some dairy and some legumes, which most people eating a strict Paleo diet, don’t. Many Paleo adherents don’t eat any nightshades, either: tomatoes, potatoes, etc. I eat virtually no potatoes, but I often eat tomatoes. I’m not avoiding nightshades. (In a Paleo diet, the goal is to train your body to burn FAT for energy, and for it to NOT rely on sugar-carbs for energy. That is how one can eat a high-fat diet and not gain weight. A Paleo diet is also healthy, long-term, for one’s pancreas as it profoundly limits blood-sugar.)
- NOT counting calories.
- Keeping my sugar-intake extremely limited. This is all sugars, including honey and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit.
- Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily. This is in ADDITION to other liquids I may drink. I actually shoot for a gallon of water daily (128 ounces) but rarely hit that goal.
- Taking supplements in addition to the foods I eat: 6400 IU vitamin D, 1000 mg cod liver oil, 1200 mg calcium, 600 mg magnesium, 250 mg Horse Chestnut extract, a multivitamin, and 500 mg vitamin C. Some of them are chewables, which accounts for the 3g carbs for my vitamins if you view my sample daily diet PDF. If I take an extra vitamin C chewable, that adds another 2g carbs.
Here is a sample of what I eat, daily (click for PDF). A few notes:
- Yes, I drink coffee. Two mugs of half-caff. I put organic half & half in it, along with stevia.
- I do use a kitchen scale for many foods.
- I use this website: Self NutritionData to calculate the content of most of my foods.
- I usually don’t include ingredients in my daily tally, but on the opposite page of my spiral notebook, I do some serious figuring to many recipes in order to figure out the carb and fiber grams per serving. Yes, this does require some math. No, I don’t mind.
- Some things I have to estimate. For instance, we go out to eat about twice a month. I made a rough estimate of 60 grams carbs plus 10 grams fiber for a recent (splurge!) lunch at a Mexican restaurant. This was for beans, corn tortillas, and some tortilla chips that went along with my shredded beef tacos. But… some restaurants — chains, especially — publish their nutrition data online. For instance, I ate a Double-Double Protein Style Animal Style (with “wheat allergy” noted) at In ‘N’ Out Burger. No fries. I drank water. That felt like a splurge, but I found out online that it as only 8g carbs plus 3g fiber.
- My go-to snacks:
- Organic celery sticks with sunflower butter (I get sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s. Yes, it has a small amount of sugar in it).
- A half, large avocado
- A handful (two ounces) of raw almonds
- There are a few gluten-free, low-sugar, high-fiber snack or protein bars — like ProMax LS or ThinkThin Or Kit’s Raw Organic — and I do buy a few of these to eat in a pinch. But, I tend to shy from packaged snacks.
- At the end of the day, especially if I need more carbs, I will sit down with a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries or — if my carb count has been REALLY low for the day — 1/2 cup of g.f. granola. It’s odd to consider, but if you truly stick with virtually all veggies, nuts, and meat during the day, by the end of the day, you will have to eat a relatively carb-heavy snack or meal to KEEP yourself from losing weight.
- I will admit that, once this month, I splurged at Yogurtini. I eat frozen yogurt about once a month from the store. Yogurtini’s no-sugar-added flavors do NOT contain aspartame (they are sweetened with maltodextrin, sucralose, or other “non-sugar” sweeteners) but they DO contain artificial colors. This is not a choice that anyone should make on a regular basis, but I’m just keepin’ it real and honest here and admitting to my yogurt consumption. One five ounce serving (including a scoop of fresh blueberries) ran me about 22 g carbs and 7 g fiber.
After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.
…has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms. It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating. I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it. Literally: Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots; two bunches of Swiss chard; about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops). Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something. I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case. And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show! Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family. Ah-MAY-zing. Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer. However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show… I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me. I ended up with 16. Ack! But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything. But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business. I’M TRYING!! I really am. Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members… Plus the eggs. So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling. Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work. More bookkeeping. More keeping track of this and that…
- And the seed giveaway. That took a lot of time, just regulating!! Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments… I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions… Um, I gave that up after a while. But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
- My heart has been worrying me. I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop. It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself. But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30? 50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down. At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago. I finally got the results this week. And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK. See you again in April.” And that made me feel a lot better.
