The Paleo diet. It’s something you’ve probably been hearing a lot about lately, but what is it? As the name suggests, the diet mimics what cavemen of the Paleolithic era might have grazed upon — fruit, vegetables, roots, fungi, nuts, seeds, eggs, and pasture-raised, grass-fed animal protein. Followers of Paleo believe it aids in healthy digestion and weight loss, and prevents blood sugar spikes, systemic inflammation, and autoimmune-related diseases.
So what’s on the “NO” list? Grains, legumes, dairy, soy, added sugars, booze, white potatoes, vegetable oils, and processed foods. But the Paleo plate doesn't have to consist of just meat and veggies. My friend Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed and the upcoming Well Fed 2, is a cheerleader for creative Paleo cooking, and she’s been my inspiration when dabbling in “dino-chow.”
Loving a culinary challenge, I came up with the following recipe. It’s a Paleo-friendly spin on a Thai classic, in which I substitute roasted cashew for peanut butter (because peanuts are a legume), coconut aminos for soy sauce and zucchini peels for the rice noodles.
Paleo Thai Coconut Red Curry with Pork
Makes 6-8 servings
3-4 raw zucchini Sea or Kosher salt, as needed
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 divided cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 Thai bird chile, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (with only natural ingredients, like Thai Kitchen brand)
1/2 cup creamy roasted cashew butter (substitute any other nut or seed butter)
1 can coconut milk (15 oz), shaken
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (no salt added)
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
1-2 teaspoons coconut aminos
1-2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (like Red Boat brand)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (optional)
1 lime juiced, or more to taste
1 tablespoon honey (preferably raw)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toasted unsweetened coconut, toasted chopped cashews, chopped fresh cilantro
With a regular or julienne peeler, peel the zucchini into long strips to the cores (stop when you see seeds). Throw away the cores and put the strips in a colander over a bowl. Add a few heavy dashes of salt, enough to lightly coat all of the zucchini, and massage it in with your hands. Let the zucchini sit and let out excess moisture for 30-45 minutes, then rinse thoroughly under cool running water. Squeeze out excess water and set aside until ready for use (up to 24 hours in the refrigerator). Right before using, place in a clean dishtowel and squeeze out excess liquid. Use raw, or quickly sauté.
For the curry sauce, heat one tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add in the curry paste, garlic, and ginger and chile or (chili flakes), stirring constantly so nothing burns. Cook for about a minute and whisk in coconut milk, then the cashew butter. When smooth, whisk in the broth, then simmer over low heat.
Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the other 2 tablespoons of oil, and when it’s hot add the bell pepper and onion, stirring occasionally, and let cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. When vegetables are softened, add the curry sauce to this sauté pan. Stir to combine and let the curry come to a heavy simmer. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors marry.
Stir in the coconut aminos, fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, honey, and a pinch of pepper, adding more of any of these if needed. Add the pork and simmer for at least another 10 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
Serve hot over zucchini noodles and garnish with toasted coconut, cashews and cilantro.