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I had incredibly delicious meal this past week. I didn’t have to plan it, shop for ingredients, prepare it, or even wash the dishes. I had dinner with two new friends and their four children. I met Felicia and Todd at PrimalCon, Mark Sisson’s primal diet and fitness conference in Oxnard, CA. I attended as a presenter. Felicia and Todd went as attendees. We shared meals, talked about cooking, favorite recipes, local sources for organic produce and grassfed meat in Phoenix, and reconnecting when we returned home after the conference.

Food by Todd
Todd’s the head chef of the house. Felicia’s his sous chef. Todd’s great with food. He’s never had any formal training in cooking. He has a pilots license and a degree in music and he’s worked as a general contractor for more than 10 years. Felicia thinks its the arts background that makes him so good with food. She said, “He reads and finds recipes, which he never follows. It’s hilarious! I will have something in my head to cook or a craving and, if I start it, he has to finish it for it to turn out, or he will just whip it up.” She cleans, he cooks. He reads and cooks from Food & Wine and Bon Appetit magazines, Mario Batali’s books, and others, modifying recipes to make them grain-free and paleo- and primal-perfect.

He gets the techniques from what he reads, then improvises from there. He sets out to make things that many, if not most, people wouldn’t even imagine making, like the chocolate cake from the cover of the  December 2010 issue of Bon Appetite with frosting fashioned to look like ribbons on a wrapped present.

Todd made the cake as directed, down to the ribbons made with fondant put through a pasta maker. Todd breezed through the two day construction project. Felicia told me that Todd didn’t really care about eating the cake or the frosting. He’s not big on sweets although he enjoys them every now and then, if they’re not too sweet. He tackled it for the challenge.

Dinner at Chez Todd
Last Wednesday night, I went to Felicia and Todd’s for dinner. When I arrived they were working on a salad. Todd tended to a pot of simmering purple cauliflower and onion slices, and then seasoning lamb riblets, then seared them in duck fat in a cast iron skillet and transferred the skillet to the oven to finish cooking. Next, he went  back to the salad, added  the last couple of ingredients, and set about plating it. The food looked phenomenal, even before they finished cooking, and smelled fantastic.

We started with an arugula salad with golden beets, slivers of fennel and red onions, raw, local goat cheese, and toasted pine nuts in a light and lemony dressing and pan-seared lamb riblets finished in the oven and served with a mustard sauce, accompanied by a purple cauliflower and onion puree (faux mashed potatoes). Everything tasted divinely delicious!

I brought dessert––three flavors of non-dairy coconut milk ice cream from my Ice Dream Cookbook: Avocado, Almond Butter & Jelly, and Cinnamon that we served with Karly’s Cocoa Sauce, also from my Ice Dream Cookbook. Felica, Todd, and their kids loved them.

The morning after
After eating the meal, I knew I wanted to recreate it at home even if I had to do it in stages with different dishes on different days. The next morning, I set out to make a facsimilie of the salad Todd  made. I didn’t have golden beets on hand; I had organic red beets from a local farmers’ market. I got them boiling first thing in the morning, then peeled, sliced, and chilled them. I didn’t have arugula so I substituted baby spinach. I had soft goat cheese, pine nuts, but no fennel bulb. I subbed celery. In place of red onions I used scallions. I whipped up a lemonette (my version of vinaigrette using lemon juice). Delicious!

I knew I wanted to recreate what Todd made, even if I had to do it in stages. The next day I set out to make a facsimilie of the salad. I didn’t have golden beets so I used organic red beets from a local farmers’ market. I boiled, peeled, sliced, and chilled them. I didn’t have arugula so I substituted baby spinach. I had soft goat cheese and pine nuts, but no fennel so I subbed celery. In place of red onions I used scallions. I wmade Lemonette Dressing (my version of vinaigrette using lemon juice) from The Garden of Eating. Yum! I’ll use golden beets, fennel, and red onion next time.


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