Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

When it began to get cold this year, I started to think of foods that people needed to turn to when all other options exhausted along with the warm weather. For many people in continental climates, like New England or Poland for instance, this means a few cruciferous vegetables, tubers, fermented goods, fats and meat. Winter to me means fewer meals, more books, cups of mulled wine (oder Glühwein in Deutschland) and stews and soups. If I can see my breath in the air, it’s probably time to head over to the market for bones to make some broth – it’s the basis for many of my meals to come.

Well, this is no stew or soup, but it embodies everything that should be cold winter food – hearty cabbage, ground, spiced meat, fermented sauerkraut, and savory, oily tomato sauce with added beef stock. Nothing better to beat away the cold. My pops sent me this recipe in the fall and it was a big hit. Thanks pops!

Stuffed Cabbage & Sauerkraut

– 1 head of cabbage
– 1 lb ground beef or pork (or mix)
– 3 onions
– 1 28 oz can of San Marzano (or any plum) tomatoes
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1 tsp dry thyme
– 2 Tbsp paprika  – Turkish or Hungarian ‘real’ paprika
– 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
– 2 Tbsp tallow
– 1 cup sauerkraut
– salt and pepper — to  taste
– 1/4 cup of rice or 1 cup of grated cauliflower (more primal) – uncooked
– 1/4 cup dry white wine

Core the cabbage without cutting in half, then dunk (carefully) into a tall pot of boiling water, removing about 12 leaves. If this is your first time blanching cabbage to remove the leaves in one piece.. it takes typically takes about 5-6 minutes to get the first 2 leaves ready, then about 1-2 minutes for each pair thereafter. Save rest for a soup.

Grind meat in food processor like I do along with 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, or start with ground meat. Transfer to a bowl and add salt, pepper, thyme, 1 T paprika and rice or grated cauliflower. Stir to combine and set aside. Chop rest of onions and mince the other two cloves of garlic. Cook onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft in the tallow. Stir in tomatoes and cook until almost a paste. (optionally, you should consider tossing in about 6-7 Juniper Berries as they are the heart of Northern European cuisine in the winter… just don’t eat them afterwards whole)

Meanwhile place 2 Tbs filling in one side of cabbage leaf and roll leaf up tucking sides in. Add paprika, salt, pepper and caraway to sauce. Put half the sauerkraut in the pan. Place rolls in pan on top of sauerkraut. Add wine. Top it with the rest of the sauerkraut. Simmer over VERY low heat (I burnt the bottom myself – don’t underestimate your ability to occasionally stir when the skillet’s stuffed with stuffed rolls!) 1.5 hours adding a little water when sauce starts to get dry.

Author’s note: I can’t tell you precisely whether this is Romanian, Polish, Turkish, etc.. probably a mix of many countries in Eastern Europe and Turkey, but they all have damn good food when you open yourself up to it!

Again, amazing dish and fun to make.. I think I rolled them rather well for my first time. and rolled cabbage and meat is SO primal.. even if you opt for rice, I see it as the least offensive grain to eat.. and it’s minimal at best. There’s nothing better in the winter than the flavors of fat, sour, salt and savory with the hard to place essence of caraway.

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Jamaican Goat Curry

Catching up on some primal food blogging today, as I’ve been pretty lax as of late. I’ll probably pop off several these on this Sunday afternoon to give this otherwise quiet day some purpose. I cook almost everything that goes into my mouth, and take photos on my iPhone when it’s something new or unique, but taking pics of colorful food does not a blog write. So, I think we’ll start of with… Jamaican Goat Curry.

I’ve made this three times now, and part of the reason I like this dish is simply going to Halal butcher near downtown Boston. Such a fun experience for me. These guys have goat legs, heads, pork belly and ribs (yeah I thought this was weird at a Halal market too), hanging chickens, beef ribs and more! The goats are killed the day before to order and diced/cubed upon request. Move over shrink wrap and Styrofoam! Grabbing my goat meat with some veggies and spices from the nearby market, I’m ready to get my curry underway.

