Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now that it's officially cold, I've had the weirdest craving to come home to a warm, sweet beverage after work. I mostly don't sweeten my tea/coffee anymore (weaned myself off of that years ago), except for the odd flavored latte splurge or "Polish-style" black tea with sugar and lemon. Since my big (5lb) jar of farmer's market honey finally ran out (and since I'm convinced at this point that I was duped, and it wasn't raw--though it was still so damn delicious), I got myself what felt like an overpriced experiment gone wrong: Y.S. Organic Bee Farms Super Enriched Honey. It's raw honey with pollen, propolis, and royal jelly mixed in.

I was expecting a sort of creamy translucent (not transparent, not for raw) gooey goodness. That's not precisely what I got, but, oh man, this stuff is intense. It's got the sexy greenish tint from propolis, and a heady kick of slightly bitter pollen. There's just a hint of textural change from the royal jelly, but it's very firm, firmer than crystallized honey. It just tastes like an old-school apothecary, in the best of ways. I wouldn't want it on, say, a piece of fruit, and don't even think about mixing it into yogurt etc, but this is perfect for my after-work sweetened beverage craving. I made a mugful of Yogi Tea Chai (Black) and while I'm still on the market for a better prebagged chai (for when I don't feel like making it from scratch), a dessertspoon of the hardcore honey in this is delicious, and lends a perfect savory note to the spices. I also feel like I'm getting a tiny nutrient boost out of my sugar.

(I'm a huge proponent of shopping around online for the cheapest prices, and right now I'm finding a lot of good deals on iHerb, where in the past Amazon was cheaper for the same products. If you're so inclined and want to take a look, you can use coupon code FEF016 for $5 off your first order--and yeah, I'd get a tiny kickback from it, but I wouldn't whore myself out if I didn't genuinely like the site enough to recommend it regardless.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kimchi recipe! (Because yes, it worked!)

Who doesn't love a little funky fermentation in their life? If you've ever had kimchi and loved it, and wondered at how it's made, wonder no more: it's surprisingly easy to make at home. Alright, it takes a couple special ingredients, and it takes a tiny bit of prep work, but it also means you can brag about making your own stinky joy at home. Did I mention it's stinky? Just use air-tight containers and you'll be fine.

This makes a smallish batch of kimchi (I didn't weigh it; it fills two four-cup containers comfortably), but feel free to double/triple/etc. Heavily adapted from Maangchi.

1 head Napa cabbage (approx 2.5 lbs)
1/4 c sea salt or Kosher salt
3/4 c water
1/8 c glutinous rice flour/sweet rice flour/mochiko
1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar (or natural sweetener of your choice--honey, maple syrup, cane sugar)
1/3 c fish sauce
10 Tbsp gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes; cannot substitute with regular hot pepper flakes)
1/4 c garlic
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
1/4 c onion
1 bunch green onions/scallions
1/2 of 1 large daikon radish
1/2 of 1 large carrot

1) Remove or trim any damaged leaves from the cabbage. Cut into quarters; remove entire core. Slice at approx. 1" intervals. Place into very large bowl; cover with cold water to rinse. Remove cabbage (leaving behind any grit in the water) but don't dry it. Rinse out the bowl. Put the cabbage back in it, combine evenly with the salt. Set a timer. Every 30 minutes, mix the cabbage around with your hand to mix well with the salt. Do this 3 times, for a total salting time of 1.5 hours. (You can feel free to put together the rest of the recipe while the cabbage is salting!)

2) After 1.5 hours, fill the bowl up completely with cold water. Swirl around with your hand; drain the water off. Repeat 3 times, for four total rinses. Make sure you get as much of the water as possible on the last drain, without needing to drain the cabbage on a colander. It should still be pretty damp. (For saltier kimchi: do 2-3 rinses only. For less salty kimchi: 4-5. I find that four is not very salty at all,  once the fermentation is complete.)

3) Make porridge: combine 3/4 c water with 1/8 c glutinous rice flour in a small pot (I used an aluminum camping mug). Mix well; bring to a boil. Stir until bubbles appear, then add in sugar. Don't use a substitute sweetener (Stevia, Xylitol, etc). Cane sugar is best, but coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc will all work just fine. Lower heat. Cook until porridge is translucent, about 3-4 more minutes. Set aside to cool.

