Nearly everyone I know is taking the arrival of January as an opportunity to reset their eating habits. My mom is cutting out sugar. My husband has returned to his favorite low-carb diet. And it takes both hands to count all the Facebook friends who are doing the Paleo thing these days.
For those folks who are trying out the Paleo diet these days, there’s a new book on the scene that does a really good job of illuminating that particular way of eating while also offering up a goodly number of accessible and downright delicious recipes.
Called Nom Nom Paleo, it was written, photographed and designed by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong. This Bay Area couple writes a blog of the same name and they have developed a reputation over the years for reliable recipes presented in a playful manner that appeals to both kids and adults. Happily, the book maintains that spirit and is both useful and super entertaining.
The book has nine chapters. Michelle and Henry start by introducing their favorite Paleo building blocks (which include spice mixes, salad dressings, and other tasty toppings). Once the foundation is established, they move on to Nibbles, Salads and Soups, Eggs, Plants, Seafood, Poultry, Meat, and finally, Treats.
I tried three recipes from the book recently. I selected dishes that would make a coherent meal and was entirely pleased with the results. First came the Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, which was creamy, light, and full of flavor. The Winter Kale and Persimmon Salad was vividly green, crunchy, and satisfying.
My final selection was Fiona’s Green Chicken. It was a recipe that Michelle and Henry first published on the blog and I’ve had it bookmarked for at least a year as one I wanted to try. It was everything I hoped it would be. The green marinade was bright and flavorful and made the chicken tender and intensely delicious. It’s something I will certainly make again in the future.
I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an accessible primer on the Paleo diet, as well as home cooks who want to put more emphasis on vegetables and sustainable proteins. The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors are spot-on.
Fiona’s Green Chicken
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1¼ cup packed fresh basil
1 cup packed fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
¼ cup packed fresh mint
3 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup Paleo-friendly fish sauce
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest from 1 medium lime
3 pounds skin-on chicken drumsticks or thighs
2 limes, cut into wedges
In a blender, puree the onion, basil, cilantro, mint, garlic, fish sauce, apple juice, Aleppo pepper, black pepper, and lime zest. The mixture should be thick and smooth, with no chunks. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Place the chicken in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Pour in the marinade and squeeze out the air in the bag before sealing. Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to a day.
Take the chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking so it can come up to room temperature. Remove the chicken from the bag.
If oven-roasting: Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the middle position. Then, place a wire rack atop a foil lined rimmed baking tray. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the rack, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping the bird (ha!) at the midpoint.
If grilling: Arrange the marinated chicken on a medium-hot grill and cook for about 25 minutes, turning every 5 to 7 minutes.
The chicken’s ready when the internal temperature reaches 170°F or when the juices run clear. Serve with lime wedges.
Makes 6 servings
Winter Kale and Persimmon Salad
3 cups baby lacinato kale
1 medium Fuyu persimmon, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup Citrus Vinaigrette (below)
¼ cup almond slivers, toasted
Cut the kale into a chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling them tightly, and cutting across the rolled leaves to produce fine ribbons.
In a large bowl, toss together the kale and persimmon slices. Dress with the vinaigrette to taste, and massage the dressing into the kale with your hands. Top with slivered almonds and serve.
Makes 2 servings
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the oil, juices, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.
Makes ¾ cup
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower heat, cut into uniform pieces
5 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons ghee or fat of choice
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Fill a large stock pot with an inch of two of water and fit a steamer insert in the pot. Cover the pot and place it on a burner set on high.
Season the cauliflower pieces liberally with salt. When the water comes to a boil, place the cauliflower and garlic onto the steamer insert. Put a lid on it, and steam for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a knife. Don’t worry: you won’t overcook it. Just make sure there’s enough water in the bottom of the pot, and you’ll be fine.
Drain the cauliflower and garlic in a colander, and then toss them into a food processor outfitted with a regular chopping blade. Add the ghee, pepper to taste, and nutmeg, if desired. Pulse everything until smooth — but don’t overdo it, champ. We’re not making soup.
Makes 8 servings