- My pregnancy is going well. I am now 21 weeks along. All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief. I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala. In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk; I just eat too much of it. Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful. After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby; she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures. So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight. In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala): I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz. I would have felt badly if she was scrawny… But she wasn’t. And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester. With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up. I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.
Few things lately have made me as giddily elated as this:
A while back, when I embarked on a no-sugar Paleo-ish diet, I looked high and low for honey-sweetened chocolate for an occasional treat. I was pretty aghast to find that the prices of such chocolate are typically around $3-4 for a one-ounce bar. ONE OUNCE. Plus shipping. I couldn’t find any locally. That was a no-go. $64 a pound doesn’t work on this budget.
At Trader Joe’s on Thursday night, I stopped by their “new products” display and I think I gasped aloud when I saw the above package. Then, I started to hyperventilate. Well, not really, but I was really excited.
When I got to the car, I sampled. These Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are SO GOOD. They’re like junk-free peppermint patties, and an absolute dream for anyone who loves dark chocolate. They’re $3.99 for a 7 ounce package, which isn’t cheap, but compared to all other honey-sweetened chocolate, and many chocolates in general, not unreasonable. That works out to $9.14 per pound. I can work with that.
My package contained 16 good-sized candies. Per the nutrition info, there are 21 g carbs (17 g sugar, 2 g fiber) in three chocolates. Not hyper-low-carb, but definitely workable for any reduced-calorie or reduced-carb diet.
As the package front proclaims, they have only three ingredients: honey, chocolate liquor, and oil of peppermint. The inside is a creamed honey flavored with peppermint. This means that whether you’re gluten-free, dairy-free*,
vegan*, vegetarian, refined-sugar-free, or on just about any hyper-restrictive diet, you can eat these. In fact, one of my first thoughts was for a dear friend: one of her daughters is on the Feingold diet, another is gluten-free and dairy-free. I stopped by her home with the world’s smallest gift: Five candies, one for each family member. 🙂 I should have purchased a whole package for her; I was kicking myself for not doing so. But, knowing that candy that fits the diets of her daughters has been really tough to find, I had to share, at least a little. The look on the face of her oldest daughter — the one on Feingold — is imprinted on my memory. She was SO THRILLED. For someone who normally can’t have candy, these chocolates are like GOLD.
Another thought was for my Paleo-inspiration, Kim. I sent her a text and a pic, and she was excited too — she shops at Trader Joe’s all the time and hadn’t seen them before! Having Paleo-friendly chocolate is a rare, rare treat.
The only drawback is that the chocolate itself is wholly unsweetened. It’s plain, pure, dark chocolate, and all the sweetness comes from the creamed honey center. So, you really have to chew these to eat them, or it tastes like you’re licking a square of baking chocolate. I prefer to savor my chocolate slowly, and don’t usually chew. But… I kind of have to make an exception here. Small quibble.
I had planned on eating one a day, but here it is, about 48 hours after I purchased the bag, and they’re all gone. Now, I did share with my friend, and gave one to my hubby, and one to Fiala… But, uh, that means I ate nine of them in two days. That’s not sustainable — too much sugar for me, even if it’s sugar from honey. So, the next package I buy, I’ll have to ration it more carefully.
So, y’all go out and buy some, so Trader Joe’s will keep this product on their shelves forever.
*the package does warn “may contain traces of milk”.
This is my favorite sauce. Truly, I could just ladle it into my mouth with rude slurping sounds, but I usually restrain myself and put it ON something. It works as a pasta sauce or a topping for steamed veggies, baked fish or chicken, or just about any meat. Or tofu. It would make tofu taste good, I’d bet, which is an admirable feat for any sauce!