Goat Side Notes:
– Goats like other ruminants are adapted to eat large amounts of grass and leaves, breaking down the tough fiber within their 4-compartment stomach (the first of which is called the rumen stomach), converting the greeny goodness into usable nutrients, such as beta-carotene, which gives their milk that yellowish hue most people never get to see anymore do to grain-feeding and over production of dairy
– Goats tend to be very popular among ethnic groups hailing from countries with limited grasslands, water and economic resources, as they’re hearty creatures who don’t require nearly as much overall investment as cows.. also, goats weigh far less than moo-cows and therefore don’t trample softer soils like cows do (I read this interesting article on the ethics of eating meat in Australia, which eventually trailed into how their famous grass-fed cows are great, but not quite idea for Aussie-land vs the kangaroo which is light on its feet and great tasting too!)
– Lastly, goats have crazy eyes! Apparently, most hoofed-mammals do, but I think it’s far creepier and noticeable with goats. I checked it out online and these sideways, devilish slits were, in fact, craftily developed in order to expand their “perifs” – scanning the horizon for predators is a must I guess when you’re out there all alone. That makes sense to me and it therefore no longer creeps me out (actually, it’s quite admirable), and with that, it’s time to resume the blog post…

Image from berglondon.com.. or hell!

Simple ingredients make the best recipes.

– 3lbs Goat Meat*, large (2.5″) cubes
– 8-10 tbsp Curry Powder
– 2 tbsp Allspice (or zero if above is Jamaican Curry Powder)
– 2 Large Onions, sliced into strips
– Entire Head of Garlic (seriously), minced
– Plenty of Coconut Oil or Tallow (for high-heat cooking)
– 2 Cans of Coconut Milk
– 3 cups of beef broth or water
– 1-2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers or Habeneros (latter is easier to find)
– 3-4 Potatoes, large chunks
– 15 oz Can of Tomatoes (crushed)
– 1 tbsp Thyme
– Salt and Pepper
(*note: The leaner and less boney, the better – I love little bits of fats (lot-o-bits) when fried and crispy, but too much makes for sad stews. Between the extra small bones to take out, you’ll also need to do a ton of fat skimming before this is ready to be served) .

The success of the meal comes far before any stew comes into play. It’s all in the prep work (my favorite part). Wash and dry (wash AND dry) the meat thoroughly with cold water and a kitchen cloth before anything else. Dry meat browns caramelizes much better, executing those slightly sweet and smoky notes you’ll want to fully appreciate the meal. Salt the meat generously with Kosher or sea salt.

Important: you can cook this in a slow-cooker during the day while at work or for a few hours (at least 3) while at home in your dutch oven. I often face this dilemma and need to decide if the particular dish in question worth the wait after work or if I just want simple meaty, savory food seconds after kicking off my shoes. The latter’s only sometimes the case with me as I often leave work around 4:30. This dish works both in the slow-cooker or in an enamel dutch-oven, but dutch-oven are… iffy when left alone for 8-9 hours in a gas oven. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it, but I try not to roll the dice too often.

Next, get out the ol’ cast-iron skillet (crock pot method) or dutch oven, and throw it on med-high heat with a few tbsp’s of fat in there. Once hot, add 2-3 tbsp of the blended curry/allspice mix the pan. Stir constantly to avoid burning (and beware that you may sneeze and cough a bit during this part) for about a minute. Then add the meat in individually to ensure they all have enough space to fit.. you’ll probably need to repeat this step several times. Brown them in this spicy/fatty bliss for a minute or two for each side then set them aside with tongs until all pieces are done.

Add a little more fat, then throw in the diced peppers and garlic, followed about 2 minutes later by the onions. Stir frequently until the onions brown up pretty well, but only slightly dark.

Toss in the crushed tomatoes. thyme and broth, and stir around. At this point, you’ll add in either one or two cans of coconut milk (full-fat – stop slapping lean people around the tropical world in face with “light” coconut watery white stuff) to the pan, depending on the cooking method. Slow cook it for 8 hours, and you’ll wanna leave one can out until the end, as the creaminess tends to render down to more oil after too much cooking, and what’s curry without cream? Otherwise toss both cans in. Stir around, making sure to get up anything possibly stuck to this high-heat pan, then turn off the stove and pour this into the crock pot with the meat, or turn off the heat and add the meat to the dutch oven.

