Yesterday evening was the third meeting of our Supper Club, which meets once a month. (See posts on our Indian and Italian dinners.) The theme, as usual, was chosen by the hosts, and this time it was a journey back in time, titled “The Food Revolution.” In an attempt to recreate the Primal Lifestyle diet, we ate no grains, and had a meal high in fat and protein instead. The entire menu was selected by the hosts who then distributed recipes for each guest to make – a fancy take on the traditional potluck and a great way to involve everyone, while creating less work for the hosts.
Here’s some background: “The general idea behind the Primal or Paleolithic model for the human diet is that humans have not evolved the ability to optimally digest grains. In fact, our digestive systems today are hardly, if at all, different from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. With the agricultural revolution came the ability to store carbohydrate energy in the form of grains, which had a very long shelf life when compared to meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Unfortunately, because our digestive systems did not evolve in step with the agricultural revolution, humans’ optimal source of energy is not carbohydrate – it is fat. The main issue with grains, however, is not that they are actually mildly toxic to humans, but that they elicit an inordinately large insulin response (spike) when eaten. Over time, this leads to the human body becoming de-sensitized to insulin, which, in a gross oversimplification, leads to diabetes. A large body of research, as well as a plethora of empirical evidence, supports the claim that the problem with diabetes and obesity is a direct result of excess consumption of carbohydrates, particularly the processed kind.” (Thanks to my brilliant husband for that explanation.)
The feast began with hors-d’oeuvres served in the living room: sautéed shrimp with garlic aioli dipping sauce and goat cheese-and-pecan-stuffed medjool dates.
Dinner was then laid out on the table and the spread was spectacular, not only to my wondering eyes but also my growling belly. I’m sure yours will start to respond shortly, as well!
For salads, there was the Brightly Coloured Vegetable Salad with Chermoula Dressing that was my responsibility. Brimming with sliced red, green, and yellow bell peppers, grated carrots, and green beans, it had a ton of flavour from the garlicky chermoula, which is a type of pesto made from cilantro and parsley. This will definitely go in my recipe files for future use.
Then there was the Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing. Yes, you heard correctly – the actual dressing is made with the leftover bacon fat after cooking the bacon for the garnish. The spinach brimmed with hard-boiled eggs and sliced red onions. Talk about decadent…and delicious!
Next were the cream cheese-prosciutto-stuffed mushroom caps, wonderful little mouthfuls of smooth cheese, salty cured meat, and tender mushrooms. Funny how I used to despise mushrooms as a kid – the only food I truly hated – yet now I can’t seem to get enough of them. These were even more amazing than the usual, as you can imagine.
The two meat dishes were locally-raised pork meatballs in chipotle barbecue sauce and chicken satays with a coconut milk and almond butter sauce for drizzling.
I was most curious to see dessert. Using no grains or refined sugars can make it rather complicated to come up with anything, but our hostesses did their usual best. We were served flourless chocolate cake with stewed raspberries and chocolate-flavoured whipped cream. It was a fine finish to the feast.
While I’m not convinced that an entirely grain-free diet is one I’d like to have, I was most impressed with the spread. What I noted, too, was how full and satisfied I felt afterward, minus the heaviness that one often feels after eating a grain-filled meal. It’s also interesting to think what a huge paradigm shift is necessary to think about eating a diet free from grains. It’s so ingrained (pun fully intended) in us to cook with them. Every night, I usually prepare some form of rice, whole grain pasta, potatoes, or wheat to accompany the veggies and meat, unless it’s our weekly vegetarian night. Now it looks like we’ll be adding another sort of challenge to the weekly menu planning. My husband, a big fan of the primal diet, has requested that we institute it on a weekly basis. I’m up for it!
Does anyone else have experience with Primal or Paleo diets and cooking?