Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Cooking for cavemen

Geico commercials don’t give cavemen enough credit. Eating like one is, in fact, not so easy.

That’s what I’ve learned cooking for Dave, who is on the Paleo diet, otherwise known as my worst nightmare: No carbs. No cheese. No butter. No salt. No diet coke. No alcohol. Sounds like a living hell, if you ask me.

The concept is that the healthiest diet involves eating what early man ate during the Paleolithic era (and before the agricultural revolution). That means absolutely no grains (bread, rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.), no dairy and absolutely nothing processed or sugary. Basically you can only eat “healthy veggies” (corn, potatoes, yams, root veggies and legumes are strictly verboten), lean meats and fish, fruits and water. Herbs, olive oil and spices are also allowed.

Dave’s attempting 30 days of this torture, and I am faced with my biggest culinary challenge yet: cooking without butter, salt or cheese. So I participated in another Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 as part of my first Paleo test. I am surprised to say the result was actually edible—dare I say appetizing.

I made two versions of one dish—one paleo, one not. Before I share insights from the taste test, take a gander at the recipes:

PaleoFISHic (Mahi Mahi with red pepper-avocado salsa and spicy cauliflower puree)

You’ll need:

2, 6-oz Mahi Mahi filets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Lime for squeezing

Salsa:

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 half avocado, cubed

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 quarter of one white or yellow onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 half of one jalapeno, minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Spicy cauliflower:

2 cups cauliflower florets, steamed

1 chipotle pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix the salsa ingredients together, being careful not to mush the avocado. Set aside or refrigerate for later.

Steam or boil the cauliflower until soft. Puree in a food processor along with remaining spicy cauliflower ingredients. Set aside.

Rub fish filets with the olive oil and spices and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Heat an olive-oil-drizzled pan on medium heat. Cook marinated fish filets for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the fish becomes flaky.

Serve the fish on a bed of cauliflower, topped with salsa. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

“Hell no, we won’t Paleo!” Mahi

You’ll need:

2, 6-oz Mahi Mahi filets

1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

lime for squeezing

Salsa:

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup black beans

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

1/2 cup corn

1 quarter of one white or yellow onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Mexi-mashed potatoes:

6 red potatoes, boiled

1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons butter

salt to taste

Mix the salsa ingredients together. Set aside or refrigerate for later.

Mash the boiled potatoes, skins and all, and mix in additional Mexi-mashed ingredients.

Rub fish filets with the olive oil and spices and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more. Heat a pan on medium heat, with butter. Cook marinated fish filets for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the fish becomes flaky.

Serve the fish on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with salsa. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

So how do the two recipes stack up?

To be honest, I’d choose the non-Paleo version any day of the week. HOWEVER, the Paleo version was actually mighty tasty, and generally tasted fresher and had bolder flavors. The potatoes and salt were the key ingredients that clinched it for me, though. As for the caveman, he cleaned his Paleo plate, and was very satisfied. Then he retreated back to his cave to watch West Virginia pummel Kentucky.

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15 comments

  • I have heard people swear by the paleo diet (for weight loss and overall health). I did something similar a few years back, “The Maker’s Diet.” I loved it and it has changed my entire outlook on eating. But like you, I love butter, cheese and shoot, sugar too. So it didn’t stick forever. Good job supporting him, and great job on the food!!!!

  • That diet sounds like the most miserable thing that could possible ever happen…but you are an amazing cook so I am sure the food came out pretty good too. Miss you lady

  • April 20, 2010 at 8:40 am //

    I showed dad and we both agree this paleo diet is pretty crazy but both of these actually look really good! I bought mahi mahi filets and I’m going to attempt making both versions…Ill let you know how it turns out! :)

  • Just an FYI
    Beans and corn are not part of the Paleo Diet.
    Legumes can offer some protein and nutrients, however, for the amount of carbs they contain and the stress it adds to your system (i.e. gas) they are not the best choice. There are other choices that offer more protein and nutrients minus the carbs and GI stress. Beans/Legumes are an “ok” choice, but Paleo is about making the BEST food choices.
    Corn is ultimately a grain, which is a Paleo no-no. Store bought corn you can be sure it is grown from GMO seeds. Also, think about it…corn is indigestible. Sorry for the yuck, but think about your trips to the bathroom after you have had corn. Our bodies can not digest it and therefore it causes stress on the GI tract. Corn does nothing for your body but cause insulin spikes.

    The recipes sound great, but I would omit the beans and corn to make it a ‘true’ paleo choice

  • Yup, actually, the corn and beans are part of the non paleo version of the recipe (the “hell no we wont paleo one) Sorry for any caveman confusion :)

  • Haha, ask and you shall receive! I actually have one in the queue for paleo “crackers” that are to-die-for (made with almond meal!) Coming soon!

  • I’ve been following as well as reading loads about paleo diets and i can categorically say that, despite many existing variations, most of them use BUTTER! Even those who otherwise eschew diary (mainly due to lactose and the fact that milk proteins sometimes mess up with glycemic index) usually make an exception with milk FAT, which is actually good for you, especially if it comes from the grass-fed cows (much higher in healthy omega3 acids).
    For example look up excellent Mark Sissons blog (http://www.marksdailyapple.com).

    So when i stumbled on your blog and this year’s new recipe i initially thought it was all about paleo :)
    I then realised you are doing it just for a month, which is great, but please do not stay away from butter! No need to… stay away from anything refined, pulses, carbs & sugar, and too much sweet fruit.

    Thanks for the cauliflower rice recipe, i can’t wait to try it, it might just solve my perpetual problem of how to substitute rice in the many asian ‘saucy’ recipes etc…

    Diana

  • Thanks Diana! Yes, I have since been using butter here and there and made my own ghee which is great! Glad you saw the cauliflower rice recipe, it is so PERFECT for all of those meals that need a little something extra to make you feel more satisfied.

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