You can serve it straight up, but since it is concentrated and PACKED with flavor, I will sometimes sauté chopped veggies on the side — zucchini or other summer squash, mushrooms, and red bell peppers are good choices — and stir it into the confit, with perhaps some canned (or fresh) diced tomatoes, to extend the sauce. The result of this recipe is somewhere between a sauce and a condiment. I think it would make a fabulous topping for bruschetta, and the other night, when I served this, my husband (who is much more keen on presentation than I am) said, “You could just make a schmear of this across a clean plate, and serve the fish on top of it.” Good idea, especially as this highly-rated flounder recipe didn’t turn out quite as flavorful as I had imagined.
The ingredients are fairly flexible, depending on how much you have on hand, but here are the non-negotiables: Tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, fresh herbs, olive oil, and sea salt. What transforms these usual suspects of the culinary arts is ROASTING them.
A reader, who is also a Facebook fan, suggested — oh, about a year ago, I think — that I try making “confit” from my tomatoes. I had not enough to make paste from, but too many to just use in salads and sandwiches. She said she got the idea from Martha Stewart, who does indeed have a Tomato Confit recipe. However, I have tinkered and perfected, and now what I do hardly resembles the original, so I think it is transformed into something NEW, and even better. Although I might hesitate to label this as a true confit — that is, I really do not know how long this would last, as a preserve — it still bears its confit roots.
The best part is: IT IS SO EASY, and it makes your home smell like a pizzeria, without the actual pizza. 🙂 Speaking of, this sauce doubles as pizza sauce that is to die for!
So, here we go!
Tomato Confit Sauce
makes about 3½ cups
- 1½ – 2 lbs of fresh, ripe, small tomatoes. Halve and remove the area around the stem, but no need to seed, peel, or core
- 3-4 Tbsp fresh, finely-chopped herbs (I like rosemary and basil), divided
- ½ large onion, cut in slivers (a regular brown or yellow onion would work best — something with some zip to it)
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, halved
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp sea salt
- a generous pinch raw sugar
- As you prepare the ingredients, preheat oven to 325°F.
- Into a 11″ x 7.5″ (or similarly-sized) glass or glazed stoneware baking dish, drizzle about 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the fresh herbs.
- Place tomatoes, cut side down, shoulder to shoulder in the baking dish. They can overlap somewhat, but it’s best if they are all skin-side up, cut-side-down.
- Sprinkle the tomatoes with the rest of the herbs, the slivered onion, and garlic. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, then sprinkle on the sea salt and very lightly sprinkle all with a pinch of sugar.
- Bake, covered with foil, in a 325°F oven for 45 minutes on a mid-to-low oven rack. Then, remove the foil and continue to roast, uncovered, until everything is soft, and about half of the liquid has evaporated.
- It should look like this:
- Cool to room temperature (or until at least not-hot), and transfer all to a food processor or blender. I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and pulse back and forth on chop and grind (I have to do it in two batches, as the bowl doesn’t hold the whole recipe). Process until the sauce is mostly-smooth, but not uniformly so. You want to be able to see the flecks and small bits.
- Taste, and decide if it needs more salt or even some pepper (I’m not a big fan of black pepper), then restrain yourself from eating all that concentrated deliciousness, right there.
I’m not a real stickler with labels. PEOPLE-labels, that is. Ingredient labels I do read, without fail. But, having a label helps, sometimes, when hunting for diet-compliant resources. Thanks to this article from medical doctor and true nutrition expert, Dr. Cate, I now can call myself a “Herder-Gatherer Paleo” adherent. That’s plants, meats, and a bit of dairy. Most of those who eat Paleo don’t eat any dairy. I also eat some legumes, which most Paleo folk don’t. I don’t really care about that, though. I don’t care about strict adherence, either. For instance, many people who eat Paleo wouldn’t eat rice vinegar because it’s made from rice (a grain) or white vinegar because it’s made from a grain (corn). I think any diet can be taken to such extremes that it becomes silly and prohibitive. I’m not going there. For me, what matters is, “Is it healthy?” more than, “Does such-and-such website say I should eat it?”*
The net result, though, is that I need to alter pretty much any recipe I find to suit my needs, tastes, and what I will/won’t eat. And what’s on hand in my fridge and pantry. And what can be made for reasonable cost, given that we have seven people in our home. And that said seven people can/will eat what I make, at least a majority of them.
