By Debbie Anderson June 9, 2020 July 16th, 2020 No Comments

Dig In

By Meda Kessler
Photos by Meda Kessler

Alex Snodgrass drew a legion of followers with The Defined Dish blog, and the Texan equaled that success with a cookbook of the same name. A self-taught cook, she experiments with her own family’s meals, inspired by Tex-Mex, her mother’s Italian recipes and the bold flavors of Asian and Indian dishes. Of course, she makes her food healthier, and each recipe clearly indicates whether it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, paleo and/or Whole30 compliant. The one thing she doesn’t skimp on? Flavor. We chose a trio of Asian-inspired dishes for warm-weather dinners. Salmon is a go-to grilling staple for many. This Asian-inspired dish adds a flavorful marinade and sauce (almond-based rather than the usual peanuts). Use butter lettuce leaves to create an easy-to-eat wrap or to create a salad if you want to use a knife and fork. It’s gluten- and dairy-free and a fit for paleo and Whole30 diets. Buy the book and find other recipes on thedefineddish.com.

Salmon Satay Cups

Serves 4

  • Wood skewers, soaked in water for an hour before using Salmon
  • 2 pounds thick-cut salmon, skin removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk (do not use the “lite” version)
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce Spicy almond sauce
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (do not use the “lite” version)
  • 3 tablespoons creamy almond butter (can substitute peanut butter)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste
  • 1 garlic clove


  • 8 large butter lettuce leaves
  • ½ cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and
    thinly sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

For the salmon, prepare marinade by combining coconut milk, curry paste, coconut aminos and fish sauce in a large bowl. Add cubed salmon, cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat your grill. Thread skewers with cubes of salmon (using two parallel skewers keeps the cubes of fish from rotating). Use tongs to place skewers on grill; cook for about 3 minutes, flipping once. Do not overcook.

Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. To assemble wraps, fill each lettuce leaf with salmon (remove from skewers), veggies and herbs. Drizzle with almond sauce and serve with lime wedges.

his flavorful dish beats your typical takeout stir-fry thanks to the garlicky sauce spiked with ginger. Grilling the bok choy is an option. If you can’t find bok choy, use baby romaine lettuce hearts, which also work well on the grill. Snodgrass’ Whole30 version is gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free (if you use cauliflower rice) and paleo-friendly.

Mongolian Beef Stir-Fry

Serves 4

  • 1½ pounds flank steak
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
  • ¼ cup avocado or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 6 green onions, chopped into 1½-inch pieces (white and green parts)
  • ½ cup coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Baby bok choy, halved vertically
  • Rice or cauliflower rice
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Place flank steak on a cutting board and, using a meat mallet, pound the steak until it’s about ½-inch thick. Slice the steak against the grain into ¼-inch slices. Add to a large bowl; sprinkle with salt, pepper and arrowroot. Toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat avocado or olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add single layer of steak. Sear on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add garlic, ginger, sesame oil and red pepper flakes to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add beef broth and bring to a simmer for about 2 minutes as you scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return steak to the skillet. Stir in green onions, coconut aminos, rice vinegar and fish sauce. Simmer until the sauce is thickened.

In a large skillet, add 1 teaspoon avocado oil over medium-high heat. Sear bok choy until golden brown. Season to taste.

To serve, top rice with flank steak stir-fry and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Add side of bok choy.

Bun Cha

Serves 4-6

Nuoc cham

  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 bird’s eye chile, thinly sliced (add more if you like spicy things)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced Pork meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bird’s eye chile, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1½-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil, for frying

Noodle salad

  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium English cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced into matchsticks
  • 1½ cups bean sprouts • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup Thai basil
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 8 ounces vermicelli noodles, cooked according to directions
  • 1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Combine all ingredients for nuoc cham in medium bowl. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients, except oil, for meatballs. Use your hands to mix until just combined. Scoop out 2 tablespoons of mixture and form meatballs.

In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Cook meatballs in batches, careful not to overcrowd, about 4 to 6 minutes, turning frequently. Transfer to paper-towel-lined plate.

To assemble On individual plates, layer salad ingredients, topping with rice vermicelli. Add pork meatballs, spoon on nuoc cham and sprinkle with chopped cashews. Serve with lime wedges.

Snodgrass makes this Vietnamese dish with pork meatballs (fried here, but you can grill them). They’re good on their own but make a full meal when combined with thin rice noodles plus fresh herbs and veggies. The nuoc cham adds a salty-sweet-spicy flavor and can be made in advance. Bun Cha is gluten- and dairy-free.