This past month, I had the privilege of photographing the April event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. I was super excited for this event because the teacher for the evening was Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo. I’ve been a big fan of Michelle Tam ever since I tried following a paleo diet once upon a time and received her cookbook from a friend. Although becoming paleo didn’t stick, I still love cooking from her cookbook, “Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans,” app and blog. It was also through her blog that I decided to buy an electric pressure cooker, which I love for stews and pot roasts — basically whenever I’m feeling in a meaty mood (although I’ve heard you can make a mean pot of beans in this thing). I’ve also used my instant pot pressure cooker to make soup, steam eggs and make congee. I’m not a pre-planner when it comes to dinner, so being able to make pulled pork at 5pm for dinner is pretty awesome.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Paleo Diet, it’s roughly a diet based on the types of foods that were supposedly eaten by early humans (or cavemen), consisting primarily of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food. The hardest part of the Paleo Diet, in my opinion, is the exclusion of grains. You can’t eat grains! No bread, flours, baked goods, rice, pasta, chocolate croissants — ouch. And no beans! But, you can eat lots of meat…and bacon. But what I’ve taken and learned from the Paleo Diet that I truly appreciate is: 1) Modern grains often lead to modern diseases, 2) Eat meat – but grass-fed and organic, and 3) Eat as little processed foods as possible. Plus, throwing a little fish sauce into everything to boost umami is a cook’s best friend, but I think those are more Michelle Tam’s words of wisdom than anything strictly Paleo.
But I digress. Getting back to the event, itself… The menu for the evening began with a tasty Mango & Avocado Salsa with Tostones.
The tostones, otherwise known as plantains, were a delicious grain-free alternative to chips. After the event, I tried making the salsa at home, and everyone loved it, except my oldest son who will not touch avocados for the life of him, let alone something that is both sweet and savory. Does anyone else have kids like that? I simply love dishes that are sweet and salty! Except for maybe coconut shrimp. There is something about coconut and shrimp that just does not sit well with me.
I did serve this yummy salsa (mango, red onion, avocado, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, lime) with tortilla chips instead of tostones because I’m a bit deep-fryer phobic. You can find Michelle’s Mango & Avocado Salsa with Tostones Recipe on her website.
The next course of the night was Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Sunnyside Salad.
I especially enjoyed the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, although I think just about anything wrapped in prosciutto would be delicious. Prosciutto has become a huge favorite in our household as we’ve pretty much banned all deli-meats due to nitrates. However, all that prosciutto contains is salt and pork – yay!
Here Michelle is wrapping the asparagus around the proscuitto, and then carefully cracking the egg.
Who doesn’t love a fried egg – yum!
Michelle adds the egg to the salad ever so gingerly as to not disturb that precious gooey yolk.
I just like this picture below because she looks so happy — fun to see people enjoying cooking and making others happy with their food!
The main course of the evening was Slow-Cooker Korean Grass-Ged Beef Short Ribs with Cauliflower Fried “Rice”.
These short ribs were absolutely delicious! So fall-off-the-bone tender and moist. They were made with Asian pear, coconut aminos (similar to soy sauce, but a little bit sweeter and without the soy), garlic, scallions, ginger, fish sauce, vinegar, chicken broth and garnished with cilantro.
I would love to try this recipe in both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker to compare the difference in taste when using each of these appliances, as in this test.
The Cauliflower Fried Rice is actually not really rice; however, in an attempt to replace the grains with vegetables, cauliflower that is finely chopped in a food processor is used instead.
It was hard to love the cauliflower fried rice because fried rice for me just has to be fried rice to truly be fried rice – ha! I think the cauliflower idea is a great way to incorporate more veggies into our diets, which I think most of us could definitely use, but if I’m going to indulge on carbs, I’d rather eat the real thing. My husband really enjoyed it, but he had no idea that she was making a version of “fried rice” and just thought it was some other interesting concoction. I do love how there is cauliflower that is already “riced” and conveniently sold fresh and frozen at Trader Joes, perfect for lazy cooks like me. I’ve added it to soups, and my kids gobbled it up with everything else, having no idea what it was — success!
Bacon in fried rice? Most definitely!
Finally, for dessert, we were served Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme.
Michelle didn’t have time to prepare this recipe, but I loved that it was made only with dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), coconut milk, egg yolks, chile powder, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Besides the dark chocolate, there was no additional sugar in this dessert, which I really appreciated, although it’s bitter chocolate flavor is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been know to down 88% cacao dark chocolate like nobody’s business, so I found it to be quite delicious and felt less guilty about eating it than other pot de cremes I’ve had in the past. You can find the Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme recipe on the Nom Nom Paleo website. I loved how each of her recipes could easily be found on her blog — pretty pictures, witty comments and all!
It was a wonderful evening, and the students did a great job, as usual! Check back next month for Chef David Lawrence of 1300 Fillmore in San Francisco. I can’t wait to enjoy his southern cooking again!
Have any of you tried the Paleo diet? Any success? I’d love to hear about it!