4) Make kimchi paste: In a large bowl, combine fish sauce, gochugaru, garlic, ginger, minced onion, peeled and shredded (or julienne) daikon, peeled and shredded (or julienne) carrot. Add in your cooled porridge; combine well. Wash your scallions. Cut off the bulb ends, trim any dry ends at the top. Cut scallions twice, into three approx 3" pieces. Cut each section lengthwise in half. Mix into your kimchi paste gently.

5) Combine your kimchi paste with your cabbage; I use a glove for this step (or your hand will smell like garlic, fish sauce, and spicy chili--sexy). Mix very thoroughly.

6) Place into air-tight locking containers (Lock'n'Lock, glass jars, or glass containers with an air-tight plastic lid). You can technically eat right away, but I like to let it ferment. Leave on counter for two-three days; once a day, use a CLEAN spoon to gently stir, and then press down so all the kimchi is covered by liquid (optional, but fun). After 2-3 days, you will have gently fermented kimchi. For a stronger taste, leave out to ferment longer, or put in the fridge to slow the fermentation process. Kimchi never really goes "bad", but very strong kimchi is sour and is best used in soups or when fried with fatty meat, like pork belly.


Primalicious Pad Thai

Pad thai is one of my favorite cheat dishes, since I unfortunately have a place just around the corner that makes it just right. I figured I would try to get as close as possible to the pad thai flavor without incorporating too much "bad." Do keep in mind that the peanuts really are sort of necessary for all the flavors of this dish to tie together, so if you can't handle that particular legume, this unfortunately won't work. I suppose you could try to make it with almonds or macadamia nuts; if you do, and it works, let me know.

This is by no means a "traditional" recipe, though it does use several key ingredients. I wanted to add more protein and more veggies, as well as keep the carb level low. I think it's even more delicious this way.

Note: Please feel free to use this as a jumping off point. Play with the proportions if you want, certainly play with the add-ins. I also wanted to write this as a "how-to", because this is the type of recipe in which you really need your mis-en-place firmly en-place. Trust me on this! It's smooth sailing from there.

Primalicious Pad Thai
serves 2-3 as main course

1/2 c tamari (or coconut aminos, or light soy sauce)
3 Tbsp natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp fish sauce (I like Squid brand, but use your favorite)
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
1 Thai bird chili pepper (optional), or 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
juice of half a lime

1 spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
2 eggs (whatever size you have is fine)
1 c bean sprouts
1 lime, in wedges, to serve
1/2 c fresh coriander/cilantro, plus more to garnish
4 oz firm sprouted tofu
1/2 lb shelled deveined shrimp
1 c green beans, snow peas, or snap peas
1/2 c grated carrots (optional)
1/4 c sliced red onion or shallots
3 Tbsp raw peanuts
coconut oil

1) Cook your spaghetti squash. My favorite method is to roast it in the oven, but if you don't have the patience, this is just as good: Wash squash and cut in half lengthwise (watch those fingers). Scoop out seeds and fibers. Place cut-side down in microwave-safe container; add about 1/3 c water. Cover with kitchen towel. Microwave on high approx 15 minutes, until completely soft. Leave it in there for at least 10min, it'll be too hot to handle. When cool enough to handle, remove from container and shred with fork into spaghetti strands. Set aside, in colander, to drain while assembling remaining ingredients.

2) To reconstitute tamarind paste: combine 1 Tbsp dried tamarind pulp with 1-2 Tbsp boiling water. Mash up; cover, and set aside for 5-10min. Mash a little more; strain through sieve. This is your tamarind paste.

3) Make sauce: Mix tamari, fish sauce, peanut butter, and tamarind paste with a whisk. Add the juice of half a lime. (If omitting tamarind paste, add a little more, or just adjust to your liking.) Mince chili pepper finely, taking proper precautions. Whisk together with sauce; otherwise, whisk in chili powder. Set aside.

4) Set up your mis-en-place. Trust me. You will need lots of small bowls. The following should each go in their own bowl:
- minced garlic and grated ginger
- lightly whisked eggs
- bean sprouts
- tofu, drained and dried, cut into approx. 1/2" cubes
- shrimp
- beans or peas, julienne (slice green beans in half, julienne snap or snow peas)
- shredded carrots
- finely-sliced onion
- peanuts

I use a steel wok that I seasoned myself, with a curved bottom; you can use any deep skillet or pan. Make sure it can take a high heat well, and that it's easy to lift one-handed. You're going to be picking it up and emptying it between each fried bowl. You don't want it to be too heavy to do that comfortably.

