Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Post-polar vortex paleo plateful

After the weather we've had during the past two days, you might think that we've been transported back to the close of the Paleolithic Period, specifically the last ice age.
Idyllic garden scenes like this will not be recurring in my yard for the next several weeks.  Although I was able to save most of my cultivars, there were multiple casualties, especially among more mature plants which were harder to protect due to their size and the fact that we had so much below-freezing wind. 

He might produce, but he's definitely frost-damaged.  No matter.  Occasional losses are expected with an activity like gardening.  We are lucky in greater Houston to have an 11+ month growing season most of the time.    
A few of his younger cousins fared better because I tented them and heated with warming lights. 
I mentioned in this recent post that the broccoflower shown above weighed in at 3.5 pounds, and that I used one pound of it in making a batch of green chili chicken stew. 
This stuff.  Yummy. 
Well, what about the other 2.5 pounds?  For much of that, I modified this "Broccoflower with Spicy Italian Sausage" recipe published by blogger Paleo Spirit
I'll show my version of the recipe below, but first this handy info graphic which is a partial screengrab from this FriendsEAT blog site which, in turn, credits this commercial site from which the graphic now appears to be missing.  That's why we bloggers are constantly screengrabbing content - not because we want to claim it for ourselves, but because the shelf life of any given internet item is often shorter than the shelf life for my hefty broccoflower pictured above. 
The Paleo diet is like every other relatively new eating idea to come along - not without a great deal of opposition, confusion, and controversy, including recent controversy (e.g., this unfavorable CNN article published just yesterday). 
This part I largely agree with, within limits.  I eat only whole grains, but not an enormous amount of them, certainly nowhere near the quantity that had been originally recommended on the USDA Food Pyramid

Op. cit.
Anyway, as I've mentioned in previous blog posts, you can't just grow edible stuff in your suburban or urban back yard and anticipate a successful lifestyle modification on that basis alone.  You have to follow through and execute a plan to put your fruits and vegetables to uses that you will enjoy, and you have to be able to do it within the timeframe of each micro-harvest (you can plant according to locally-specified planning guides, and most cultivars are sold with published expected maturation dates, but vegetables are like babies - they pop into the world on their own schedule, not yours).

So with that in mind, here's how I adapted Paleo Spirit's recipe.
This is the sausage we use most frequently.  Pederson's Natural Farms is located roughly between Austin and Dallas, and their products are available at Whole Foods.  Due to the distances and time involved, I only manage to get to Whole Foods once every one to two months, but I stock up on products like this and keep them in our massive freezer
Half of that sausage chopped up, with minced garlic. My husband and child are both garlic freaks.  And I have to live with them.  
Adding chopped red bell pepper and green onions, because I have those growing in my garden (I covered them with a plastic bucket to protect from the aforesaid polar vortex). 

There's about a cup of loose green onions and three quarters of a cup of red pepper here.  The ratios are not critically important. You can add different vegetables to your taste.  
Paleo Spirit's recipe version indicates that the broccoflower should be food-processed into fine pieces, but I didn't do that.  I don't harvest my cauliflower or broccoflower until the heads start to loosen a bit, so it becomes easier to chop than a store-bought head.  I chopped it like this, and then chopped it more finely again.  
Adding to the other fried ingredients, about a cup and a half. 
Like pretty much every sausage, this one is very high in fat (about 80% per the manufacturer's label).  Furthermore, a good fraction of that is saturated fat. 
The way I deal with the issue of fat is to make the sausage into a minor proportion of the overall meal. 
After cooking the dish with the broccoflower mixed in for about ten minutes, turn off the heat and add a fistful of chopped parsley.  The remaining heat will be enough to cook the parsley slightly, without totally killing it. 
Here's where I depart from paleo preference and mix in a bit of grain.  In this case, it's Forbidden rice, a trademarked term for a Chinese black rice which is higher in certain nutrients than conventional white rice. 
If your sausage is 80% fat but only ends up comprising 30% of the ingredients, then your total meal ends up being 24% fat, which is not obscene in my books.  My husband and child preferred the same dish with black beans and brown rice on the side, so their total fat content was probably around 15%. 

Anyway, we decided that this recipe is definitely a keeper.  The sausage balances out the intensely primal taste of the broccoflower really well.  I know what you're thinking - I could stir-fry strips of cardboard with a high-quality sausage, and it would still turn out well, because that's what sausage does - it makes stuff taste good.  You're probably right, but I don't give it too much thought.  This recipe gives me one more means of mainstreaming my voluminous annual cruciferous harvest, and that's good enough for me.

Avatar aside, last year when I had this cruciferous windfall, I ended up giving a lot of it to several sets of neighbors because I couldn't make productive use of it all at once. 

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