With either method, feel free to start right away or let the pot sit in the fridge overnight. The rest is easy. Turn the crock pot on low and leave for work… or toss it in the oven at 350° F for about 2-2.5 hours… or keep on the stove top at a low simmer for about the same time. When it’s about done, or you’ve just got home from a thrilling day at work crushing your performance metrics, start removing any big bits of fat and bone from the meat, then skim the surface to remove most of the liquid oil at the top.

Proceed to toss in the potatoes (boiling them slightly in salted water before tossing them into the crock pot will speed it up tremendously) and let it cook until potatoes can be easily pierced by a fork. Let sit for a long while then serve with rice or alone. I like to make Thai Coconut Rice. Toss on some chopped cilantro if you’d like.. no tropical dish should clash with cilantro!

I can’t tell you how awesome I find this recipe.. meat, coconut creaminess, curry and a little starch. So good.. and it makes for amazing leftovers all week long!

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Meatza Party!!

Where's the wheat?!

A long time, major fan of pizza, there’s a time every few months, when I think about how amazing it would be to order a pizza for dinner, or grab a slice or two somewhere in Newbury St while on my lunch break. 9.5 times out of 10, I succeed in just walking right on thinking about how good I feel, or how good Boloco’s gonna taste (Boston’s Chipotle).

But now… now I’m equipped with a replacement: MEATZA! Sure, classic pizza will always a soft, chubby place in my heart, but this guys got everything I want in a great slice of ZA! The meat, the sauce, cheese! I heard of this paleo / primal phenomenon a few times over the past couple years, but I finally made it for myself tonight! I’ll be making it again tomorrow  :)

Pizza Crust Basics: (Feeds one hungry Alex)
–  1lb ground beef
–  Tsp thyme
–  Tsp oregano
–  1/2 tsp garlic powder
–  1/2 cup fine chopped onion
–  1/2 tbsp red chili flakes
–  Pinch of sea salt (don’t need much for the “crust”)

Sauce:
–  1 cup juice from canned San Marzano tomatoes (pay extra for these)
–  Tsp oregano
–  2 pinches of sea salt
–  Dash of garlic powder (I really get lazy w/ the real thing)
–  Tbsp tomato paste
–  Swig or two of dry red wine (I used Chianti)

Toppings: (your choice; just what I used)
–  Cheese (I used TJ’s Mozzarella/Jack/Cheddar blend)
–  Chunked San Marzano tomatoes from the juice (above)
–  Cooked sausage (only had smoke kielbasa – it actually worked!)
–  Green pepper strips and sliced mushrooms (saute first)
–  Fire Roasted Red Pepper strips

Now, cook it up!

Do NOT attempt to toss - doesn't work out well at all!

I used my favorite dish.. my 12″ cast-iron skillet, but for thinner crust (recommended) and/or larger meatzas, use a large rectangular baking pan with a rim at least 3/4″ tall to keep the rendered fat in the pan. Bake on 450° F for about ten minutes, then drain out the fat asap. Then I let it sit there a for a few minutes of firm up a bit. While the crust was baking I tossed the sauce ingredients into a small sauce pan on medium high heat and wire-whisked frequently while it reduced down to at least 60% of its original volume (no, no… I just play a chef on web  ;)  Let the sauce cool.. taste for saltiness. Set the broiler now to high.

Then add your sauce, cheese and toppings. I like to add sauce and sauteed veggies first because they’re already cooked and warm, the cheese comes next, then the roasted red peppers and cold sausage.

Then broil the Meatza for about 6-8 minutes, until cheese gets those nice gold, brown spots! Remove and let cool on a chopping board. Be careful when lifting – go from both sides if possible. Or use parchment paper under the Meatza… I ran out a while back. Cut and serve.. dust with crushed, dry oregano if you mad classy like ME!

Oh? Not fancy enough for you!? Fine, remember that bottle of Chianti you used in the sauce? Well, pour yourself some more class!

Enjoy Yo-Self!