This recipe is wholly inspired by my friend Kim of GF Real Food. I went over to her house a few weeks ago and was impressed by how quickly she whipped up a caesar salad from scratch. She also clued me into the 2.5 lb bags of washed romaine lettuce from Costco that are $3.99 per bag. AND, I made the recipe in a mini food processor that she passed onto me, when she got a shiny new one. 🙂 Thank you, Kim! I probably could have asked her for her recipe… instead, I went hunting online. And, while I found several good recipes, no ONE suited my needs, which included using Pecorino Romano (made of 100% sheep’s milk) in lieu of parmesan. I love me some good, sharp parmesan, but my 10yo son, Wesley, can’t have any cow dairy (unless it’s raw, which is another story). Also, caesar dressing is traditionally made with balsamic vinegar, which I simply didn’t have in my pantry. And so on. By the time I was done, I had so completely altered the original recipe that I think I can call it a new one.
A few notes:
- The Yuck Factor: Yes, it has raw egg yolk. The acid in the recipe essentially “cooks” the yolk, sort of like ceviche.
- The Carb Count: Unless the vinegar you use has sweetener of some sort, there are virtually no carbs in this dressing.
- The Revelation: I am rather embarrassed that I never realized that real caesar dressing is pretty much just a fancy aioli, or homemade mayonnaise.
- The Roasted Garlic: The recipe calls for roasted garlic cloves. To roast: Break apart a head of garlic, but do not peel. Loosely gather a piece of aluminum foil around the cloves, and place in a 325°F oven for about 45 minutes. Or, like me, roast it for 30 minutes, turn the oven off, and let the garlic sit in there for another hour or so. To open, just squeeze the top of the clove. The cloves should be butter-soft and light tan in color.
- The Lettuce: Traditionally, caesar dressing is served over romaine lettuce. If you use four cups of romaine (which is essentially two large servings), that will give you about 2g net carbs and 4g fiber.
- The “Croutons”: Traditionally, caesar salads have croutons. To make it gluten-free, and simply so, I served it with farinata, a grain-free flatbread that I still adore, even though I’ve been making it nearly every day of my life for the last 2½ years or so. One-eighth of the recipe will give you 10g net carbs and 4g fiber.
- The Protein: I also pan-seared some sea-salted chicken breast, chopped it, and added it warm to the salad. The dressing, the chicken, the farinata… Ah! It all combined for a gloriously delicious meal that ALL OF US loved, from adults to wee children. Well, “adult”, rather. My hubby couldn’t have it, as it’s not Daniel Fast*-compliant. He had plain lettuce and farinata. And some garden tomatoes and cucumbers. And pan-seared extra-firm tofu.
- The Cost: (02.02.12 — edited to update costs. I went to TJ’s last night, and either the price had gone down on anchovies, or I remembered incorrectly. Corrections made.) Given the amount of olive oil, anchovies, and Pecorino Romano cheese in this recipe, it’s fairly pricey for a homemade concoction. I buy olive oil at Trader Joe’s, $5.99 for a 1 liter bottle of Spanish olive oil (my fave). They have even less expensive olive oil at T.J.’s, too. I also get anchovies there,
$1.99$1.49 for a 2 oz tin in olive oil. And, I purchase Pecorino Romano there, too! It’s $6.79 per pound, and one cup shredded is about 1/8 pound, so that’s $0.85. So, this recipe costs about $4.35$3.85 for the nearly-two-cups it produces. Compared to store-bought, especially natural store-bought, that’s a fair price. Most salad dressings are in 8 or 12 oz bottles, and this makes almost 16 oz. Still, it’s not cheap. It’s special occasion. 🙂 Added all together: half a package of afore-mentioned lettuce ($2), 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale ($3), farinata (cost is negligible, but let’s call it $0.50), plus the dressing at $4.35$3.85 = Dinner for 6 for $9.85$9.35. That’s more than I would typically spend on one night’s dinner, but again, definitely worth it, on occasion.
