Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pomegranate: Breakfast of Champions

I always start my day with a big helping of fruit. However, seasonality plays a major role in what's available. During the fall,  I cherish those sinfully sweet Honeycrisp apples. The ones that are available now are from South America and they do not taste as good as the domestic apples.

But this time of year is cause to rejoice, for we are in prime pomegranate season. Now for anyone that has tried seeding a pomegranate, you know what a giant hassle that can be. You can do it in the sink, but your sink will end up looking like Lizzy Borden just got done cleaning her entire axe collection.

The second easiest way to seed a pomegranate is to do it in a bowl of water. The seeds are heavy and sink to the bottom while the pith simply floats. But again, this requires a lot of work. And to get a decent size meal for one person, you actually have to seed two pomegranates. But now I will share my recipe on the easiest way to prepare a pomegranate breakfast. And all you need is your Costco Card.

Make your way to the fresh produce section at Costco and look for the package pictured above. A California company called PomWonderful has gone to all of the trouble of seeding the pomegranate for you. You simply pop the cap on a container and dig in with your spoon. Each package contains the seeds of 4 pomegranates. This two-serving, one pound package of pomegranate seeds sells for just $6.99, which is the cheapest price ever for a little bit of heaven.

When you bite into these seeds, you will be astounded by the taste. They are incredibly sweet, with just a hint of tartness. The seeds are very high in dietary fiber, packed with vitamins and nutrients and the health benefits of eating pomegranates have been proven in 44 clinical trials done in 2013. They taste great, they are good for you and your kids will beg for more! Get your butt to Costco. Now.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pan-Seared Spanish Steaks

I recently spent a lot of time researching wine clubs. I was interested in joining one because I wanted to spread my wings beyond my comfort zone. I have a pretty good knowledge of domestic reds and Italian wines from the Piedmont region, but there is so much more out there that I knew nothing about.

I started researching two of the most well-known wine clubs, The New York Times Wine Club and The Wall Street Journal Wine Club. As I got into it,  the Laithwaites Wine Club kept bubbling to the top. I had never heard of them, but the professional and customer reviews were extensive and very complimentary.

All of the clubs are priced about the same. Basically, once a quarter you get a case of wine for $150 (which means that each bottle runs a little over $12 each, which is quite a bargain). You can choose to have it be all reds, all whites or a mix of both. Wanting to learn more about reds, I opted for the all red plan.

The introductory offer was extraordinary: a case of world-class red wines for just $69.99. Now all of the clubs had similar introductory offers, but the reason I chose Laithwaites was that their reputation for offering exceptional wines was universal.  My first case arrived a couple of weeks ago and I opened the first bottle last night.

Each shipment includes an extensive review and analysis of the wines in the case. Every wine gets a two-page review that discusses the wine, the grape and the region. It also includes food pairing recommendations and actual notes from the wine maker. If you would like to know more about Laithwaites Wine, check out the link at the bottom of the page.

To fully understand and appreciate each of the wines, I am committed to prepare a meal indigenous to the wine region for each wine....and one that perfectly pairs with the wine. Last night we broke out a bottle of Pillastro Primivito 2011. It is the Italian version of Zinfandel. For the meal, I prepared tapas of cured meats, olives and cheeses from Puglia, Italy. The wine was absolutely remarkable and I intend to order a case of it.

The next bottle I am going to open from Laithwaites is a 2005 Las Barracas Gran Reserva from Catalunya, Spain. To pair with that wine, I am going to make this recipe of Pan-Seared Spanish Steaks. The pan-searing methodology is borrowed from Cook's Illustrated while the sauce is from the Food Network. The recipe serves two.  For a side, you can serve it with mashed potatoes. However, I prefer a Paleo version of "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes actually made with cauliflower: Let steaks rest on counter one hour before cooking to bring them to room temperature.