Honestly, I loved this recipe. Thank you Mark’s Daily Apple and Free the Animal for the recipes and inspiration! I’m back on the pizza market.. well not out in public.. they’re not likely to offer 100% Beef as an option right next to thin crust, whole wheat or ancient grains-blend, but my .. kitchen’s gonna make a killin’ on me!

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Ol’ Faithful – Liver and Onions with Eggs

No wonder hunter-gatherers dug out the liver first.

I love cooking! I cook almost every day, and go out for dinner less and less every month it seems. After working all day in front the computer screen, it’s nice to escape for an hour or two into veggie prep, meat tenderizing.. the sound of searing a steak in butter, the smell of sesame-scented bone broth. It’s my passion!

But even Picasso just needs to put down the brush once in a while..  (right, okay NOT the Picasso of cooking by any means, but I must say that our shared, slap-stick approach to our “work” is eerily similar). Some nights, I just don’t have it in me to braise short-ribs, steam/stir-fry chard or cook up some meat sauce with over 15 ingredients… or all my meats in the freezer still because I forgot defrost it last night. Either way, dinner’s gotta be made (especially, since I typically eat only 1 meal a day), but what to make that quick, easy, filling and nutritious?

Liver and Onions with Fried Eggs! True, this mystery plate’s always scared me since childhood (no, never had it) when I saw that episode of Doug. But after reading some great articles from WAPF and MDA, I decided to give it an adult shot!

Once I realized how awesome it was and how awesome it tasted, it quickly became a staple of my regular diet. Here’s a quick list (from WAPF) of liver’s power-house-ness:

Quite simply, it contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. In summary, liver provides:

  • An excellent source of high-quality protein
  • Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • One of our best sources of folic acid
  • A highly usable [bio-available] form of iron
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
  • A [recently] identified anti-fatigue factor – [Vitamin K12]
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA

Liver and eggs are also CHEAP compared to the price of grass-finished beef or pasture-raised pork. Win-win. Oh, and it cooks up in less than 10 minutes.. Win-win-win! So, without further blabbing, here are some pics of tonight’s dinner…


…and FitDay’s nutritional breakdown.


And that’s why I always keep a couple 18 packs of eggs, some onions and beef or chicken liver in the fridge. Beat that fruits, veggies and whole wheat!

Top photo from 3H All Natural Beef and Doug shot from FSU’s site.

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Bone Stock – Winter’s Serum

There’s nothing better in the winter than stews, braised meats, curries and soups, all of which call for Bone Stock!  Well, I went to Super 88 (Asian market) to stock up on femur and joint bones, cow tails and oxtail.  However, they didn’t have any femur bone, so I doubled up on oxtail and hooves, while also grabbing a pack on beef tendon (for the first time).

This savory, mineral rich stock will cook on low heat (very important) for at least 48 hours.  It’s worth the time and … “aroma” which will inevitably permeate the apartment over the next few days.  Full of minerals, vitamins, collagen and gelatin, I drink broth whether cold or hot as a supplement just as often as I incorporate it into sauces, soups and stews.

I could list off the myriad of health benefits to bone broth in your regular diet, but there’s just WAY to many, so I’m just going to provide some of my favorite links:

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/why-broth-is-beautiful
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/cooking-with-bones/#axzz1jYVViEoy
http://paleodietlifestyle.com/making-fresh-bone-stock/

Anyways, without femur, but with add tendon, my broth’s underway and I still have another jug of frozen chicken stock I made months ago… Here’s a fun picture I took which just looked so amazing:

Only about $25 for the stock ingredients

And here’s a little snippet from Mark’s Daily Apple about why odd bits like feet and tendon are essential for an amazingly nutrient-rich stock:

Feet:
People find feet gross, for some reason. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re in constant contact with the ground, and the ground is definitely not sterile. I guess I see where they’re coming from, but I look at feet differently. I like the fact that feet are what the animal uses to get around, because that means the feet bear all the weight. And any body part that has to handle a lot of force – like the foot – tends to have a lot of collagen, cartilage, and other connective tissue to deal with all that stress. That’s why feet make the best stock. Chicken feet, pig feet, beef feet – they’re all incredibly gelatinous and when you cover them with water and apply heat for 24-48 hours, amazing stuff happens. There is very little meat, so soup/broth/stock is the best option here.

