Cooks Corner

New Paleo diet cookbook pairs primal food with modern flavor

Caveman-style: Coriander-spiked lamb is from a new Paleo Diet cookbook.
Caveman-style: Coriander-spiked lamb is from a new Paleo Diet cookbook. Waterbury Publications

I’m not sure how I feel about eating like a caveman.

But given all the hype and celebrity hoopla about the paleo/primal diet, I was curious about just what kind of recipes I’d find in the just-published The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35).

I can’t speak to the nutritional merit, which Dr. Loren Cordain has espoused in more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and abstracts over a couple of decades. But the recipes certainly give Stone Age cuisine a whole new spin. The coriander-spiked lamb recipe here is a flavorful, bright taste of spring — not what I was expecting.

The diet’s premise is that, “Our genes haven't changed a lot in the last 40 or 50 thousand years,” Cordain said on Good Morning America this month, so he argues we are best suited to eat only what we’re genetically adapted to — animal proteins, fruits and vegetables — and no processed foods, sugar or salt.

That’s a pretty big change for most people. The cookbook addresses that pretty creatively with 250 recipes that add modern flavor profiles — such as harissa, chipotle and caramelized onions — to the stew.

Shepherd’s Pie

Cuban-born Roberto Ferrer, the new executive chef at Batch Gastropub in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, is putting his own stamp on the menu for spring — including this great take on shepherd’s pie, made with pulled pork braised in a surprising liquid, root beer. Wow. The root beer adds a touch of sweetness, a little caramelizing, and makes a gravy for the shepherd’s pie that’s rich and dark.

Ferrer uses a boneless pork butt, which in some markets is labeled Boston butt (but actually is pork shoulder). If you can’t find it boneless you can either bone it yourself or double the braising time. I’d also suggest starting with more than 2 pounds, as you have plenty of liquid and vegetables.

That way you’ll get more of the flavorful tender pulled pork for little additional labor — and it can be used in so many ways. I made sandwiches with a slather of barbeque sauce. You may find that you’ll have to braise longer to get the meat as soft as it should be, depending upon the size you use and the fattiness of the cut.

Back talk

Some replies from readers in response to my column on trendy avocado smashed on toast, and some unusual variations on the theme:

“Hi there! You asked for smash inspiration. For years I have been making a simple breakfast: whole wheat tortilla smeared with mashed avocado and topped with red salsa. Yummy!”

Haidie Simonet

“My smash goes back to my exchange student days in England, when I was first exposed to beans on toast for breakfast. My host family often had what we’d call baked beans, on brown bread, in the morning. When I got back home to Miami I switched to black beans. If I don’t have my own leftovers, I use canned ones (make sure you buy some with seasoning already, like Goya’s black bean soup or El Ebro brand) and mash them with a fork onto good bread. You can get creative and toss on some chopped tomatoes or avocado or cheese.”

Lou

Passover and Easter Planning

▪ Simon Lester founded Pascha Chocolate because he had two daughters with food allergies and knew from that even trace cross-contamination can trigger life-threatening anaphylactic shock. So the organic chocolate is completely free from all the major allergens: nuts, dairy, soy, egg, wheat, shellfish and fish. The chocolate comes in various percentages of cacao, grand for those not fond of dark chocolate, and with a couple of flavors (my favorite is the 55 percent cacao with goldenberries). Find the 3.5-ounce bars ($5) at Whole Foods, Fresh Market and natural-foods stores, or online at paschachocolate.com.

▪ William Greenberg Desserts, a staple on New York’s Upper East Side since 1946, is now offering online shopping for signature kosher-for-Passover treats for those who can’t come to the Madison Avenue store, such as the almond macaroon cake coated with sliced apples and crusted with crushed pecans ($28 for 6-inch cake). Order now for delivery Passover week at wmgreenbergdesserts.com.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Smoked Lemon-Coriander Lamb Leg with Grilled Asparagus

1 cup hickory wood chips

1 (2- to 3-pound) boneless leg of lamb

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 tablespoons snipped fresh thyme

2 bunches fresh asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 lemon, cut into quarters

In a bowl, soak hickory chips in enough water to cover; set aside. Meanwhile, in a small skillet toast coriander seeds over medium heat about 2 minutes or until fragrant and crackling, stirring frequently. Remove seeds from skillet; let cool. When seeds have cooled, coarsely crush them in a mortar and pestle (or place seeds on a cutting board and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon). In a small bowl combine crushed coriander seeds, lemon peel, the 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, and thyme; set aside.

Remove netting from lamb roast if present. On a work surface, open up the roast, fat side down. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over meat; rub in with your fingers. Roll the roast up and tie with 4 to 6 pieces of cotton kitchen string. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture over outside of roast, pressing lightly to adhere.

For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the pan. Sprinkle the drained wood chips over the coals. Place lamb roast on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover and smoke for 40 to 50 minutes for medium, 145 degrees on a meat thermometer. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Smoke as above, except add drained wood chips according to manufacturer’s directions.) Cover roast loosely with foil. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, trim woody ends from asparagus. In a large bowl toss asparagus with olive oil and the 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place asparagus around outer edges of grill, directly over the coals and perpendicular to the grill grate. Cover and grill for 5 to 6 minutes until crisp-tender. Squeeze lemon wedges over asparagus. Remove string from lamb roast and thinly slice meat. Serve meat with grilled asparagus. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 510 calories (65 percent from fat), 28.5 g fat (12.6 g saturated, 18.3 g monounsaturated), 101 mg cholesterol, 27.6 g protein, 7.2 g carbohydrate, 3.9 g fiber, 96 mg sodium.

Source: “The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook” by Loren Cordain. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Pulled Pork Shepherd’s Pie

1 (about 2 pounds) boneless pork butt

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

2 garlic cloves, smashed

32 ounces root beer

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 carrots, diced

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

1 medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

4 cups garlic-mashed potatoes

Season the pork butt with salt and pepper and place in a Dutch oven or other roasting pan with a lid. Add the vegetables and herbs and cover with the root beer. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, then place in a 375-degree oven for about 1 hours, or until meat is very soft and will easily pull apart with a fork. Remove meat from broth and allow to cool. When cool, remove the fat and pull the pork into shreds. Puree the cooking liquid and vegetables and reserve.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and sauté the carrots, corn and onion until carrots are just softened and onions are translucent, about 5 minutes . Add the prepared pulled pork and enough of the braising liquid to moisten well. Sprinkle with the rosemary and heat through. Turn into a 9-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. Turn oven to broil and place the casserole a few inches from the heat source for about 2 minutes, just until the potatoes have turned golden. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 604 calories (23 percent from fat), 24.7 g fat (7.9 g saturated, 10.3 g monounsaturated), 92 mg cholesterol, 35.2 g protein, 61.5 g carbohydrate, 5.4 g fiber, 560 mg sodium.

Source: Executive chef Roberto Ferrer of Batch Gastropub, adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner.

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