August 30, 2010

Bacon Caprese Salad and Fried Patty Pan Squash

Summer is quickly winding down, but tomatoes and squash are still plentiful.  This summer has been hard on my vegetable garden.  Extreme heat and humidity most of the summer stunted production.  At other times, drought lasted several weeks at a pop.  Only the hardy survived but even so, the fruit of the vines was sweet and far better than any store-bought varieties.

After a brief respite from the heat last week, we are back to temperatures in the 90s.  At least it is fairly dry - as dry as the mid-Atlantic area gets in August.  I ventured out to the garden this afternoon and picked basil, some nice little red tomatoes, and a couple of patty pan squash.  I had a pack of sugar-free bacon in the fridge, some mozzarella, and some balsamic vinegar - just the ingredients I needed to build a Caprese Salad.  Everything is better with bacon, so why not add that to the recipe?

Fry the sliced pattypan in the bacon grease, add a little salt and pepper, and voila!  It's easy to build the salad.  Make the bacon, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, and chop the basil.  Reduce some balsamic vinegar in a saucepan to concentrate the flavor.  Stack the bacon, mozzarella, tomato, basil.  Place some squash on the side.  Drizzle with balsamic. Done!  Enjoy!

August 23, 2010

Sausage Cabbage Stirfry (80%) and Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Scones (the other 20%)

Followers of Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint will recognize the 80/20 reference above. Mark says that if you can manage to stick to primal eating 80% of the time, you can afford an occasional foray into non-primal territory (the other 20%).  To celebrate this reality-based way of thinking, I've added two recipes to my blog this week.  The first is completely primal:  Sausage Cabbage Stirfry.  The other ventures into non-primal land just a little bit:  Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Scones.  The scone recipe is loosely based on one from Elana Amsterdam's "The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook", but I found that using different ingredients makes it much closer to primal and that the extra agave sweetener is not needed at all.   By the way, her cookbook is excellent for those that are starting a gluten-free lifestyle and her recipes are delicious!  Both recipes are on the recipe page and there are some pictures to whet your appetite below.  Enjoy!

August 16, 2010

Masitas de Puerco - Cuban Pork

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in a little town called Burtonsville, there exists a little Cuban restaurant called Cuba de Ayer.  It's located in a little strip shopping center, tucked behind a little liquor store, and you have to find your way to the little parking area out back.  But the flavors in the food are big, bold, and delicious and easily adapted to a paleo diet.  Meat, meat, and more meat!  Chicken, pork, beef, ham in a variety of Cuban dishes.  Yes, they all come with rice and beans, but I just ask to leave those off.  I do indulge in the tostones (fried plantains) which are lovely starchy rounds of crunchiness and perhaps a mojito.  But this post is not really about the restaurant.  It is about my latest meal there which is the title of this post - Masitas de Puerco - and my effort to reproduce that amazing dish at home.

The chunks of pork are marinated in garlic, onion, orange and lime juice (or sour orange), olive oil, cumin, oregano, and salt.  Marinate several hours or even overnight.  Then place the pork in some water and olive oil, until the water boils away. Brown the meat in the remaining oil until it becomes crispy brown on the outside (do not overcook).  Add onion slices, saute quickly.  Serve with plantains (tostones).  The recipe amounts are on the recipe page.

The meat is tender enough to break apart with a fork, tender and moist inside, crispy brown on the outside. What is not to love?  Masita means cookie or biscuit.  I have no idea why these are called cookies, except maybe the little portions of meat resemble them?  Not important really - they are just good and that's enough for me.  Want to see some pics?  Here they are!

The first picture is of the pork after marinating for several hours. 
Next up, the meat is simmered first, then fried until crispy.  Word of warning:  don't overdo this part or you will get dry chunks of meat.  This is a bit blurry from the steam...
Here's the final result with a little side salad of fresh greens, my own tomatoes, local cucumbers, and avocado.
Oh, and two more.  There was quite a bit of fat on this piece of pork and, while I love pork fat, it was a bit more than I wanted.  I fried up the bits of fat in a pan to make treats for the dog.  I have to admit I ate several and my husband came in from outside a bit later and ate a few more. The dog did get a few in the end.
Finally, what else to have with cuban pork than a mojito?  My daughter has become quite the bartender (if law school doesn't work out, I guess she has a backup).  Aren't these pretty?  She had to substitute tequila instead of rum because we don't keep a very well-stocked liquor cabinet, but these were good!
Recipe for pork on the recipe page!

