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Tag Archive: vegetables

Mon Grand Voyage (and a Spin on Ratatouille!)

June 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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One thing a lot of people don’t know about me (in the blogosphere, at least) is that I LOVE France. When I first went when I was 11, well, je suis tombée en amoureuse. I usually dislike big cities, but there was something about Paris’s narrow streets and petits marchés that made me think otherwise. I’ve been back twice since then, and every time I leave, I find myself wanting to return.

I’ve taken French in school since the second half of third grade, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I can write pretty well, but when confronted with an actual human being, I clam up! I always worry I’m going to say the wrong thing and wind up completely insulting whoever I’m speaking to.

I’m tired of being afraid and want to be able to have a real conversation in French. So…I’m going to France for a month to get brave and learn! This time, I’ll be going to a suburb of Nice called St. Laurent-du-Var, where I’ll be graciously hosted by my homestay mother. I’m really excited and extremely nervous, too!

One thing I’m looking forward to is the food. I’ve had plenty of Parisian fare—duck confit, chocolate mousse, and the like—but I want to taste what else is out there. Since it’ll be July, fresh fruits and vegetables should be plentiful; hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit one or seven marchés en plein air and eat so many tomates cerises I’ll become one. I also foresee mountains of olives in my future, as well as whatever else I may be able to sample.

For the duration of my trip, I WILL NOT be eating squeaky clean by any stretch of the imagination. I may look into doing a Whole30 challenge or something akin to it when I return, but while in France, I’m going to enjoy myself. No, I’m not going to eat a massive croissant at every meal, but I’ll certainly try to have a little taste of a variety of different breads, pastries, and dairy products.

Fortunately, I won’t have to leave the extension of my heart my laptop at home, so I’ll be able to take lots of pictures and update you guys on what I’m up to. Hey, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two, too!

In anticipation for my upcoming voyage, I made ratatouille, probably the tastiest mixed vegetable dish of all time. 

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I’ve been in French classes for over SIX years now, and the only movie I’ve ever watched is Ratatouille. At this point, I’ve probably seen it at least four or five times in French and six or seven times in English. And every time after I watch the movie, I want that idealized plate of vegetable goodness Disney so perfectly displays.

To make this dish a little more satiating, I melted a bit of raw Dorset cheese on the top. Don’t call the paleo police! If you’re lactose intolerant and/or avoiding dairy, feel free to take out the cheese…but if you can eat it, I highly recommend adding it for extra tang and creaminess.

This recipe is a breeze to make. All you need are some veggies, olive oil, a couple of dried herbs, and a big baking dish. If you’re sick of eating meat for dinner, this is a great way to work something vegetarian into the mix!

My recipe is adapted from this one.

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At least a half an hour before you want to bake your ratatouille, slice two small eggplants into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds. Use whatever you can find, whether it be graffiti, Japanese, or globe.

Liberally salt the eggplant rounds and let them sit on a baking sheet or cutting board until assembly time, at least 30 minutes. This is to help some of the water get out and make your eggplant tender, not mushy and gushy.

Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut two medium-sized zucchini into 1/4-inch rounds and two large bell peppers into 1/4-inch rings. Maybe it’s just me, but I always eat the ends of the peppers after I slice them.

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Set the sliced veggies aside. On the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, mix together 14 ounces of tomato paste or plain tomato sauce (about 1 medium can), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 chopped small onion, 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. With the back of a spoon or a small spatula, spread it out so the bottom is completely coated.

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To assemble, put one piece of eggplant with two or three slices of zucchini and a slice of pepper. Keep going until you run out of space or vegetables…whichever comes first.

Sprinkle the top with 2 teaspoons each of dried thyme, basil, and oregano, a good crack of black pepper, and an additional tablespoon of olive oil.

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Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly atop the dish. Stick the ratatouille in the oven until the veggies are tender and beginning to curl around the edges, about 45 to 50 minutes.

If you don’t want cheese, you can stop here. If you’re opting for the dairy, top the ratatouille with your desired amount of cheese (for me, about 10 tiny squares cut from two slices worth) and broil until completely melted, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with a large fork and a hungry belly.

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Next time, I’ll make more…since we had no leftovers. Oh well, at least it was tasty!

What’s your favorite French dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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The Perfect Duck Breast

April 14, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I love duck in pretty much every form, from smoked duck to foie gras to everything in between. A lot of people are intimidated to make it because they claim it’s too time consuming or fatty, but this duck breast is both fast and pretty lean once you sear it. Push your worries aside and give it a try!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and stick a dry cast iron skillet in there while the oven heats up. This will insure that the pan is hot enough when you’re ready to cook the duck, creating a crispy exterior.

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Before you do anything else, create a rub for the skin. You won’t taste much of it, but the flavor will still be noticeable. Today, I used 1/2 tablespoon of decaf coffee grounds, 1/2 tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon of raw cacao powder, and a good pinch of salt. Whisk in a small bowl to combine and set aside.

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Now, prepare the duck breasts by making diagonal cuts through the fatty outer layer without piercing the meat itself. Do not skip this step, or else the fat won’t render properly. Then pour half of the rub on each side of the breast and massage it with your hands to evenly cover.

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With oven mitts (unless you want to burn yourself), remove the cast iron from the oven and put on high heat on the stove top. Do not turn off the oven. Let the skillet adjust to the stove top for a minute or two, then add the duck breast skin-side down. Sear for six minutes.

