So let’s talk about Joshua Weissman.

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Shut. Your. Face.

I’m not sure what I’m more annoyed by: the fact that he’s 18 and wrote this book, or the fact that he’s 18 and photographed this book. I mean, I’ve got over a decade on this guy and he’s kicking my proverbial paleo ass.

Let’s talk about the photography first. If you read my review of Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans, you may remember my mentioning that I like a cookbook with tons of visual aids. The photography in Slim Palate is stunning in it’s simplicity. Tons of over head shots (which, if you follow my Instagram you know I’m a fan of), and every one is a full page. I love that. It’s like a foodie slide show. In deciding what I wanted to make first, I literally just flipped through it like you would an old-school cartoon-flip book, stopping when I saw something delicious – which was often.

I started following Joshua on Instagram a while back specifically because of the pictures he was putting up. Legit food porn. All beautiful shots of amazing-looking food. At this point, I had yet to learn that this person whose cooking I was admiring was that of a high schooler. I know I shouldn’t harp on about his age, how young he is and how impressive it is to have produced what he has but I can’t help it!  Not only do I wish that I had found Paleo ten years ago, but to have honed even half of the kitchen skills he has at that age is really something special.  I’m almost 30 and had yet to make a lamb shank until l saw his book cover and the recipe to go with it. Osso Bucco? Yea, that’s in there too.

He starts off giving us an introduction to real food with, what I believe to be at the root of it all: the Weston A. Price Foundation, and how that leads to a Paleo/Primal approach to food. Brining Price into it provides an added sense of grounding. This is real science, people. It’s not a fad diet!  Something that makes this book a little bit different, is that there is some talk of weight loss. You don’t often see that in Paleo books.  The loss of unneeded body fat is often a happy side effect of turning away from the SAD (standard American diet…funny how that worked out) and moving towards food that has forever been food.  Sometimes though, in an effort to avoid being ‘taboo’ we shy away from the very real truth that, Hey! Some people want to lose some weight! Joshua acknowledges that, thanks to his own journey, with a few words on the calories in-calories out myth and appropriate carbohydrate consumption.

I could talk about the text of this book for a while. There is a ton of information, from terms to know, how to find and support local farms, Joshua’s own story, but we all know I’m here for the meat of it – literally – the FOOD.

I’m going to start by saying this: DO NOT LET A LONG LIST OF INGREDIENTS INTIMIDATE YOU.  Yes, some of these recipes offer lengthly lists and even some ingredients you may not have at the ready. Here’s the beauty of cookbooks – they serve as an inspiration.  I don’t have cardamom pods in my pantry, nor do I plan to go out and buy them.  I do, however, have ground cardamom.  Just because you have a recipe doesn’t mean you can’t still use your brain.  There is more culinary finesse in Weissman’s recipes than is regularly seen in ‘dietary’ cookbooks.  It’s more than just ‘slap some seasoning on this animal part.’ I will say, I have made some of the best meals I’ve had in a while this past week while cooking out of Slim Palate.

I’m usually not big on Paleo treats, but when I skimmed these recipes I was pretty excited about one thing in particular: He doesn’t use buckets of almond flour. Many of his sweets and treats and coconut-flour based. Hooray!! I started off with his brownies. Ridiculous. The technique he used absolutely changes things. I also made his almond-butter fudge which was absolutely amazing. Sadly, it was all eaten without my knowledge before I could take a picture of the finished product. I guess I’ll just have to make some more.

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The very first thing I made, was the coconut basil chicken.  I saw it, and thought “YES”. Little did I know that this recipe I was about to dive into was inspired by the chicken recipe from Nom Nom Paleo that make me lose my mind in a fit of bone-chewing glory. What a world! The marinade of coconut, basil and lime create a delicate and bright flavor profile. Nothing too crazy but certainly not bland. It’s a perfect chicken for a summer night. Fresh, floral minty basil, acidic lime, and rich sweet coconut. I’m seriously drooling just talking about it.

The winner of the week, hands down, is the braised lamb shank. Holy hell, kids. I’ve never attempted lamb shank in my own house. It’s one of those things that i will order when I see it on a menu because no way am I ever trying to cook that myself.  After sucking it up and making it, I can see why Joshua chose this as his cover shot. It was beyond easy to make, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and the flavors were nuanced and harmonious.  The real genius here is adding some coffee to the braise. Yea. Enough said.

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Last night, I decided that one more pull from the book was in order. I decided to build an entire meal from it. I started with the protein. I had some gorgeous pork chops.  Pan roasted, spiced chops it is. The earthy spices of sage, cumin, and coriander are also used in a veggie dish in the next chapter: cauliflower couscous. Done. Now for something green. A salad is easy enough. He calls for some lemon for the pork. He has a lemon-garlic vinaigrette in his final section of sauces and dressings. There we go. To say this meal was fragrant is the understatement of the century.  I don’t know how he came up with the cauliflower couscous, but thank you to whatever put that thought in his head. I could’ve eaten the whole friggin bowl of it, screw the pork chops. Well, yea…until I took a bite of the pork chops. Then I wanted the pork chops.

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Joshua Weissman has done something very special here. Not because he’s young. Not because he photographed it himself.  He’s created paleo recipes for the foodie in all of us. Restaurant quality meals that you can make at home. I can’t even begin to imagine the level of care that was required to put this collection together, but I’m sure as hell going to enjoy the spoils of his labor.

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I could’ve taken the entire month of September and simply cooked every single damn thing in this book.  This book was very clearly a labor of love. Love of food, love of ingredients, love of real food, and love for anyone who might buy it and cook from it. Reading, flipping through, and cooking from this book has inspired me to start expanding my kitchen horizons. To take a few more risks and to try some new things. Maybe next time I see cross-cut veal shanks at the butcher counter, I won’t discount them for fear. I’ll come home and make a killer Osso Bucco instead.

If this is his first endeavor down the cookbook road, I cannot even begin to imagine what he’s got in store for us as he grows, both in age and in culinary prowess. The first fine-dining Paleo restaurant, perhaps? Joy of Cooking, Paleo-Style? Who knows. The world is quite literally this young mans oyster, and I’d place a firm bet that he’s going to serve it up deliciously.

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These Cinnamon Cookies stuffed with Coconut Butter are next on my hit-list.