August 01, 2010

Cafe on 26 - Vacation Eats at Bethany Beach

We spent a week at the beach last week in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, Delaware.  These are typical beach towns with tons of family eateries, most specializing in food designed for the masses.  Food is plentiful but if you are gluten-free or even worse, primal/paleo, then the pickings are slim and eating out can become a bit tortuous.  Most restaurants fix foods that appeal to the Standard American Diet  - foods coated in breading, fried in omega-6-laden vegetable oils, "fresh" from the freezer.  The waitstaff are usually young kids, working for the summer in a beach town, or imports from eastern Europe who may or may not have a good grasp of English.  Even if they do, it is a good bet that they have never heard of gluten or have any clue which ingredients contain it.

Even if I can't eat paleo, I ALWAYS eat gluten-free.  I can usually ferret out a good meal selection by a few careful questions, but this week on one occasion, we were told by a waitress who said she checked in the kitchen, that an item was GF.  Turned out it was not (as confirmed by a waiter at the same restaurant later in the week) and by the inflamed arthritis-like pains in my shoulder joints for two days after.  I will work with any restaurant to stay GF.  I don't expect them to make me special food, but I do expect them to be honest about the ingredients in the food I do order.

All of this is to preface the GF restaurant find of my life!  Cafe on 26 opened up this year in May.  They are located on Route 26 just a few miles outside Bethany.  My daughter and I stopped there one afternoon on our way to some local shopping because their sign advertised a coffee bistro and we can usually depend on coffee as being gluten-free.  Much to our amazement, when we got the menu, we found out the place offered gluten-free items on the menu.  And not just gluten-free, but homemade gluten-free!  And not just homemade, but delicious gluten-free bread, bakery items, sauces, and complete MEALS without the worry of gluten contamination!  It turns out one of the owners has celiac disease and wanted to have a restaurant where those of us who are GF can eat in total trust that we will not be contaminated.  I threw paleo out the window that day (and on subsequent visits) since my chances to eat excellent GF food in a restaurant are limited at best.  However, I could have easily eaten a paleo meal there as well.
For my lunch that day, I had a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on GF bread.  Real moist delicious bread, not the frozen store variety.  It came with chips and a pickle and I got a nice cafe latte to go with it.  My daughter had a turkey sandwich on GF bread with the same sides.  The waiter assured us that almost all of the bakery items were GF (and clearly knew which few were not) so we shared a piece of cheesecake.  Heaven!

We went back for dinner the next night.  Oh bliss!  My husband had cool peach soup, duck with cherry reduction, a quinoa tabouli, and red potato salad.  My daughter had the same soup, salmon crusted with potato, and mashed yukon gold potatoes.  I had beef bourguignon, mashed yukons, and green beans and carrots.  We each had drinks (wine, mojito, vodka) and finished up with delicious coffees and desserts (Grand Marnier chocolate mousse, expresso chocolate mousse, and key lime pie).  Our entire meal was gluten-free and delicious.  If I had chosen different sides and foregone the dessert, I could have easily eaten primal as well.  But I don't often get to eat gloriously GF anywhere except home, so this was one meal to splurge.

On our final day at the beach, we stopped for a light breakfast on the way home.  The restaurant chefs make GF baked goods that are outstanding.  I had bacon (see, somewhat primal) and a cinnamon danish roll.  Oh my!  My daughter had french GF toast with bacon.  We had coffees all around.  There are omelets and other dishes to choose from, but it was a rare treat to get a real cinnamon roll.  Oh, and did I mention they make GF scrapple?  If you are from Maryland or PA, you love scrapple. It comes with the territory and since going GF, I have had to give it up since it is all made with flour.  These folks make their own gluten-free.  I missed it this visit but wait until next year!

The prices are extremely reasonable and the waitstaff is friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient.  They smile! The setting is gorgeous - a renovated older home with comfortable seating areas free of greasy placemats and screaming children (a rarity in this resort town).  I can say nothing bad about this restaurant, except for one thing:  It is 3 hours from my house.  Here's their website: and their facebook page:

I hope they are open in winter because we plan to make a winter trip this year.  The website doesn't do them justice.  This place is good, GF or not, and I encourage everyone who gets in the area to stop by and give them a try.  Of course, I would like to maintain that fine line between too popular that you have to wait 45 minutes to get in and not popular enough to stay in business until I can get down there again!