Monthly Archives: February 2012

Traveling Paleolithic in the Cyber Century

It’s really tough to do.

Wherever: not just temptation, but menus loaded with pasta, bread, dessert, sauces…

I discovered two things:

1. order off the “ala carte” and the “appetizer” menu.

and, 2. Restaurants won’t subtract the bread or the cream sauce from your bill.


So what to do?  Grocery stores, small markets and farmer’s markets.  Berries, fish, local fruit.  These all work here on the West Coast where it is dungeness (Metacarcinus magister) season from Waldport, Or. to San Francisco and smoked salmon is everywhere all year round.  In summer, fresh fruits abound, but in February, pickins’ is scarce.

I recently fled the City and headed north to the beautiful Oregon Coast to spend time with friends and family.  I found myself hunting for that “perfect paleo-meal” by the sea.  I didn’t find it… alas … Plenty of great food, but nothing reasonably priced that fit the paleo- profile.

I had a lot of smoked fish and apples.  I also had fish and chips, some fabulous pureed asparagus soup, and, for breakfast, some fruit plates with chicken-apple sausages on the side (thank the Gods that coffee is still on the menu).  Salads with shrimp, crab, and just salads.  In Oregon, those yummy little red cranberries are ubiquitous: dried, roasted in things, chopped and baked, as garnish on salads and soups.  I found them delightful.  I found that ordering a crab cocktail in Bandon worked out well  – if you ask for the sauce on the side.   And, yes, it was garnished with cranberries.  The saute of crab and asparagus comes with a cream sauce they don’t list on the menu. for those who love them: mussels, oysters, and clams can be found in almost every restaurant worth its salt, and a few that aren’t.  The bowl of mollusks steamed in wine and herbs is a Northwest classic.  That and – yet another – salad, and it looks like dinner.

I did learn one lesson: traveling paleo won’t get you cheap meals.  I acquired a roomy picnic basket and some utensils.  Those farmer’s markets near roadside parks and wayside stops are a lifesaver fort he paleo traveler.    Since a good many are also equipped with wi-fi these days, I could check my e-mail over lunch while watching the Pacific roll in.

Well… that’s about it for travel for now.  I’ll post a re-visited pureed asparagus soup as soon as I deconstruct the recipe.

Meanwhile, tonight it’s an award dinner at the local university – so it’s salad again …

Bowl of Clams in Wine With Saffron

Arrange 10 or 15 clams or mussels in their shells (or both) in a sturdy pan one layer deep.  Pour 2 cups of white wine over all.  Add a good drizzle of a fruity extra virgin olive oil. If you still eat butter, add a goodly number of dollops.

Add: 2 or three minced garlic cloves, the same number of sliced shallots, salt, pepper to taste and 5 to 10 saffron threads (depending upon the strength).

Cover and steam gently on low heat or over a campfire until the clams fully open.  Garnish with chopped parsley and a  few lemon wedges tucked between the clams.  Serve at once.


Inspiration Potion

I got a special little container. It is green glass with the word “Inspire” etched into it.

Iron Venice Potion Bottles

So I made a magic potion:

1 Meyer lemon – shave off the zest, then quarter.  Add the whole fruit

1 or 2 satsuma oranges, quartered, again, add whole fruit.

3 green cardamom pods

one piece of star anise

1/4 tsp mahleb powder

1 cinnamon stick

pinch nutmeg

1 cup sugar

31/2 cups  water

5 saffron threads

Put everything into a crock pot or on the stove at the very lowest heat. Simmer until the sugar is fully incorporated and the steam is aromatic. Cool, strain through a seive and put it into your favorite decanter.  Serve either warm or chilled when you need a little inspiration.

Rainy Day Fish Stew

Making fish stew on a rainy day …

It’s not that difficult, you just have to love it into the stew pot.  Start by making a court bouillon:

Use all sorts of shells:

You can freeze these as you enjoy the meats and use in making your bouillon when you need them.  Use crab, lobster, shrimp, crayfish – saute in butter & saffron (four or five threads will do) until they are pink. (If already cooked, skip this part.)

Throw all of these into a pot with some water, vermouth or white wine, salt, pepper, a bundle of fines herbs tied into cheesecloth with a piece of twine, a little more saffron, crushed garlic and 2 or three quartered onions.

Add any fish bones or some scrap fish parts from the fishmonger (you may have to ask for these to be saved for you). The skin and bones of smoked fish adds a nice, rich smoky flavor to your court bouillon. If you don’t have any on hand, use a little smoked ham or bacon.

Simmer for about an hour.  Cool, then strain through sieve and set aside.

Make a roux.  Roux is an art form; There are several recipes and you can use either the “brown” roux New Orleans-style or the lighter classic French styles. Here is a site with photos describing the Louisiana style of roux:

I actually like to divide the fats in my roux into equal parts clarified duck or goose fat and butter (not clarified) and a few drops of olive oil.  I also rarely make the NoLA-style dark brown roux unless I am attempting a gumbo –  But – I live in California where these things are highly individual.  Roux freezes, so if you make too much, put the extra into the freezer.  A video that’s OK about the classic French style of making roux:

Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.  Set aside when you’ve achieved your roux.

Chop up:

2 peeled carrots, or a handful of “baby carrots”;  3 or 4 Brussels sprouts – cleaned and the ends chopped off.  Quarter your Brussels sprouts, or use them sliced like cabbage or whole, depending upon how you like them;  2 onions and 2 garlic cloves, rough chopped, and several chopped stocks of celery with the leaves  and the heart if you  have one.  Quarter one (you just need one) good, sweet tomato of any variety and add to the pot.

Add one bay leaf, more thyme than you think necessary; and, to taste, whole anise seed, a pinch of nut meg and salt and pepper.  You do not need to be careful about measurements, just season to taste – make this a couple of times and you will know what works for you.  Saute over a low heat until the onions are soft. When I made this earlier today, I used a leek (tossing aside the tough leaves for making stock), a half of a red onion left over from something else, and two big shallots.

When the onions are soft, add 1/2 cup of dry sherry and about a fourth cup of your roux. Sir and check for seasoning.  Heat up your soup kettle and pour in your court bouillon – you will need about 6 cups.  Add the vegetables, scraping the bottom of the pan for all the bits on the bottom.  Cook – very slowly – all day.  Around a half hour before dinner, add your favorite fish, both white and red, cut into mouth-sized chunks (not too small), some smoked fish (if you like it), a few large shrimps shelled and cut into pieces (again, not to small), and anything else you might like. Cover and cook, very gently at a low temperature, until the fish is done.  If you like some added spice, add in some chopped andouille, calabrese, or hot Italian sausage, cook well.  Serve.

If you want to make a real splash with your presentation, steam a few clams or mussels (add in the nectar when they are done), some squid (cleaned), and a couple of crab legs just before serving in a large tureen.   Garnish with chopped parsley and  it looks great at a party.

Add in a basket of fresh bread and a salad.

Music to cook by: The classic “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes:

Also for your inspiration – some rain music:

“Rainy Mood”

Gene Kelly – Singing in the rain

George Benson – Rainy Night In Georgia

A Rainy Night in Soho (Videoclip) – The Pogues