I met Simone Miller of Zenbelly back in 2014 at PaleoF(x). That was the good old days when all of my blogging buddies were still fairly fresh on the scene — though when it comes to Simone, she has been a pro chef for a hot minute in the San Francisco Bay area. This was about the time that Simone’s first book The Zenbelly Cookbook was about to launch and I remember thinking how friggin’ skilled this lady is in the kitchen. It was so cool to meet her!
It was the first day of the 3-day conference and a bunch of us were ready for lunch. So what’s a group of Paleo bloggers to do when it’s lunchtime in Austin, TX? Why, they walk themselves over to a great spot and have all the meats and deviled eggs and cocktails. The rest is history!
Pictured from left back to right front: Amy/Paleo Cupboard, Steph/Stupid Easy Paleo, Cassy/Fed+Fit, Simone/Zenbelly Catering, Mary/Paleo Thug Life, Mary/ThePaleoChef, and me…Ciarra/Popular Paleo. What a throwback pic!
Simone’s wit and dry sense of humor, love of clean boozy beverages, ridiculously keen sense of flavor and technique have made her one of my favorite people in Paleo. Hope you enjoy learning about her Best Things!
What’s the best thing you ever ate?
For a wedding I catered a few years ago, the brides requested Haitian cuisine, specifically Griot and Pikliz. It’s probably the cuisine I know the least about, so I had to do some research. I discovered that Haitian food is something that definitely needs to be in my life! Griot (gree-oh) is cubed pork shoulder, marinated in a mixture of citrus and chiles, and then braised until tender and then broiled or fried. The braising liquid is reduced down until it’s almost a syrup and that gets poured over the pork. So it’s meltingly tender on the inside with a crispy fried crust on the outside, with this super flavorful sauce poured over it. It just has all the notes that food should have, to the nth degree. It’s served with Pikliz (pick-lees), which is sort of a cross between slaw and sauerkraut, bright, spicy, and vinegary, the perfect pairing to the rich and fatty pork. It is SO GOOD. In fact, I really want some right now.
What the best thing you ever made?
Hm, I’ve had some great fortunate kitchen accidents where something came out particularly good. But if I have to pick something I did on purpose? I’d have to say my pizza crust, I think. I’m a total NY pizza snob, and to me, pizza crust is a very specific combination of crispy and chewy, and the flavor has to be just right too. Not the easiest thing to do without grains and gluten! I basically locked myself in the kitchen to figure that one out and it’s been one of the top recipes on my site ever since. It’s not something we eat often, but when that pizza craving hits, it definitely hits the spot.
What’s your best secret short-cut in the kitchen?
Right now, I’m obsessed with dry-brining chickens. It’s not a short-cut necessarily, but is for sure a way to turn ho-hum into crazy-good. It is kind of unbelievable just how much more flavor chicken has when you salt it a day or two before cooking it. It is a tiny step that doesn’t require any actual extra time, just a little planning ahead. It makes such a big difference. I’m working on a recipe for Dry-Brined Turkey for the blog for Thanksgiving; excited about that!
What’s the best cookbook you have on your shelf?
This is kind of cheating, but my favorite food book isn’t a cookbook necessarily. It’s The Flavor Bible. I use it far more than any other cookbook I have on my shelf. It’s basically an encyclopedia of what goes with what. It’s so great for when you’re burnt out on your own cooking, which totally happens to me. It’s great for seasonal cooking; it makes it so easy to menu plan because you pick an ingredient that’s great right now, and open up the book to see what’s great with that ingredient and it’s like a domino effect in the best way. It’s also great for proteins that you always cook the same way, but want to try some new flavor combinations.
What’s your best reason to follow Paleo?
To me, the bottom line, big takeaway of Paleo is eating real food — good quality proteins, lots of veggies, good fats. I think if you’re doing that, you’re doing pretty great. I think it’s good to go all in at some point; eliminate all the non-paleo foods, see how you feel. Then introduce some back in. Does eating beans make you feel great? Good. Eat them. Do they make you crazy bloated? Don’t eat them. I see it more as a template, and each person needs to determine what works best for them. I personally do great eating mostly Paleo, but being too restrictive about what I eat isn’t good for my sanity. So I eat some gluten-free stuff on occasion, I eat cheese and put heavy cream in my coffee, because I tolerate that stuff really well. I don’t stress about the occasional taco with a corn tortilla. When I’m on vacation or when out to a great restaurant I worry less about what I’m eating. My philosophy is along the lines of – Sometimes, stressing about a certain food is worse for you than the food itself. I know what those foods are for me, and make decisions accordingly.
Best way to connect with Simone Miller from Zenbelly?
Simone’s newest cookbook is called Paleo Soups & Stews!
It releases October 25th — PERFECTLY timed for fall and winter comfort cooking.
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