We all knew it had to happen. Michelle Tam of NomNomPaleo.com fame, has cooked and cursed her way into our hearts and bellies, and now she can adorn your bookshelf.
I hear ya: “WHAT?! Another Paleo cookbook!” Oh yes, but you’ll want this one. Besides, it has one of those cool fabric bookmarky thingies like all the big hardbacks of yore. Fancy!
What’s clear from the beginning is how much of a labor of love this was for Michelle and the entire NomBomb crew (Henry from FitBomb.com and their two kids, Big O and Little O). The whole family pitched in with design, recipe testing, photography, marketing, and patience.
As we learn, Michelle has always been an unrepentant food lover. Surrounded by the myriad restaurant options in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, this effectively amounts to a full contact sport. She and Henry plan travel around interesting places to eat, sampling cuisines in far-flung locales like Japan and Italy. She lucked out with having a trained chef in the family—her sister. But far from being a merely passive food spectator, Michelle was interested in the behind-the-scenes action, observing the greats and learning their techniques to use at home. And it’s this detail that sets this book apart from any other Paleo cookbook I’ve read.
The first clue to this attention is her constant focus on umami. Common sources of umami are fish sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, spinach, and anchovies. From Wikipedia:
Umami has a mild but lasting aftertaste that is difficult to describe. It induces salivation and a sensation of furriness on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth. By itself, umami is not palatable, but it makes a great variety of foods pleasant, especially in the presence of a matching aroma.
The second clue is she lays out Paleo principles in entertaining cartoon fashion for the uninitiated and gives her best kitchen tips to make Paleo cooking as stress-free as possible. She shares techniques and tricks that can elevate even the simplest weekday meal with little extra effort.
Yeah, yeah, but how’s the food?!
I tried really, REALLY hard to pick something adventurous to try, like the Whole Roasted Branzini. But I kept salivating over the Slow Cooker Kalua Pork and Coconut Pineapple “Rice”. And I decided the Plátanos Maduros would be delightful on the side. CONFESSION TIME: I’ve been experimenting with a low histamine diet and having some promising success with it, and there is nothing about that meal that is remotely low histamine. So—and this proves the depths of my love for Michelle and her food—I pre-funked with some good ol’ histamine-busting supplements and soldiered on.
And thank goodness! With only 4 ingredients (pork shoulder, bacon, garlic, and salt) and a toss into the slow cooker, it’s by far the most flavorful food that can come from such little effort. Its succulent meatiness is wonderfully complemented with the riced cauliflower topped with pineapple and scallion. Cooking the cauli with coconut milk helps tame that sulfurous brassica note and gives it a pleasingly smooth flavor and texture. And you’ll have tons of leftover pork for using in whatever ways your imagination can conjure. I whipped some up the next morning with the cauliflower leftovers, fried-rice style, with some egg yolks. As for the plantains, for some reason, my grocery co-op hasn’t had any for a few weeks. Undeterred, I went forth with some barely-yellow bananas, coating them with the coconut flour and frying them up in some coconut oil. If you, too, are forced into this substitution, just know that bananas are a lot less starchy than plantains, and might get mushy. So don’t attempt with bananas with any brown spots.
Because we’ve been snowed in for a while, and because cardamom is one of my favorite spices, the Carrot + Cardamom Soup beckoned me. This is a real simple soup, but so warm and cozy you’ll be tempted to curl up in the bowl. I topped it with roasted chicken for some protein, and it made a satisfying lunch that would be perfect for toting to the office or wherever your day may take you.
For a quick post-gym dinner, I attempted the Crispy Smashed Chicken and Classic Coleslaw. I say “attempted” because there were a few hitches entirely my fault and not the fault of the recipes. (Let this be a warning to you! Obey the Nom Nom, she knows of what she speaks!) The chicken turned out great. It might be the first straight-up chicken breast I’ve eaten and enjoyed in recent memory. Be sure to be patient in order to get that crispy crust, no flippy-flippy, futzing-around-with-the-meat action (*ahem*). This recipe is a good opportunity to try another restaurant trick, which is to put a weight on top of the chicken as it cooks. You can use a cast iron pan or a brick wrapped in tinfoil. I topped it with a pineapple salsa that didn’t bear enough resemblance to the one in the book, but I will say that Michelle’s Spicy Pineapple Salsa and Coconut Pineapple “Rice” are great companions to use up a pineapple in the same week.
Where I went astray is with the coleslaw. Because I’m lazy, I used my food processor to shred the cabbage, and it ruined the texture for me. It had a gloppy feel, reminiscent of KFC coleslaw, which is not a pleasant memory. This is not a corner worth cutting, so I recommend a thin slice with a knife like the recipe says. But the dressing was solid—a nice creamy, non-dairy option that makes use of the Paleo Mayonnaise in the book. I might sneak a hit of vinegar into it next time I make it.
So even though I dove headfirst into the book, I’m still thinking about what I want to try next. Tonight, the Lamb Chops + Mint Chimichurri are on deck, and I’m looking forward to her flavor enhancers, like Dukkah and Magic Mushroom Powder. It’s one cookbook I’ll be returning to time and again. Thanks Michelle!