2 bone-in ribeye steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
Canola oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sliced Spanish olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450º (rack should be in the center) and place empty cooking pan (cast iron or steel) on center rack.
  2. Rub canola oil on the top of the steaks. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  3. After pan has heated for 30 minutes at 450º, turn a burner on top of stove to high. Using an oven mitt, remove pan from oven and place on burner. Sprinkle a little kosher salt in pan. Let it heat for five minutes.
  4. Drop steaks onto pan. Make sure steaks do not touch each other. Do not move steaks once they hit the pan. Sear for exactly 5 minutes.
  5. After 5 minutes, flip the steaks in the pan and place the pan in the oven. Follow these times exactly:  for medium rare, remove pan after 5 minutes; for medium, remove after 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the steaks from the pan, place them on a cutting board and tent with foil. Let them rest until the sauce is ready.
  7. Turn stove burner to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil, shallots and garlic to the still-hot pan and cook until they just begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and sherry vinegar and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until it has melted and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the olives. 
  8. Put each steak on a plate; spoon the sauce over the top and sprinkle with chives.

    Wine Pairing: Las Barracas Gran Reserva (Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon blend)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thai Quinoa Salad

I'm still trying to drop the holiday pounds, so it's the Paleo diet for me. That means no basmati rice, my chosen accompaniment to Thai dishes. Last night I made a favorite dish, Thai New York Strip Steaks with Lime Sauce ( So I wanted something that alluded to the texture of rice, but was a whole lot healthier.

My pantry held the answer...quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). Quinoa looks like a whole grain, but it is actually an edible seed. It is classified as a chenopod, which puts it in the same family as beetroots and spinach. A source of complete protein, it's also a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.

This salad is amazingly simple. You basically cook up a cup of quinoa, chill it and then throw in some veggies. You can certainly follow my list of vegetables, but feel free to add or substitute your own favorites. The crowning aspect of this salad is the vinaigrette, which I consider to be the finest salad dressing on Planet Earth. Not since the pre-dawn of man, when the first single-cell organism crawled out of the primordial soup, has anything ever tasted this good.

Now I used this recipe as the basis for a side dish. But it is very easy to turn this into an entree salad by adding some shredded crab, diced lobster or slices of grilled chicken breast. If you choose to serve this as an entree salad, it will make two servings. If you serve it as a side dish, this recipe will make four servings.


For the Salad
1 cup quinoa
2 cups of water
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced
4 scallions, whites and greens sliced in 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup grated or chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage

For the Greatest Vinaigrette Ever
1/2 cup fish sauce (Red Boat preferred)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup sugar
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and stem removed and finely minced


  1. Put 1 cup of quinoa in a pot along with 2 cups of water. Turn heat on high. When it comes to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from stove, fluff with a fork and then chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.
  2. Make vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Put chilled quinoa in a salad bowl. Add veggies. Whisk vinaigrette and add half to salad. Toss to mix and add more vinaigrette to taste. Serve.

Wine pairing: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was made for this dish. If you prefer a red wine, try Rombauer Zinfandel.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bacon Meatballs and Arugula Salad

Start of the new year, it is. And like most other people I know, I picked up a few pounds over the holidays. The frigid winter air has cost me my morning walk routine, so there went my 400-calorie burn every morning. Then the holidays fell during the week, which interrupted my daily noon workouts at CrossFit Edina.

So it's the first Monday in January and it is time to climb back on the "Paleo Only" bandwagon. So I'm going to share my Bacon Meatball and Arugula Salad recipe with you. It's a Paleo perfect way to enjoy a Spaghetti and Meatball dinner...without the pasta penalty. This recipe serves four and takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.


For the Meatballs
4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef (grass-fed preferred)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
2 eggs, beaten

For the Salad
8 to 10 ounces of arugula leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons reserved bacon drippings

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Cook bacon in skillet until starting to crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove and set on paper-towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons of drippings for dressing.
  3. Using the remaining bacon drippings, sauté onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  4. Combine bacon, cooked onion mixture, ground beef, bread crumbs, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in beaten eggs. Mix well.
  5. Form mixture into golf-ball size meatballs. Place meatballs on a broiler pan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. While meatballs are baking, make dressing. Combine, mustard, anchovy paste, vinegar, olive oil and bacon drippings. Whisk to mix.
  7. When meatballs are done, add arugula to a large salad bowl. Whisk the dressing and add to the bowl. Toss to mix and then divide arugula among serving plates. Add 2-3 meatballs to each plate and serve.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir