Joanna from our review team is back to give her review of Arsy Vartnian’s new beautiful book, The Paleo Foodie Cookbook. We’ve personally really enjoyed her first book, The Paleo Slow Cooker, very much, and her beautiful blog, Rubies and Radishes is always a joy to read with interesting flavors and excellent round ups! Joanna always does a wonderfully thorough job of reviewing cookbooks, and her review of The 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook has been one of our most visited review posts! Joanna likes to photograph all the dishes she reviews herself, and because of her love of travel, she offers the perfect perspective for this review. Make sure to read all the way to the end of this post for your chance to WIN a copy of The Paleo Foodie Cookbook.
My mom likes to say, “I love to cook, but hate to make dinner,” meaning that there is often no joy in rushing through the process of getting something on the table night after night. Arsy Vartanian’s latest cookbook, The Paleo Foodie, helps fill the space between elegant dining and the weeknight dash to the finish. It might be true that some of her recipes require long braises or many dish components, but I was equally as able to find recipes that fit our nightly routine and filled our kitchen with exotic fragrances and our bellies with great food.
When I first saw the title of The Paleo Foodie, I made some totally incorrect assumptions. I thought that it would be filled with mango gastriques, balsamic reductions, kumquat gelees, foams, and offal galore. Instead, The Paleo Foodie is about simple preparations and bold flavors (with a small amount of offal, of course). Arsy showcases her Armenian heritage with many Middle Eastern inspired recipes, and these are the standouts.
For those of you who live outside of North America, you will be pleased to know that Arsy also lists her ingredients in grams/milliliters as well as cups/tablespoons —a thoughtful touch that won’t be lost on paleoistas across the pond and down under.
It’s really all about how it TASTES, so let me offer a few thoughts on what I tried:
Balsamic Rosemary Roasted Chicken and Yams
This recipe was incredibly simple to prepare and resulted in yams that were absolutely sensational. My husband and I actually fought over the balsamic infused onions, so if you have palates like ours, I’d recommend doubling the onions and vinegar. Yum! The recipe does not call for this, but I deglazed the pan a few extra times while cooking the onions for fear I might burn them. Be careful to watch your heat, especially if you are using a highly conductive Dutch oven.
My husband could not get enough yams, and in fact, he chastised me for not doubling the recipe like he asked. There’s no higher praise for a recipe than that, so I guess I will be making this again sometime soon!
I made an amateur cook’s mistake on this recipe and substituted bone-in chicken breast, which was on sale, in place of the chicken legs and thighs called for in this recipe. The overall effect was a much too dry piece of meat (whoops!) Tandoori, a style of cooking in a clay oven, is inherently a dry style of cooking, which Hubs wasn’t expecting. I think he was hoping for gravy-laden Butter Chicken. With the right meat, this dish will be really lovely. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I have a very high spice threshold, (to the chagrin of my mother and mother-in-law whenever I cook for them) and I actually found this dish to be spicy even for me. If you are heat averse, dial-down the cayenne by a factor or two.
This recipe calls for fenugreek, which I just so happened to have sitting around from one of my previous trips to the local Indian spice depot. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in an international food haven, you may need to special order it online.
Pepper and Carrot Puree
(Pictured below with Salmon Cakes)
Wow! What a bang-up recipe! The combination of roasted red pepper and carrots danced in my mouth with a hint of brightness from the balsamic vinegar. I practically laid my face in my plate with delight. Don’t let this recipe’s humble table presentation fool you; it will impress your family and your guests. This is an absolute must-make recipe. Do yourself the favor, though, and roast your peppers and boil your carrots the night before to maximize your time.
Sweet Potato Salmon Cakes
My husband, who made dinner one evening, executed this recipe to the letter, and it worked perfectly. Arsy has you coat your cakes with egg whites, which provides the perfect crispy crust. Everything tasted good together, too, but I came away from dinner feeling a bit underwhelmed. Maybe it needed more salt; maybe it was the creamy consistency (I prefer lumpier cakes); or maybe it was simply that it was canned salmon, not fresh—to be honest, I’m really not sure what didn’t do it for me, but I will likely skip over this next time I pull The Paleo Foodie off the shelf.
I hugely appreciate Arsy’s effort to offer inexpensive options, so I wouldn’t shy away from giving this recipe a whirl, especially if inexpensive, pantry accessible protein is important to you.
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
As a connoisseur of all things Brussels sprouts I knew I had to try this recipe. It was easy to execute and amplified my favorite part of this cruciferous veggie—it’s creaminess! Even better, the next morning this dish made the perfect bed to top with runny fried eggs.
Paleo Koofteh (Persian Meatballs)
Hubs also made me a birthday dinner, so I specifically asked for these meatballs. Having little familiarity with traditional Persian food, I feel a little ill-equipped to provide thoughts on the recipe’s authenticity. Initially, I felt like there was actually just too many flavors and components going on, but the leftover meatballs were far more harmonious on my palate. There was mint and saffron and turmeric (oh my!) I was transported as I tried this exotic meal. I highly recommend this as a make-ahead dish to let your flavors meld and mellow.
Smoked Salmon Nori Wraps with Wasabi Mayo
For a quick lunch, I threw a single roll together. I must admit to you that I took a short cut and simply mixed some wasabi powder into my pre-made mayo. If you do that, a single roll takes no time at all, and elevates a simple meal between errands from boring to quite delicious. Remember to keep your wasabi fresh for maximum potency. Arsy has graciously let us share the recipe for this nutrient dense and flavor packed snack – see below!
- 4 sheets of Nori
- 8 pieces (4 oz) of smoked wild salmon
- 1 English Cucumber, jilienned
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 4 tbsp of Homemade Wasabi Mayo (or 2 tsp of Wasabi Powder blended with a cup of your favorite Paleo Mayo, like Joanna did)
- Place one sheet of nori on a flat surface. Place 2 pieces of salmon, some cucumber and carrot, and 1 tablespoon of wasabi mayo, about 2 inches from the bottom edge.
- Starting with the bottom edge, roll the nori around the fillings, pressing gently while you roll. The edges of the nori will stick together if slightly moistened; run warm water over your finger, then run your finger along the inside edge of the top flap. Press the moistened edge to the roll to seal. Repeat with remaining rolls.
- Cut each roll into 6 pieces.
So, there you go. In just one week I was able to cook up a storm with The Paleo Foodie, trying new flavor combinations and preparation techniques. Best of all, I think I found some new family favorites and explored some other parts of the world. I know you will too with The Paleo Foodie. Happy cooking!
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