I’m past the halfway mark in my 30-day low-to-no carb diet right now. Although nothing beats a New York City bagel, it’s just not on the menu. So I went with organic Romain lettuce instead.
I removed the thick central stalk from several washed lettuce leaves, then cut each half in half, placing the lettuce on a large plate. Then I stacked: a small cube of cream cheese, followed by a slice of hard-boiled egg, followed by a thin slice or two of onion, a few capers, and finally, the lox. Each lettuce leaf made a bite-sized wrap.
Delicious? Yes. But I still missed the bagel.
Pasta is not something I’m currently eating on my low-carb diet. But it’s a great recipe I wanted to pass on to others.
Sometimes the simplest dishes are the toughest to execute well. Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of those dishes. All you need is pasta, olive oil, raw eggs (separated), guanciale, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pepper. (Real carbonara doesn’t use cream.)
You boil the pasta. Chop the guanciale (cured pork cheeks or jowls) and saute in a pan with the olive oil. Do not drain the fat. Drain the pasta and drop it into the pan with the guanciale, adding about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Shake it around for a minute and remove from the heat. Add some of the cheese and the egg whites, season with pepper, and mix the pasta well. Separate into bowls, making a nest with the pasta. Add an egg yolk to each, sprinkling more cheese on top. What could go wrong, right?
There’s a lot to be said for finesse!
I make my own guanciale. I buy Berkshire pork jowls and cure them. Then they go through a drying phase for a few weeks before I wrap and freeze them in chunks. Whenever a dish calls for guanciale (my daughter loves it on pizza), I simply unwrap some, let it thaw, then chop it up and saute it. The fat in the pork jowls is very different from other parts of the pig, and there’s no replacing that flavor. When making Spaghetti all Carbonara, some cooks replace the guanciale with pancetta or bacon, but that’s not for me.
It’s also important to note that this dish relies a lot on fat, so good fat is really important. Berkshire pork fat has good fat. Organic butter has good fat. And the cheese? Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t called “The King of Cheeses” for no reason!
I decided to make a Not-Quite-Carbonara dish. I say “not quite” because I left out the eggs, which my daughter doesn’t like. It still came out pretty damn good…
1 lb. pasta (we like bucatini over spaghetti)
1 lb. Berkshire pork guanciale, chopped into small (1/4″) cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Boil the pasta to the just-before-al dente stage.
In a large saucepan, heat the guanciale and olive oil until the fat has rendered. Do not drain the fat. Turn the heat off, add the butter and let it melt.
Drain the pasta and drop it into the pan with the guanciale, stirring the pasta around to coat with the ingredients. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with pepper, still mixing.
Distribute the pasta into individual bowls, making sure everyone gets the tasty bits of guanciale. Sprinkle some more of the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Serve immediately.
On my low-carb/no carb diet, I can enjoy pork, chicken, beef…any carnivorous delight I choose. What makes them bad for me is the rub and sauce that I put on them, which usually has a good amount of sugar. So I came up this alternate pork rib dry rub recipe.
I used the juice of two oranges in this recipe, but it’s mainly in the marinade which is later poured off. With 5 pounds of ribs, I think the carb intake is minimal. Using the orange zest adds extra citrus flavor.
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 tablespoons good quality (not the expensive stuff) balsamic vinegar
5 lbs. Berkshire pork ribs (I like the St Louis style)
In one bowl, combine the zest of 2 oranges, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 3 tablespoons of seasoned salt. Combine so that the zest dries out. Set aside.
Cut the ribs into smaller pieces. I like making double-rib cuts and not single. Place all the ribs in a large Ziploc bag.
In another bowl, combine the juice of the 2 oranges (about 1 cup) and 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar. Mix the two well then pour into the Ziploc bag with the ribs to marinate for at least a couple of hours at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 450°.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil with extra over the sides. Remove the marinated ribs from the bag and lay them down on the foil, trying to keep them in one layer.
Sprinkle both sides of the ribs with the orange zest, salt and pepper seasoning. Rub it into the ribs well. Fold the foil over, wrapping the ribs tightly.
Placed the sheet pan with the ribs in the oven and cook at 450° for 30 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 325.
Cook for 2 hours more, then open up the foil and cook another hour.
Of course, if you’re not on a low carb diet, feel free to slather these bad boys with your favorite sauce. My grapefruit barbecue sauce would work well with these: http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-qX
I’ve bought many burger presses in my day, and I’ve found that the meat gets stuck inside them after pressing, making removal somewhat difficult. Some presses have so many parts to them, they get lost in my cabinet or jam up the dishwasher. Frankly, every one that I’ve bought over the years was a waste of money.
Chances are, somewhere in your storage area, you’ve got a wide mouth Mason jar with a metal top, composed of a flat lid and the band that goes around it and screws onto the jar top. As long as they’re not rusty, you can use them to make perfect quarter-pound burgers. If they are rusty, you can buy a half-dozen lids and bands for just a few bucks in any supermarket.
I get my burger meat in 1-lb. packs. If they’re frozen, I let them thaw wrapped. Then I cut the meat into quarters, simply eyeballing it. Each quarter-pound of meat fits quite nicely into the Mason jar top. I flip the top over and press down to compact it, then push the flat lid through the band, and out pops a perfect quarter-pound burger.
Once I’ve got all my burgers made, I place them on a small sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil and keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to cook.
The lid and band go in the dishwasher, and can be used over and over.
It’s always a challenge when you’re on a diet. I’m going no alcohol and low-carb to lose some weight. (Down 6 lbs. in 5 days so far.) My wife needs to include gluten-free food in her diet, though she can have a few carbs. Fish is a great source of protein, and we love it sauteed in a little butter and olive oil with Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic seasoning on it. But let’s face it, that gets old after a while, and we all know there’s nothing tastier than fried fish.
Rather than using a heavy beer batter like I used to do (damn good and easy to do:http://wp.me/p1c1Nl-en), I came up with a very light gluten-free-flour-based seasoning that gave the fresh-caught local fish we bought incredible flavor and crunch without a carb overload and without gluten. Damn good, and I have to say, you’d never know the difference.
There are many gluten-free flours out there now, and all you need to do is substitute them cup-for-cup in any recipe you have. I’ve tried Bob’s Red Mill (OK), King Arthur (better), and Pamela’s (very good–what I used for this recipe.) I’ve just ordered the latest: Cup 4 Cup, created by chefs that include the famous Thomas Keller, which we tasted at Mario Batali’s Del Posto restaurant in New York City recently. They have about 12 different pasta dishes on their menu, and each one has a gluten-free option using the Cup 4 Cup flour. They were fantastic!
1 cup flour (all-purpose or gluten-free)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
fresh locally caught fish fillets of your choice (I used fluke and ocean perch)
Organic GMO-free canola oil or avocado oil for frying
In a flat bowl you will use to dredge the fish fillets, combine the flour, salt and pepper, parsley, oregano, granulated onion and garlic, and paprika.
In a separate flat bowl, scramble the 2 eggs.
Pour about 1/2″ of the oil in a pan and heat to medium-high heat.
Dip the fish fillets first in the eggs, coating well. Then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing down on both sides, so the flour mixture really sticks to the fish. Then shake the fillet lightly to remove the excess flour and gently lay the fillet in the hot oil. Fry until golden.
We made a quick and delicious tartare sauce using mayonnaise, dill pickle relish and Maille sauterne mustard.