5) Heat wok over high heat. Add 1 tsp coconut oil to wok, swirl around. Add in contents of one bowl; don't touch it. Let it fry for 10-15 seconds, then stir with a wooden spoon or wok spatula until golden brown and cooked through. Return cooked food into the bowl it was in (exception: eggs should go into clean bowl, or into another bowl with already-cooked items). Repeat for all the ingredients above.

6) Place 1 Tbsp coconut oil into wok. Swirl around to coat. Add in drained, shredded spaghetti squash. Leave alone for 20-30 sec. Stir-fry briefly. Pour prepared Sauce over; stir-fry briefly. Add in all remaining ingredients: everything from the bowls, as well as minced coriander. Stir-fry to combine.

Serve immediately with lime wedges, more coriander sprinkled on top, and Sriracha on the side (optional).


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I just made this.

Oh yes.

My mis-en-place. (Fish sauce in a cup: looks like whisky. I'm brave.)

Gorgeous gochugaru.

Mmm... poooorridge. Actually, this was sort of delicious, like melted mochi.


I'm stupidly proud of myself. Uh, I'll post the recipe once we learn if it's edible or not.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Primal Sweet Potato Bisque (with bacon!)

This is a very forgiving, flexible recipe, so feel free to adjust as you go.

3-4 sweet potatoes (I used Japanese white-fleshed)
chicken stock to cover (home-made, yum)
1 tart apple
2 cloves garlic
(1 shallot, optional)
1/2 Tbsp favorite dry herb mix (I used Herbs de Provence)
1 tsp dried sage (or 2 tsp fresh sage)
2 strips bacon

1) Cut bacon into thin strips. Fry over medium heat until all fat has rendered out and bacon pieces are crispy. Reserve 1 Tbsp bacon pieces and approximately 1 Tbsp bacon fat in medium saucepan; place rest of bacon on paper towel to drain, and save remaining bacon fat for another purpose.

2) Mince garlic (and shallot, if using) finely. Fry over medium-low heat with bacon, stirring constantly, until just fragrant. Do not brown.

3) Add peeled + cubed sweet potatoes, and peeled, cored, cubed apple. Cover with chicken stock; if you don't have enough stock to cover, add enough water until just covered. Add herbs.

4) Bring to boil; immediately reduce heat to lowest. Leave to simmer, uncovered, 1-2 hours to allow flavors to meld. Turn off heat. Puree carefully with immersion blender; adjust seasonings to taste. Serve topped with remaining bacon.

This recipe is endlessly adjustable: you can use any starchy or non-starchy vegetable (broccoli, kale, yams, carrots, tomatoes, celery root, etc). If you want to do a "curried"-type soup, omit the dry herbs and add 1/2 can coconut milk after cooking as well as 1 Tbsp of your favorite curry or masala; you can also add a hot pepper of your choice to the sauteeing stage, and a bit of grated fresh ginger. If you want a "cream"-type soup, leave in the herbs, add 1/2 can coconut milk, and maybe double the garlic (or add roasted garlic, yum), and proceed as usual.

This recipe depends very strongly on using a good, well-balanced home-made stock, simmered low and slow with lots of veggies for flavor. I also recommend using organic veggies for most pronounced flavor.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I'm disheartened by the latest crop of cookbooks trickling out over the course of the last, oh, ever. What is it with this trend for oversimplification of cooking? On the one hand, I get it: you want to make cooking accessible to people who didn't grow up in a kitchen-centric culture. I'm totally down with books that teach budding cooks the basics, and help to get folks off on the right foot as they learn that making things from scratch really doesn't have to be intimidating.

For someone like me, though, who has the basics and then some well under my belt, it's frustrating not being able to find "authentic" recipes. I say that with a grain of salt because the word itself is so loaded with falsehoods, but let me phrase it this way: if I want to learn how to make, say, coq au vin and I've never made it before, I don't want 'Sally Smith's Easy Four-Ingredient Coq au Vin! Now, Simplified for the American Cook!' No. BOO. Those recipes are a dime a dozen. And yes, they can be useful if you want something like the "real" recipe, but don't have the time/ingredients on hand.

What I guess I wish more cookbooks did, though I know this would be prohibitively expensive/probably unprofitable from a publishing POV: provide the "real" from-scratch recipe, then a "quickie" version.

Or just, you know. Give me a few versions of the "authentic" recipe, and somewhere between them I'll come close to the essence of what the recipe's all about, and then I can choose how and when to take shortcuts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another week down!

