Arsy Vartanian is the author and chef of the Paleo recipe & lifestyle blog, Rubies & Radishes and the best selling cookbook, The Paleo Slow Cooker. In an effort to achieve optimal health and wellness, she discovered Crossfit & the Paleo diet in 2008. Arsy started feeling better than ever and was eventually able to recover from health issues that she had struggled with for almost a decade. Equipped with this energy and knowledge, Arsy started her blog to motivate and inspire others to improve their health.
Currently, Arsy is working on her 2nd cookbook, The Paleo Foodie. When Arsy is not busy working or being a mom to her toddler, you can find her in her kitchen developing healthy recipes for her family and her blog readers. Connect with Arsy on Facebook & Instagram.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
I was really interested in cooking from a young age. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up. Her and my mom used to spend all day preparing traditional meals from scratch. I learned to cook by watching them. They would soak beans, ferment vegetables and slow braise stews all day. I used to love helping them wrap dolmas! My favorite thing my grandma would make was sun-dried apricot and plum fruit leather.
I continued to cook when I moved away to college. By this time I had adapted a vegetarian diet, so unfortunately much of my cooking had turned into heating up frozen processed vegetarian food. Not to brag, but I did used to fancy those up and make some mean chik patties and delicious salads that my college roommates would devour. As expected, years of eating a very processed, low-fat, soy based diet caused my health to plummet. I gave up cooking for a period in my early 20s and I didn’t pick it back up again until I started the Paleo diet. Adapting a Paleo diet, reignited my passion for cooking, to the utmost degree. I am so grateful for this.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
Using organic, sustainable and grass-fed ingredients allows me to cook with clarity and confidence. I love cooking for other people. I find great pleasure and satisfaction in cooking with ingredients with integrity that will not only feed others, but will nourish them. I have found that the best way to encourage others to live more healthfully is share with them the pleasure of a delicious and healthy meal. When cooking with simple, fresh ingredients, there is no better way to make a delicious meal than to use the most high quality ingredients available!
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
My journey into real-food did start with the desire to improve my health. However, like most people, once I started eating simple, whole foods, I became more connected to my food and more aware of the growing process from start to finish. Eating grass-fed, local and organic products is now also about treating animals, our environment and the people that grow and raise our food with respect.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
I can’t remember exactly when, but it was close to 10 years ago. I read an article in the waiting room of a doctor’s office about how many vegetarians were starting to include meat in their diets from grass-fed sources. Like most people, I had given up meat because of the unethical treatment of our animals, as well as the antibiotic and hormone use. That article stuck with me and a few years later when I adapted a Paleo diet, I started seeking out local farms in our area.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
From a health perspective, the food we eat should nourish us and the right ingredients will help us feel good, have energy and reduce our risk of chronic illness.
When cooking Paleo meals, we are using simple, fresh ingredients whose flavors or lack thereof, won’t be concealed with sugar and salt-ridden packaged sauces. For this reason, the meals are only going to be as good as the ingredients used. I always recommend for people to use the best quality ingredients that they can afford.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Cook often and learn from your mistakes. After you have followed a recipe once or twice and are familiar with the technique and intended flavor, experiment with what you have on hand or flavors that you prefer.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
This is a very practical tip, but after working in restaurants as a server for several years, and observing the chefs and cooks, the most valuable lesson I learned about cooking, was to set up your station, or as the French say, your “mise en place”. Restaurants could not crank out quality food in a timely manner with out order. I found when I started implementing this method at home, cooking became much more relaxing and I started enjoying the process from start to finish. Prep cooking is now the part I look forward to the most!
This means gathering all your ingredients before you start cooking and organizing your prep station. I like to use ramekins for the different ingredients that I have chopped up and I also like to use a large bowl for scraps to keep my work area clean and organized.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
My all time favorite recipe is the Pan-fried Filet with Shallot Sauce from my upcoming cookbook, The Paleo Foodie. Most of us reserve indulging in an elegant filet mignon for a celebratory restaurant meal. That restaurant filet can easily be made at home, with higher quality ingredients and at a fraction of the price. Even high-end restaurants often use vegetable oil for searing their steaks. At home you can use, grass-fed butter or another fat of your choice. Once you top your steak with this luscious shallot pan sauce, it will triumph over most of the steaks you have had out.