Pecorino Romano Caesar Dressing
makes nearly 2 cups
Time: About five minutes
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (also from Trader Joe’s! No preservatives, all natural.)
- 2 oz tin of anchovies in olive oil
- 8 cloves roasted garlic
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice)
- 1 Tbsp preservative-free lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2.5 oz)
- 2 Tbsp water, if necessary
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste.
- Into a food processor or blender, measure egg yolks, Dijon mustard, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Pecorino Romano cheese, reserving 2 Tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Pulse to mix thoroughly.
- If resulting dressing is thicker than you’d prefer, add optional water, a couple of teaspoons at a time, until you reach the consistency you desire.
- Sprinkle remaining Pecorino Romano on top of dressed salad. Top, also, with cracked pepper to taste.
*I’ve been having a disagreement with my husband about this. He’s on a Daniel Fast, which he typically does for 2-4 weeks at a time, twice a year. In general terms, a Daniel Fast is a whole foods, vegan diet, based upon the example of a few upper-crust Hebrew men, including Daniel, who were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and challenged their captors to test their health after an all-veggie diet. In the past, my hubby has allowed himself a few natural sweeteners, like honey, and not been too particular about one tiny ingredient or another. However, this go-round, he has been following the protocol of a few websites devoted to the Daniel Fast, and they say that one shouldn’t have any vinegar, either, since it’s fermented, as was the wine that Daniel forewent. I think that’s too nit-picky. However, my husband feels more comfortable following the rules to the letter, even if — as my point is — who are those folks to make the rules??? But, to each his own. I do understand how one can really long for guidelines, boundaries, and it become important not to cross them. I kind of used to be like that. 🙂
“Two minutes. I’m walking Mommy out. I’ll be back in two minutes. Don’t come out. Let me have TWO MINUTES with Mommy,” my hubby Martin stressed to the children, who were finishing dinner.
It’s a weekly event. I go grocery shopping on Wednesday nights, and he walks me to the car, carrying my shopping bags and unlocking and opening the car door for me. When you have five children, it’s pretty amazing how valuable a tiny slice of time together can be.
“So, even though I didn’t start this diet to lose weight, I’m pretty happy to have lost some. Guess how much!” I demanded as we walked slowly toward the car.
I was thinking that he hadn’t noticed; he hadn’t mentioned anything about it. I thought he’d say, “Two pounds? Three?” and I could return with a triumphant grin, “No! Almost EIGHT!” I’ve lost 7.7 lbs, to be exact.
He looked me over with a thoughtful, “Hmmm…” Then, he confidently guessed, “Seven point five pounds.”
At that point, Audrey came running out, barefoot in the 45° weather, in tears, “Granty ran into me and hit my mouth!!”
Our two minutes were clearly up, so we quickly kissed, I stuffed my near-shock at his accuracy, got into the car, backed out, threw “I love you” hand signs*, and went off to the grocery store, smugness deflated, as Martin tended to the crisis.
I asked him about it again this morning, and I’m still not sure if it was just a good guess or an accurate estimate based upon close observation. It’s his secret, I guess.
*We have a “secret” sign in our family. It started with my hubby saying, “Love yas!” as he held up the normal “I love you” ASL short-cut, usually to Audrey, as he was backing out of her bedroom door at night. When she was really little, Audrey started one-upping him by holding up both hands with the sign, saying, “Double love yas!” Then, she raised the bar by crossing her two forearms into an X, with the “I love you” sign flashing on both hands, “Triple love yas!” So, now, we all “triple love yas” each other… 🙂