I was pretty good this week, though not in regards to actually blogging. Let's take a look.
This was a quick-and-dirty mid-week meal, but it was actually pretty good. Turkey sausage sauteed in coconut oil, Portobello mushroom cap with red onion, sauteed in bacon (om nom nom), and Brussels sprouts seared in a little grass-fed butter, then tossed with sea salt and freshly-grated Parmesano.

Thursday's CSA box held some promise, but failed on a few counts. The speckled Romaine, while beautiful, didn't survive to the next day despite careful handling. And the radishes were horrifically overripe, which is sad, because they looked so pretty. I baked the spaghetti squash that night; my last attempts at spaghetti squash (nuking it since it was too warm to heat up the oven) were underwhelming, but baked with just a little rub-down of olive oil, this was transcendental, which led me to try....

Paleo lasagna! Ok, this might be the least photogenic meal ever. Seriously.

That's just not pretty. But it is absolutely delicious. I layered shredded baked spaghetti squash with a quickly-browned filler (broccoli, turkey kielbasa, red onion, a little garlic) and Trader Joe's tomato sauce, then sprinkled with Parmesano. Unsurprisingly based on the amount of veg and lack of pasta, there was some liquid at the bottom, but it drained off very easily (yup, just tipped the dish over the sink...) and it was superb.

Today's trip to Whole Foods was totally necessary; as you can see, I'm stocking up on some staple items--trying to weed out less-optimal versions of things like soy sauce (I'm trying organic whole-soybean non-GMO tamari and organic coconut aminos), and even playing around with stuff like household cleaners. I'm trying out two kinds of fabric softener. They smell awesome, we'll see if they work.

Now, you can see the pumpkin spice Silk in there. Yes, it's pure sugar; it's a seasonal evil. I.. sort of wanted it. What I wanted even more was the nearly two pounds of calves' liver, which I soaked in raw goat milk and then pan-seared. Let me tell you, I wasn't going to even try taking a picture of that, but nothing says breakfast like squiggly bits...

I also made a bastardized daube (ok, ok, so if it's not a real daube it's just a braise) with gorgeous beef short ribs, parsnips, celery root, carrots, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, and apple cider. You know it's good when it's tender, and that you did a good job searing it when it comes out five hours later still looking delectably browned. It's pretty heavy, though, so I just fished the meat and veg out of the sauce rather than serving it as a stew.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lazy Sunday turned into busy Sunday.

People always talk about spring cleaning, but I can't be the only one who does autumn cleaning. It's that weekend when you realize, oh snap, it's time to put the spaghetti-strap tops away and bust out with the down jackets. Of course, the weather here doesn't do a nice, gradual transition; no, it swings wildly from too hot to too cold, and doesn't give you any time to adjust.

For most of this weekend I've been raiding the closet and trying to de-clutter. That's sort of my theme for the upcoming season--an early New Year's resolution? I want to get serious about getting rid of all the stuff I hold on to because it holds memories. Clearing away stuff makes space for new ones, and I'd rather be living in the present and future than in the past. I'm also getting serious (again) about my health by eating cleaner, taking out more time to go to yoga, and trying to hack away at debt. I want my life to be sleeker and more functional. Maybe keeping myself focused on my goals will keep me from getting into my usual winter funk.

Ugh, but back to Sunday. It started out languid and early, and a pot of coffee later I was zooming around. I had cooked down a sugar pumpkin earlier (in all honesty, if it hadn't been so hot today I would have roasted the bad boy) and boiled the potatoes from my CSA box and, all in all, got more accomplished than anticipated.

Late lunch/early dinner came out blander-tasting than anticipated:

So the game plan was kofta. I peeled and mashed the cooked potatoes, then added in jalapeno and Scotch bonnet peppers, fresh cilantro, some turmeric, garam masala, garlic, red onion. I formed that into patties and rolled them in garbanzo bean flour, then pan-fried in butter. I made a quickie raita with labneh, grated cucumber, and plenty of sea salt (since I was a putz and forgot to add it to the kofta). Bland, the texture wasn't exciting, and my spicing was off. It's been so long since I've made malai kofta or korokke that I've forgotten just how much spicing the humble potato can handle. (Ate three of those, tossed the rest, alas.)

The cat-in-law is growing in her winter puff. She already looks like she's gained half her body weight in fur. She spent most of the day airing her belly in a patch of sun.

