Tag Archives: citrus

5 Paleo Flavor-Making Juggernauts

5 Flavor BoostersThink back to the best meal you’ve ever had…go ahead, I’ll wait a moment. What was special about it? The flavors…complex yet subtle, layered by the chef to compliment each other left you with an experience. Far from plain chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, right? With a little know-how and a bit of creativity, you can make super tasty, rockstar-status meals.

It’s all about balancing flavors (this could be a long lesson but I’ll keep it to the basics). For novice cooks, try working with this simple triad: salt, acid and aromatics. For example, if a dish just tastes flat, try adding an acid like vinegar or citrus juice to brighten it up.

If you want to go a bit further, you can play with notes of bitter, savory (umami) and spicy.

You can create big flavors, too and it’s as simple as having these five Paleo-friendly, taste-tickling juggernauts on hand. These are my must-haves that I always have around my kitchen.

Vinegars

The options are pretty endless here and it’s generally accepted that vinegars (except for malt vinegar…derived from grain) are Paleo-friendly. Besides the obvious use in dressings or condiments, vinegar is a great way to add a bright note to veggies or heavy dishes like stews.

My favorites: apple cider, balsamic and white wine vinegars

Salts

Okay, this one can be controversial. Some folks who follow a very strict Paleo template don’t use any salt. At all. I tried this when I started Paleo 4 years ago, and it made food pretty boring. By avoiding processed foods, the amount of sodium intake in your diet is already substantially lower. As someone who enjoys cooking and my food, salt is part of the game. I use regular salt during cooking to adjust the overall flavor and sometimes flavored finishing salts as a very light sprinkle before serving. Which type of salt is best? Read this article from Chris Kresser for a comprehensive answer.

My favorites: Maldon Sea Salt flakes, smoked sea salt (pictured), truffle salt

Citrus Juice and Zest

DSC_0033Another option for adding a note of acidity or brightness to your food. Besides the obvious lemons and limes, you may want to experiment with others like grapefruit for savory foods (one of my favorite ceviche recipes uses grapefruit juice). If you’re throwing the zest out with the spent fruit rinds, though, you’re missing a gold mine of flavor! The outermost, colored layer of the skin (not the white pith underneath) contains the citrus oils that make the fruit so fragrant. I use a microplane grater to remove the zest and toss it in everything from dressings and marinades to desserts.

My favorites: lemons, limes and grapefruit

Aromatics

DSC_0035 These form the backbone of your dish…the flavor foundation everything’s built on. Used in cooking from cultures around the world, they can be used as a dominant note (think garlic chicken) or as a subtle layer. I always have plenty of aromatics hanging around! The powdered / ground form is useful for some dishes (especially where you don’t want to introduce a lot of extra moisture) though I lean toward the fresh variety just because the flavor is so much more pronounced.

My favorites: onion, garlic, and ginger

Fresh Herbs

DSC_0037Fresh herbs are so great! Not only are they relatively inexpensive, it’s easy to grow your own no matter your space constraints, from pots on a balcony to huge backyard gardens. Heartier fresh herbs like rosemary hold up well to cooking (like in Rosemary Balsamic Butternut Squash) while more delicate leaves like cilantro do better in cold applications (because they’ll wilt otherwise). They’re great to sprinkle on top of a finished dish for another layer of flavor or to brighten up the colors on a plate.

My favorites: flat leaf parsley, mint and rosemary

Let me know what your flavor-making essentials are in the comments below!

Citrus-Garlic Marinated Steak

Citrus-Garlic Marinated Steak | stupideasypaleo.com I’ve just returned from a week-long trip to London and Paris, hence how quiet I’ve been on the site here. If you’ve left a comment or sent an email, it will take a bit longer than usual but rest assured I’ll get back to you. I love traveling and discovering new foods, but I also really like getting back to my kitchen so I can make my favorite recipes and think of new ones.

This simple marinated steak was great over a fresh garden salad – use any veggies you’d like – served with some guacamole on the side. Or it’d make an awesome filling for my Simple Paleo Tortillas! If you don’t like beef, you could use chicken or pork. I bought some inexpensive steaks and cut them into strips for quick cooking. Alternatively, you could keep the meat whole, marinate it, grill it and then slice into strips once it’s cooked.

Ingredients for Citrus-Garlic Marinated Steak

  • 1 lb. of steak, cut into strips
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 orange and 1 lime
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions for Citrus-Garlic Marinated Steak

  1. Put the steak strips in a large bowl.
  2. Add the zest and juice of the citrus fruit, olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and pepper. Stir the ingredients thoroughly.
  3. Let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 30-60 minutes for best results. Stir once or twice as it’s marinating.
  4. When ready to cook, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add about half the steak. If it gets overcrowded it won’t brown. I cooked about 1.5 minutes on each side for medium.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the meat.

Zesty Tangerine Sauce

Zesty Tangerine Sauce | stupideasypaleo.com

This is a really simple recipe that would be great on salmon or chicken and adds a great tang and slight sweetness. If you can’t find tangerines, oranges would be a great substitute. Using the zest guarantees more flavor than using just juice alone.

Ingredients for Zesty Tangerine Sauce

Directions for Zesty Tangerine Sauce

  1. Add all the ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn to low and reduce until ~1/4 cup of liquid remains. You want the sauce to be slightly thickened.
  3. Serve over your cooked protein of choice.

The Easiest Way to Cut Orange Segments

The fancy schmancy term for the orange segments is “supremes” (pronounced su-prehms). You can call them segments…I won’t tell anyone. Works with any citrus fruit.

  1. Wash the fruit. DSC_0683
  2. Cut the top and bottom off. DSC_0684 2
  3. With a sharp knife, cut the rind off in sections by moving from top to bottom all the way around the fruit. DSC_0686 DSC_0685
  4. Make a cut on each side of the inner membrane.  DSC_0687
  5. The segment should release quite easily.  DSC_0688
  6. Continue until the entire fruit is done.

*Hint: steps 4-6 work best if you hold the fruit in your hand but I couldn’t photograph it that way by myself.

Citrus Avocado Salad with Chicken

Citrus Avocado Salad with Chicken | stupideasypaleo.com The inspiration from this recipe came from a hip, local eatery here in San Diego called Craft & Commerce. Their version of this salad comes with fried goat cheese – and would put me on the express train to Stomachacheville – but the rest is absolutely divine. I served mine with Easy Pan-Fried Lemon Chicken because it’s already got a bright, citrusy flavor.

Prep time: 15 min     Cook time:  0 min     Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients for Citrus Avocado Salad with Chicken

  • 6-8 cups of arugula (rocket) or spinach
  • 2 small oranges, cut into segments
  • 1 grapefruit, cut into segments
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Pickled Jicama, optional
  • Top with Easy Pan-Fried Lemon Chicken or any other protein of choice, if desired

Directions for Citrus Avocado Salad with Chicken

  1. Place the arugula down on the bottom of the plates. 
  2. Zest one orange and the grapefruit into a small bowl. Cut the both oranges and grapefruit into segments over the bowl to catch any juice. Squeeze the rest of the juice from the membranes!! Set the juice aside.
  3. Top each salad with the segments from one orange, half a grapefruit, and ~1/4 cup of pickled jicama if desired.
  4. In the bowl with the juice, add a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk in the olive oil to make a simple vinaigrette (you should have about 3 Tablespoons of juice, and if your fruit didn’t yield enough you could always add the juice of a lemon).
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and top with chicken or your protein of choice.