Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slow Carb Ethiopian food

I mentioned earlier in the month that my wife decided to take on a new diet regimen, spitting in the face of all the temptations of the season. She’s trying out the “Slow Carb” diet popularized by Tim Ferriss in The Four-Hour Body. I can’t exactly say that I’ve been following that diet for the past year+, but it has informed my eating in some pretty significant ways (I just wasn’t religious about it). She resisted it for a year plus, because she felt like she couldn’t say no to all those other carbs. But as she read more about the diet itself in Ferriss’s latest book, The Four-Hour Chef, she decided she wanted to give it a try. And just as with Weight Watchers in the past, that puts me back in the role of personal chef. This time, though, it’s a little easier since I’m basically following the same diet (who am I kidding—I end up following pretty much the same diet anyway).

If you’re not familiar with Slow Carb, the basic idea is this: every meal = protein (c. 30g) + vegetable(s) + legumes (beans, lentils—these are the slow-digesting carbs). No grains, no fruits, no dairy (except, as it happens, cottage cheese). So actually, the dairy was always a problem for my wife too. Oh, and the beans: not a big bean fan. So, you know, pretty much the whole premise of the diet.

That said, it’s “so far, so good,” right now, on what might be called a modified Slow Carb diet. At this point, it’s close, and she’s getting results, so we won’t nitpick too much. We’ve had a couple things that have helped her get through.

First, she’s not a big fan of beans, and she hasn’t liked the way that I have prepared and eaten lentils for myself. This Red Lentil Soup that a friend made was good enough to eat on its own. And then she also remembered liking some kind of Ethiopian lentils, like we had on our first date. Like, 7 years ago.  Luckily for me, the first recipe I tried, for Mesir Wat, was to her liking. One nice thing about it was that it didn’t call for any spices that I didn’t have, nor for putting together a labor-intensive blend of spices, as some other Ethiopian recipes did. The only caveat I would add to the recipe was that lentils do not reach “the consistency of a thick paste” after 30-40 minutes of simmering. However, when they get close, an immersion blender can get them right where you want them.

What really made the dish work, though, was the Paleo Flatbread recipe I found. It’s not exactly like a bread, but it made a nice vessel for the Mesir Wat: the basic idea is just mixing pureed steamed cauliflower with egg yolks and parsley, then mixing that into egg whites that have been beaten until they formed stiff peaks. I found that a little more cauliflower than the recipe called for was no bad thing. Also, instead of wasting a ton of coconut oil on greasing your pan (have you checked the price of coconut oil lately??), line your pan with parchment and either grease that or use spray oil. The flatbread came right off with this treatment.

This flatbread includes both a protein and a vegetable, although probably not quite enough of either one. The first night we had it, I had the good fortune to find some reduced-price Yellowfin Tuna at the grocer, and I seared that with some salt, pepper, and red pepper and then served it with soy sauce as an appetizer. Yum. Making the lentils the focus of the meal, though, helps to make it a really filling meal.


  1. That flatbread idea is genius! Something my current cooking style lacks is a device to sop up delicious sauces, meat juices, etc. I can't see myself regularly making something that requires whipping egg whites, but it seems worth a try for occasional use!

    1. And I should add, rather belatedly, that this flat bread is not really great at sopping up... much of anything. You can put thing onto it, and it's really good that way, but it's only slightly more absorbent than scrambled eggs.

  2. I recommend either hiring servants or getting a good mixer--no way would I advocate turning your diet program into a diet and INTENSE [forearm] exercise program by whipping egg whites daily.

  3. One of the things I have most missed in my wheatless experiment has been things that are good with butter, apple butter, Chad's fantastic apricot-vanilla bean jam, and so on.

    I'm glad to hear Lauren liked that red lentil soup -- it IS a tasty one. Both Mark and Amy liked it as well. I am not a big bean fan, either -- adding tomatoes seems to help a lot.

    I'll have to check out that Mesir Wat recipe.

  4. I LOVE Ethiopian and Eritrean food to bits, but (as you know) I live in Texas, where places that serve it are few and far between (at least in Dallas, I suspect Austin might have better options). Why have I never thought of just COOKING it before now? I can't wait for the holidays to be over now, just so I can make experimental Ethiopian dishes (I am, however, a spice wuss - heavily spiced things white out my tongue. And Cilantro tastes like soap to me.)