There's just no way to make my kitchen lighting better. Here's a hint of the mess in my kitchen by suppertime. The artistic dribble of coconut milk and scattering of hot pepper seeds are, I assure you, not intentional. To make the quick bisque, I sauteed red onion, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, garlic, and ginger in a little extra-virgin olive oil; I added a bit of parsley root and celery root, a pear, then the cooked pumpkin from earlier, and covered everything with chicken stock. Brought to a boil, reduced, simmered while I cleaned. I added a dash of turmeric for color and a pinch of curry powder. Pureed with an immersion blender and stirred in a can of coconut milk. To finish, I drizzled in a teaspoon of hazelnut oil and another of maple syrup, then made a quick-and-dirty dukkah of pumpkin seeds, butter, and curry powder. The seeds gave this a great texture, definitely needed, but something about the type of hot peppers I used and the coconut milk made this taste like Generic Thai Soup rather than a spiced pumpkin soup. Again, roasting the pumpkin would have made this special.

...I'm so not ready for it to be Monday.

Sunday brunch.

Was totally craving pancakes. A lot. Or French toast. Instead, I decided to be good.

Sweet Italian pork sausage (in natural casings), horseradish mustard (with nice, clean ingredient list), and radish salad (sliced radishes, labneh, sea salt, pepper, and red onions because I didn't have any scallions).

And of course coffee with raw goat milk. I also cooked that sugar pumpkin, we'll see what sort of trouble I can get up to with it later (probably nothing terribly exciting).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturday farmer's market!

Sort of slim pickings at the farmer's market today, but I still got some goodies. From upper left: Mutsu apples, Bartlett pears, raw goat milk (a first at this particular market, so I couldn't say no), beautiful radishes, Northern Rebel apples (I got them just for the name--but they're super tasty), and a nice slab of big-eye tuna, which was about as sustainable as they had.

So, this was breakfast! Big-eye tuna sashimi, two grated radishes with the juice squeezed out (my cheap excuse is that I didn't have daikon), and a bit of soy sauce to dip it in. I rounded the meal out with one of those Northern Rebel apples and coffee with raw goat milk.

Dinner was the deja vu meal I've been eating all weekend to get rid of the bigos (that, sausage, and squash), though dinner was a bit early.

And a salad to finish out the day. Romaine lettuce, avocado, one of those Bartlett pears (absolutely gorgeous), raspberry-ale soaked Parmesano, and raw hazelnuts toasted in grass-fed cultured butter... with a vinaigrette made from apple cider, extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut oil, and raspberry balsamico.

Hodgepodge noms.

Three parts: kuri squash, bigos, and sausage.

The sausage is just Trader Joe's basil pesto chicken, sliced and browned in coconut oil.

The bigos was really a quickie way to clear out a lot of stuff in the fridge: I sauteed onions, garlic, shredded carrot, a couple bay leaves and allspice berries, and shiitake mushrooms in sliced bacon and its lovely fat, then topped it with an entire bag of sauerkraut and let that bad boy simmer on low for as long as I could handle waiting. Cheap, easy, dirty, healthy, and man, it's like the never-ending pot.

Kuri isn't my favorite squash, mostly because there isn't a lot of thickness to the flesh (versus an acorn or kabocha squash, for example) but I cut it up and roasted it unseasoned in extra virgin olive oil (and a drizzle of rice bran oil), then toasted some pumpkin seeds in the same coconut oil I fried the sausage in. It's like candy, and you can (should!) eat the skin.

I think I had this meal three times since Friday! Finally finished off that bootleg bigos today...

Primal shopping at Trader Joe's on Friday...

The fridge was looking a bit empty. Let's see what we ended up with.

Basil pesto chicken sausage, a small sugar pumpkin (for roasting), Thompson/Concord cross grapes (these, sadly, are disappointing), bacon (naturally), turkey kielbasa (surprisingly clean ingredient list), sprouted tofu.

Boreal blueberries? Oh, I think so! Also, chicken broth, pork sausage, and avocados.

Not too shabby!

What eggplants see in their nightmares...

Or, the makings of baba ghanouj. (On the upper-left burner: beets simmering with a bit of lemon peel to maintain color; on the upper-right, no flame, raw goat milk transforming into cheese step by step.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

It figures that the first day of the year is overcast, drab, and not at all conducive to leaving one's pajamas. I've spent most of the day futzing with the blog layout. That is, when I've had both my hands free, since her furriness has decided that today is a prime day for belly rubs and she's practically hijacked my left hand for the duration of the afternoon.

Oh, the humanity!