When dark brown on the other side, remove the duck breasts from the pan and pour off most of the accumulated fat. I usually save this stuff to add flavor to roasted vegetables, but if the idea totally grosses you out, pour it into a cup and let cool prior to tossing it out.

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Return the duck breasts to the pan and cook on the other side for another six minutes. Then, place in the oven and let cook until the internal temperature is between 125 and 130 degrees. This time varies—for me, it usually takes an additional 7 to 10 minutes, but it could take more or less depending on the thickness of your duck and how long your oven’s been heated.

When cooked to your liking, let cool on a cutting board tented with tinfoil for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Squeeze with a little bit of lime juice for some extra zing.

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Alongside the duck, I took two seemingly boring root vegetables, carrots and parsnips, and elevated them to a new level in Roasted Parsnip Mash and Sweet and Spicy Baby Carrots.

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To prepare the parsnips, heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet with coconut oil. Cut a pound of parsnips into thin coins, about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick. You can peel the parsnips if you want, but I just left the skins on.

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Place the parsnips on the prepared sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, a good pinch of salt, and some black pepper. Bake until golden brown and soft in the center, about 35 minutes, giving a stir every ten minutes or so.

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Transfer the parsnips to a blender or food processor. Pulse until chunky, about two minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter and 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth and process until thick and beginning to smooth out, about 3 minutes.

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If necessary, pour in additional water or chicken broth to achieve your desired consistency. Finally, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of paprika (depending on how spicy you want it), a good pinch of salt, and a crack of black pepper. Blend for another two minutes and serve warm.

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To make the carrots, heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a large baking sheet with coconut oil. 

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Place the baby carrots on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted lard or ghee. Top with 1 teaspoon of turmeric,  1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and a good pinch of salt. Toss together to fully distribute the spices.

Bake until beginning to brown and soft, but not mushy in the center, about 30 minutes. 

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Simple ingredients, easy preparation, elegant results. Yum!

What’s your favorite root vegetable? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Healthier Fried Chicken

April 8, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I know what you’re thinking: fried chicken, HEALTHY?! How could something battered in flour and fried in oil be HEALTHY?!

Well, with the help of Charles Mayfield’s Paleo Comfort Foods, I successfully recreated this indulgent Southern dish without the extra guilt.

Even though this fried chicken is certainly healthier for you, it’s not something I recommend eating every single night. Save it for a once-in-a-while treat—it’ll make it all the more special.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with tinfoil. Place a wire rack on top and lightly grease it to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat 1 1/3 cups of refined coconut oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Unrefined/extra virgin coconut oil will leave you with a coconut-y taste as well as splatter more, so save yourself the trouble. 

In a large bowl, whisk 1 cup of almond flour with 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder, a good pinch of salt, and a crack of black pepper. In a medium bowl, lightly beat two eggs. You’re now ready to assemble the chicken.

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First, dip each piece of chicken in the egg, then toss in the almond flour mixture to coat. I used about two pounds of drumsticks and thighs, but any chicken part will do.

When the oil’s hot (at about 350 degrees…although honestly, I didn’t check), add in the chicken. Watch out for sputtering grease! Cook until browned on the other side, about 3 to 4 minutes…

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…then flip over with a long pair of tongs. Continue frying for another 3 to 4 minutes.

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Remove the chicken from the oil and place on the prepared wire rack/baking sheet. Bake on the top rack of the oven until cooked through and crispy, about 15 minutes.

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To add some nutritive value to this meal, I made two delicious side dishes: carrot timbales (also courtesy of Paleo Comfort Foods) and braised red cabbage.

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For starters, you’re going to need carrots. LOTS of carrots. I used a little over a pound, which yielded 4 6-ounce timbales. 

Shred the carrots and 1 to 2 cloves of garlic. You can be old-school and use a box grater, or you can be lazy like me and use a food processor.

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Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large skillet over low heat. Add the carrots, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook until brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add a little bit of water if it starts to stick.

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Next, put the carrots in the bowl of a food processor or blender and add 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (go easy—nutmeg is VERY overpowering), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a big pinch of salt. Process or blend until completely smooth, adding more coconut milk if the carrots aren’t mixing nicely.

Add two eggs to the food processor or blender and process for 1 additional minute just to combine. 

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (Note: I baked the carrot timbales before the chicken.) Put some water to boil on the stove-top.

Grease 4 6-ounce ramekins with olive oil or coconut oil. Evenly distribute the carrot mixture among the 4 ramekins and place in a large roasting pan.

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When the water is boiling, pour it into the roasting pan so it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. (You don’t have to be exact—just don’t completely cover them!) Bake for 45 minutes, or until set and beginning to brown on top and around the edges.

To make the cabbage, heat up 1 tablespoon of ghee and 1 tablespoon of lard (yes, lard) in a large skillet on medium, then add 1 large thinly sliced onion. Saute until light golden brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.

Add 1 small head of red cabbage to the skillet. (You could also use savoy or nappa cabbage.) Add 4 tablespoons of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, turn the heat down to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for fifteen minutes. If the cabbage starts to dry out, add some more vinegar, water, or chicken stock.

Once the cabbage has softened a bit, season it well with salt and pepper. Add in one green apple, chopped into matchsticks, and stir it to incorporate. Cover the cabbage with a lid and cook until everything is tender, about another fifteen minutes longer.

Taste before serving, and add 1/4 cup orange juice if the cabbage seems bitter.

Voila—a flavorful, comforting meal that you CAN have. Don’t be ashamed to lick your fingers and scrape the plate!

What’s your favorite comfort food? Leave me a comment and let me know! 


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