Last Sunday evening I returned from Primalcon 2013, a fabulously fun three and half day weekend of total immersion into paleo and primal diet and fitness. Although I didn’t participate in any of the fitness activities this year, I enjoyed short walks to and from the beach park each day along with wonderful lunches and dinners (even better than last year's food) that fit 100% with my eating style. Imagine being surrounded by 100+ people who share your commitment to real, whole, fresh foods, eating a produce and protein rich diet with healthy fats, eating as locally sourced food as possible, eating wild fish, grassfed meats, organic poultry, and other nutrient dense foods, and to getting or staying fit and physically active and finding ways to deal effectively with the stress and stimulation of modern life.
I heard some amazing stories of recovery from people who had lost large amounts of weight (some 100 pounds or more), gotten off of a variety of medications, and rid themselves of debilitating medical conditions running the gamut from Crohn’s, colitis and irritable bowel disorder to alopecia, chronic hives, and rare skin disorders, such as Hidradenitis Suppurativa by following a whole foods, real food paleo or primal style diet.
I reconnected with people I met last year and the year before (this was my third year of going to this annual event) and met new people. One of my new friends is Renee Sullivan of Julian, California, a graduate of the holistic nutrition program at SWIHA (Southwest Institute of Healing Arts) in Tempe, AZ, and a woman who has her own amazing success story of tremendous weight loss, renewed health and recovery.
Renee took my two five-week online cooking courses. We only exchanged emails and chatted briefly before Primalcon. Prior to the event, she collected the kitchen tools and equipment I would need for the two cooking classes I would teach. She met me at the airport and drove me to Whole Foods Market to shop, then to the beach house in Oxnard, CA, where she and I and other female presenters would stay for the weekend. She helped me prep and set up for the classes, assisted me throughout, and helped with cleanup. We had the opportunity to chat a lot over the weekend and struck up a friendship. We plan to work together on other events, including a Primalcon weekend in Lake Tahoe this fall.
Photo credit: Rachel Albert ©Copyright 2013
Not only is she an enthusiastic and vibrant woman, she’s also an up and coming blogger and food photographer. She took some lovely food photos during the Whole Foods Cuisine I & II classes for SWIHA. She also field tested a recipe for me after my return from the event, when I deconstructed and re-constructed one of the dishes we tried and really liked at Primalcon, Roasted Cauliflower with Marcona Almonds & Golden Raisins. We both had fun coming up with variations and sharing them over the ethers.
Using master fecipes
I’m a big fan of theme and variation cooking, mastering master recipes and ratios for ingredients, then varying the vegetables, meats, fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices to suit what’s in season, what’s on hand, and for variety week to week. The more you measure, follow recipes, and experiment with variations within the structure of a master recipe (think of it like a template), the more proficient you’ll become with turning out predictably good or even great food in less time and with greater ease. I teach you how to do that in my Garden of Eating cookbook and in my classes. This was just another opportunity for me to use the approach I know and love.
To make this dish, I started with one of my formulas for roasting vegetables, one I use on a weekly basis and teach my students. I took the basic procedure and proportions and looked at some recipes online for additional ideas and guidance with cauliflower. I’d roasted cauliflower once before but found the previous recipe ho-hum. The ideas I got from Chef David, who prepared dinners for all of us at Primalcon last Friday and Saturday evening in Oxnard, which took this dish to a whole new level. I’m excited to make a couple of other dishes that he made using rough notes about the ingredients and techniques he used, a fun challenge.
Roasted Cauliflower with Marcona Almonds & Golden Raisins
Prep: 15 minutes Cooking: 25 minutes Yield: 4 to 6 servings
The inspiration for this came from Chef David, an enthusiastic man who made dinner for everyone at Primalcon 2013, a weekend of total immersion into primal diet, fitness, and fun in Oxnard, CA. The day after I got home, I set out to recreate this dish. I added rosemary because it’s one of my favorite herbs to use with vegetables.
Marcona Almonds are imported from Spain. They’re shorter, rounder, softer, and sweeter than California almonds and usually sold roasted and salted. Sodium content can vary among brands; you may find you need to add more sea salt to the dish before serving. Be sure to toss the nuts with the veggies while they’re warm so the salt seasons them.
Photo credit: Rachel Albert ©Copyright 2013
* Notes: Do not use olive oil for this recipe. High heat damages it. Virgin avocado oil has a smoke point of 480F. Refined avocado oil has a smoke point of 520F. Both are suitable medium to high heat on top of the stove and temps above 350F in the oven. Other options include macadamia and almond oil, refined coconut oil, and ghee.
I use Ahuacatalan Avocado Oil imported by Storino's Quality Products and sold in farmers' markets, at Cost Plus World Markets, Luci's Healthy Market, Sprouts Markets, and Healthy Habit in the Phoenix Metro area and online. It is not denatured at oven temps the way olive oil is. It has a smoke point of 520©F.
1 medium head cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
2 to 3 tablespoons avocado oil (smaller amount for a smaller head; the larger amount for a larger head of cauliflower)*
2 teaspoons dried, powdered rosemary
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper or white pepper, optional
1/4 cup white or dark balsamic vinegar (one with no added sugar)
1/4 cup toasted Marcona almonds (see variations below)
1/4 cup golden raisins (see variations below)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt (Celtic, Lima, Himalayan, or Redmond Real Salt), or to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 to 425°F. Rinse cauliflower. Cut into quarters. Cut off and discard leaves and cores, then cut quarters into 1/2-inch-thick slices or wedges or into florets you can easily put in your mouth.
- Place cut cauliflower into a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with rosemary and pepper. Spread cauliflower in a single layer in a lightly greased baking dish or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake prepared cauliflower approximately 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is lightly browned or caramelized around the edges and easily pierced with the tines of a fork.
- Remove from oven and toss with balsamic vinegar, then with the almonds and raisins. Taste and adjust with finely ground unrefined sea salt, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Replace golden raisins with regular (sulfite-free) raisins or currants.
- Replace balsamic vinegar with champagne vinegar (start with 2 tablespoons; adjust as needed).
- Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to the cauliflower in step 2 above. Replace Marcona almonds with lightly toasted cashews or regular almonds, halved or coarsely chopped before being added.
Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic: Replace rosemary with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, then omit raisins and nuts. Replace them with minced capers, kalamata olives, or green olives with or without julienned sun dried tomato halves.
- Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika: Replace rosemary with 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, then omit raisins. Replace them with 1/4 cup of julienned sun dried tomato halves, if desired.
- Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Almonds, Dried Apricots & Cinnamon: In the master recipe, replace rosemary and pepper with 2 teaspoons cinnamon; replace raisins with coarsely chopped dried apricots, and use regular almonds, lightly toasted, then left whole or halved. Figure about 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt or to taste. Renee came up with this variation. ;-)
- Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Cashews & Curry Powder: Replace rosemary with 1 to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder in the master recipe, adding 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon black or white pepper. Replace balsamic vinegar with 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice. Use raisins or substitute minced dried apricots and replace the almonds with lightly toasted cashews.