Thursday, September 21, 2017

West African Chicken Stew: A Paleo Recipe from Melissa Joulwan

For the most part, my husband and I are wedded to the Mediterranean diet or lifestyle, but will occasionally venture out and test some new diets.

At the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband and I decided to see what the Paleo diet had to offer.  I checked out a few books at the library, but eventually decided on a few cookbooks that I thought provided some interesting recipes.West African Chicken Stew

Before sharing an excellent recipe for West African Chicken Stew from Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan, I would like to make a few observations about the Paleo diet.

The paleo diet is loosely based “on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.”  In effect, it is the food that hunters and gatherers would consume rather than the food farmers who produce from domesticated animals and farmed vegetable gardens, particularly legumes.

As such, it differs considerably from the Mediterranean diet in the sense that you are eliminating one more level of “food processing” from your diet.   Clearly, a reduction in factory-processed and potentially chemically-treated foods is a way to eat more naturally and help restore body health.  In fact, many people have told us that they “feel better” after being weaned from artificially processed foods, sugar and dairy.  Who am I to argue?

The following recipe for West African Chicken Stew is reprinted from the Healthy Foodie Blog, which has some gorgeous photos on how this dish is assembled.  While the author of the blog substituted chicken breasts, I strongly recommend using chicken thighs because they have far more flavor.  We served this lovely stew with coconut cauliflower rice (also available in Well Fed 2).

WEST AFRICAN CHICKEN STEW

Ingredients (Serves 2 to 4)

  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil  
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and ground black pepper  
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)  
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)  
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)  
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander  
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper  
  • 1 bay leaf  
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes  
  • 1/4 cup water  
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (no sugar added)  
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract  
  • garnish: minced fresh parsley leaves, sunflower seeds

Preparation

  1. Sprinkle the chicken enthusiastically with salt and pepper. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add coconut oil and allow it to melt. Add the chicken in a single layer and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan; cook in batches if you need to.) Remove the chicken to a bowl to catch the juices.  
  2. In the same pot, cook the onions and ginger until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and water, stirring to combine. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, along with any juices it released. Increase the heat to bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes.  
  3. Remove the chicken from the pot; it will be very tender. Break the chicken into large pieces with the side of a wooden spoon. Add the sunflower seed butter and vanilla to the pot and mix to combine. Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Heat through, about 5 minutes, then serve, sprinkled with parsley and sunflower seeds.

Enjoy.  This recipe is a little spicy but delicious.  It can easily be made ahead of time and reheated.  Thank you Melissa. We love your cookbook!

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

LuLu’s West Indies Salad Recipe

During our delightful getaway to Perdido Key in the Florida panhandle several years ago, our good friends Christy and John F. took us by boat through the intercostal waterways to LuLu’s in Homeport, Alabama.

Lulu's West Indies Salad

LuLu’s is the brainchild of Lucy Anne Buffet, the sister of Jimmy Buffet, who resurrected a small family-owned property in Homeport and quickly turned it into a world famous restaurant. LuLu’s well-deserved reputation is owed in great part to the caring and delightful food that is served there and their friendly staff. This is the real deal for all who appreciate fine food.

LuLu’s West Indies Salad has been adapted by Lucy from a recipe of Bayley’s Steak and Seafood restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. In her delightful cookbook – with a very interesting introduction – entitled Crazy Sista Cooking, Lucy Anne Buffet lays out her recipes in simple yet easy to follow steps.

Now, I did not eat the salad shown below, but I certainly would have given it a go because of its elegant simplicity. Lucy cautions to use the ice cubes as described below to chill the water. I think it probably has something to do with the amount of water added to the crabmeat, but this looks great served with pink champagne.

LuLu’s West Indies Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4-6 as an appetizer)

  • 1 lb fresh jumbo lump blue crabmeat (regular lump crab OK, but watch for shell bits)
  • Salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 medium Vidalia (or sweet) onion, sliced paper thin, in half moon shapes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ice water (with 4-5 ice cubes)

Preparation

  1. Place half the crabmeat gently in th bottom of a glass bowl or plastic container, carefully picking out any shell. Sprinkle with just a smidgen of salt and pepper.
  2. Cover crab with a layer of onion.
  3. Repeat steps with remaining crab, salt, pepper and onion.
  4. Pour oil and vinegar over layers.
  5. Place ice cubes in a liquid measuring cup. Fill with water until volume reaches 1/3 cup and pour over crab. (Ice cubes are essential but don’t pour the cubes into the mixture)
  6. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours before serving.
  7. When ready to serve, shake bowl gently, or if using a leak-proof plastic container, turn upside down and back upright to gently mix salad.
  8. Serve in a shallow bowl with juice.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Cook the Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs

The last time I ate a soft-boiled egg was over 25 years ago when a particularly gooey drop of yolk decided to befriend my $150 Hermes tie.  Thanks to a botched job at the dry-cleaner, they have become inseparable friends and, as such, I decided then to give up both expensive ties and soft-boiled eggs.

Nevertheless, our daughter has insisted that I share a recent recipe that appeared on Cook’s Illustrated that explains how you “steam” rather than “cook” an egg to achieve a soft-cooked egg “that delivered a set white and a fluid yolk every time.” Before caving into our daughter’s request, I have decided to share the highlights of Cook’s Illustrated “science” required to achieve the perfect soft-cooked egg.

Science Class:  According to America’s Test Kitchen, the traditional way of cooking soft-cooked eggs is to add eggs to boiling water. Sadly, this lowers the temperature of the water and makes for uneven cooking results depending on when eggs are added, hom many,  and how quickly the water reaches the boiling temperature again after each immersion.

The folks at America’s test kitchen have found that “steaming” eggs in a small amount of water achieves consistently perfect results.

How to Cook Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs

Note:  This recipe works for any number of eggs.  Use large eggs that have no cracks and are cold from the refrigerator.

Preparation

  1. Bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Using tongs (or better yet a steamer basket), gently place the refrigerated eggs into the boiling water.  The eggs will not be submerged.  Cover the saucepan and cook the eggs for 6 1/2 minutes.
  2. Remove cover, transfer saucepan to sink and place under cold running water for 30 seconds.  Remove eggs from pan and serve, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

This is a simple and foolproof way to cook perfect soft-boiled eggs.

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