Tendon:
When most people want real broth, they turn to bones. I mean, bone broth is great. It’s alliterative, for one. It makes your house smell good (or terrible, depending on whom you ask), and it is filling on a cold day in a way that only meaty liquid can be. But if you’re a true rich broth fiend, … if you’re all about the gelatin – you had better go out and procure yourself some beef tendons. A tendon is a prime piece of connective tissue designed to hold muscle to bone and withstand all the crazy tension and force and stress that such a relationship inevitably entails. Thus, it is pure collagen, which means good things for your broth. Of course, it’s just collagen without the bone, so the broth won’t have that boney meatiness, but if you add a few bones to the mix you’ll get the best of both worlds.

So, on that note, next time you pass ethnic markets (especially Asian and Halal), pop in for some bones, feet, oxtail and tendon!  Buying or roasting a rotisserie chicken.. keep the skeleton.  Ribs?  Save those too!  I keep a Ziploc bag or two in the freezer to store my extra bones, and save them there until I have enough.

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Paleo It Forward

I know, I’m reaching with that one, but it’s my blog! My brother came over this weekend to learn more about DIY-Paleo Living. So, we went to the Asian market to pick up some chicken bones, feet, seaweed and mushrooms to making stock. As well, we grabbed some ox tail, beef hoof and bones for making a beautiful, gelatinous beef stock!

At Whole Foods, I showed him the go-to items I buy regularly like greens, berries, tubers, pork/beef fat, other meats like grass-fed lamb, coconut milk, oils, etc. We picked up some yams, salted pork and ingradients for my pasta-less meat sauce.

At home, I already had some chicken broth going from the night before which we finished up, strained and set in the fridge. Then we rendered beef suet into a jar of tallow! Always fun stuff. Then we made up the meat sauce.

For eats, we had a salmon salad, smoked sausage, meat sauce, fresh-roasted almonds, soup with cabbage and lots of tea! It’s fun to pass this knowledge on and I hope my brother takes advantage and starts to learn more himself about living primal. I’ve taught others too about basic stocks, cooking with animal fats and other paleo concepts in the hopes that some of it will catch on.

My sincere hope is that one day traditional ingredients and cooking techniques won’t be a ‘lost art’, and will become common knowledge once again. Much of our society has strayed from the path, but we can herded back one at a time.

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Chicken Coconut Soup

Inspired by the cool, chic and happening (not quite so new) noodle restaurant, Wagamama, I’m finally attempting my first coconut milk-based soup. Wagamama is actually a British chain of fusion East Asian dishes (mainly Japanese) where you’re sat at long tables with benches and they prepare several types of noodles, soups, chicken and seafoods, along with typical Japanese sides like miso, seaweed salad and pickles.

They make this amazing coconut soup with chicken and (gluten-free) rice noodles called Chicken Itame, which is really MUCH more of a Thai dish… the cilantro, lime, red chili and coconut milk are the dead giveaways.

I’ve been planning to make something like this for a while and just decided last night that Monday would be the day. I had just finished making soup broth (4th pot in 5 weeks), and I noticed that I still had a can of coconut milk left, so I figured why not. Then we hit up WFs for the rest:

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup:
– Chicken chunks
– Chicken stock
– Coconut milk
– Baby bok choy
– Lemon grass stalk (peeled)
– Diced red bell pepper
– Onion and garlic
– Habenero
– Cilantro
– Lime
– Sesame oil

Saute chicken in a pan in duck fat with a little salt and pepper then set aside once almost done. In a large pot, saute garlic and onion in a little more duck fat until golden. Add in broth, lemon grass and Habenero to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low simmer. Toss in the coconut milk, bok choy and chicken, along with some sea salt. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, then let cool for another 5. Salt to desired level, then in large bowls with some fresh-squeezed lime, chopped cilantro and a dab of sesame oil!

Typically served with rice noodles, but I’m going without! I’m very excited to try this out tonight and will report back with my results.

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