A Peek Into the Paleo Diet: Dinner with Philip & Leona

Last month when I visited the home of Philip Sumner and Leona Laurie to shoot their House Tour feature for Apartment Therapy, the two of them fed me a delicious lunch and dinner. They have chosen to follow the Paleo diet, adopting it as a way of eating, and also as a lifestyle. Here's a peek into what dinner with them is like, eating the Paleo way.
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Maybe I'm behind the the times of eating trends, but before I met Philip and Leona I had never heard of the Paleo diet. I knew about raw foods, eating for your blood type, eating gluten-free, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet — but never Paleo. As someone who was a vegetarian for 10 years, but also suffered from IBS and once believed I had Celiac — I'm willing to try anything in the name of healthy digestion and sustainable living.

I'm still learning my way around what works for me — very little gluten or dairy, small amounts of chicken and fish, red meat once every few months and no caffeine. You would think this limits someone like me from a lot but it really hasn't. You just need to be creative about eating simpler meals. Given this background, here's what I learned and some reflections on the Paleo lifestyle.

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Why Philip Went Paleo

1. What is the Paleo Diet?
Meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. The foods human beings have been eating for the longest period of time.

2. How long have you been living the Paleo lifestyle?
About two years.

3. What were some of the reasons why you changed your eating habits ?
My version of the Paleo diet is always developing but at its core is the idea that "man" is complete and the foods best for him are those that are the most natural to him. No cereals in goofy boxes, nothing canned — in fact, nothing that can't be consumed raw (although we cook most everything). Most modern food is advertising. There is freedom in understanding that the essentials are all that matter. Plus you can eat a lot of food and I love to eat!

4. What are some of the benefits of the Paleo diet? And what are some of the drawbacks, or rather things you may have to consider, like if you're a vegetarian for instance ?
If you eat this way without compromise, your system will run smoothly and efficiently. The mental clarity is kind of astonishing at first but pretty soon it feels natural and you want to preserve it, so no cheating! Also, be careful where you get your information. If you want informed answers you can contact me.

The Paleo way of eating is pretty much in direct opposition to vegetarian and vegan diets and in many more ways than just eating meat. I support anyone who is making conscious, purposeful choices though!

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The Evening's Dinner Menu

Appetizers:
• Crudites platter featuring red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, carrots, and celery
• Halved cherry tomatoes
• Red and green seedless grapes

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Salad:
• Baby spinach, avocado, and blueberries — the trick is to massage the avocado into the spinach before adding the blueberries and tossing. It acts like a creamy dressing!
• Lemon and lime wedges for those who want additional "dressing"

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Main Course:
• Unmarinated steak tips and boneless chicken breasts from The Meat House in Costa Mesa. When the meat is natural and high-quality, you don't need marinade for it to be delicious.
• Grilled asparagus
• Grilled portobello mushroom caps

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Dessert:
• Mint herbal tea with (optional) raw honey
• Medjool dates
• Raw walnuts
• Raw Pecans
• Sliced fruit platter (bosc pears and pink lady apples) with raw, unsalted almond butter for dipping

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There really aren't any recipes for the above — just a lot of chopping and a little grilling.

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Tips from Leona on Preparing Meals

What are some alternative meals and ideas for delicious Paleo meals?
Some alternative paleo meals would be:

Appetizers:
• Paleo "deviled" eggs: Hard-boil a dozen eggs, and slice them neatly in half. In a bowl, mash the egg yolks with avocado (one big avocado should be plenty). If you like a little spice, stir in 1/2 minced habanero. Fill halved eggs with yolk/avocado mixture, and top with small pieces of thinly sliced roasted or smoked meat.
• Stuffed mushroom caps: mince mushroom stems, garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil, and onion, and sauteed with ground pork (about 1/2lb to about 1lb of mushrooms). Place mushroom caps on cookie sheet in oven at 350 for duration of stuffing prep time. When stuffing is cooked, remove mushroom caps from oven & fill with stuffing.
• Tropical fruit platter: slice a variety of tropical fruits and arrange them beautifully to be eaten with fingers.

Salads:
• Mixed greens with tomato, avocado, and thinly sliced red onion: Massage two avocados into a large bowl of mixed greens. Add chopped tomatoes and onion and toss. Serve with lemon wedges.
• Grilled vegetable salad: Prepare greens with avocado as above, adding uncooked, chopped tomato and onion to your preference. Cook sliced squash, eggplant, onion, mushrooms, red bell pepper and zucchini on a grill (or in aluminum foil under a broiler) to taste. Allow to cool slightly and toss into salad. • Fennel: Thinly slice 1-2 fennel bulbs and toss in a mixture of lemon juice & olive oil (about a 2-1 ratio). Allow to marinate for an hour in the fridge before serving cold.

Main Courses:
• Spicy Apricot Ribs: Braise 1-2 racks of pork ribs in the oven at 350 for one hour (ribs should be submerged in water & the pans should be covered). Drain off water & pour sauce over ribs. Re-cover pans & cook for an additional 2-3 hours. For Sauce: Puree 3lbs fresh apricots with 1-2 habaneros (seeded & de-veined) and 1c natural juice (preferably apricot or peach). Roughly chop 5-10 apricots to add to sauce just before pouring over ribs. Serve with: Cabbage sauteed in a portion of the apricot sauce. Additional vegetables can be cooked in the sauce with the ribs (try cauliflower!), and a slow cooker can be used in lieu of the second phase of oven cooking.
• Thai-inspired Chicken: Puree 2 cans pure coconut milk with 1-2 tsp chili powder, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1-2 cloves garlic. Chop 1-2 pieces of lemongrass & add to puree. Pour over chicken thighs & breasts in a 9x13 baking dish, adding chopped onions and any mushrooms you like. Cover with aluminum foil & bake at 375 for at least one hour. Delicious served with sautéed cabbage or stir-fried broccoli.
• Grilled Salmon & asparagus: I like to get a salmon fillet with the skin still on and put it skin-side-down on the grill for 12 minutes. Just wash it gently with water before tossing it on the grill. Blanche asparagus in boiling water for 4 minutes. Serve both with lemon wedges.

Desserts:
• Meringue Tarts: Using the whisk attachment on a hand or standing mixer, whip three egg whites and 1/4tsp cream of tartar until white & foamy on med speed. Add 1/8c raw honey while mixing, and continue until mixture holds a stiff peak. Spoon onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet into piles about 1- 1 1/2 c big, and use a spoon to shape the piles into shells. Bake at 250 until just golden, then drop temperature to 105 & allow to dehydrate for up to two more hours. When cool, fill with fresh fruits or with fresh fruit simmered and reduced. (This recipe is still a work in progress, but it's delicious!)
• Fresh Berries, Peaches, or other seasonal fruits.
• Mango Sorbet: Puree mangos with raw honey to taste (it doesn't need much) and a splash of lemon or lime juice. Either use an ice cream maker to turn into sorbet, or pour into a pre-chilled 8x8 square pyrex dish & place in freezer, stirring every 30 minutes until sorbeted.

Visit Philip & Leona's Websites

Philip Sumner
Leona Laurie

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Related: Kitchen Tour: Arlene Goes Paleo in Brooklyn

(Images: Bethany Nauert)

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