Brussels Sprouts, Leeks, Fennel and Walnuts

I tire of reading endless articles from "experts" that seek to demean and berate the rest of us that don't live in a climate that offers up green bounty year round. They insist that we should eat frozen veggies and yes those have a place in my kitchen I agree, however for the non frozen (somewhat fresh) veggies they also insist we should be eating local only.

Local in this latitude would mean turnips, carrots, potatoes, squash, cabbage, apples and onions, all those veggies that can be cellared successfully for months and months. I don't know about you but that would be monotonous after the first 3 or 4 meals if I could choke that many down at all. Yuck...

I like the fact I can get lettuce, leeks, Brussels sprouts, garlic, greens of endless varieties to name just a few items, whenever I want them, just by going to the local grocers.

We have jet planes that arrive at the local airport, their belly's stuffed with offerings from all over the world. Truckers driving night and day from the southern US and Mexico, racing along the highways to ensure my Caesar salad will be crisp and delicious as I like it. All this effort to allow me to enjoy some semblance of "fresh" in February at the 54th parallel. God bless the truck drivers, airline employees and the farmers of the deep south, Mexico, South America and Africa.

I was watching TV yesterday and some talking head that got some air time was droning on about how long distance produce has no nutritional value for us. Really? The strawberries I had for a snack were pretty damn good. The lettuce I had in a great salad was fantastic. The garlic (California of course) packs a wallop and a ton of flavour. The collard greens were great. The broccoli? Good too.

I agree that when I go to the farmers market in the summer the veggies are superior generally to what I get at the grocers in the winter. But they don't grow here from September to June and I won't go that long without some fresh veggies. My colon would rebel and that is never a good outcome I can assure you. The imported veggies taste better than nothing at all, and in fact they taste pretty damn good if you ask me and if the vitamin content is less than fresh from the garden I'll take a vitamin supplement.

So with fresh veggies available here at the 54th, I offer you a great recipe for those of you who don't get squeamish when you hear "Brussels sprouts". I know much of the western world is picky when it comes to veggies, and it seems, getting pickier every single day. But folks you gotta loosen up and try something different! You really do!

The recipe below is a great one to learn to enjoy Brussels sprouts, leeks and fennel bulb all at one time.  It is very, very good. Trust me. Have I ever lied to you? Okay. Don't answer that. Just eat some veggies please.... Farmers in Bolivia are counting on you right now.

1 lb Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, about 4 cups, rinse under cold running water, drain well

2 leeks, dark green leafs removed and thinly sliced lengthwise

Note on leeks: These puppies are grown in sandy soil and when you buy them they will have sand packed in every nook and cranny. So clean them very well.  I will normally slice them then put the sliced leeks into a cold water bath and swish them around a few times. Drain and then repeat. You should too...
I took the outer leaf off just before I julienned this leek

1 large fennel bulb, core removed,  thinly sliced across, rinsed under cold running water, drain well
The outer leaf has not been removed in this picture
The outer leaf, a little more of the top and the core has been removed at this point
Slice fennel bulb, yum yum...
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced fine
½ cup walnuts, toasted
½ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté garlic in butter and olive over medium heat until lightly brown. 

Add the leeks and fennel to the browned garlic and toss well. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the Brussels sprouts, sugar and stock, stir well. 

Turn heat to high and sauté for 5-8 minutes, until tender and all moisture has evaporated.

Add walnuts and cook tossing well. Allow ingredients brown lightly.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot.

Snowy Palms Resort

Hot and Sweet Italian Sausage

 5 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 2” cubes

1 cup cold white wine
¼ cup fresh basil, minced fine (4 tsp dried)

1 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced fine (3 tsp dried)

8 garlic cloves, pressed or minced fine
5 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp onion powder (not onion salt!!!)
2 tsp crushed chili peppers
1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne

1 Tbsp anise seed
4 Tbsp fennel seed, roast before using, see note below

Place fennel seed and anise seed in a frying pan and heat over medium heat, tossing and stirring constantly until the seeds begin to give off their fragrance. Turn out onto dry plate to cool.

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and toss well to blend together. Place in fridge for 1 hour to chill.

Run mixture through meat grinder using either the large or small hole dies.

Once ground, mix with bare hands until full incorporated. 

At this point you need to take a little bit of the sausage meat and form a patty to fry. This is very, very, very important (well maybe not that important but I like to sample and graze as I cook).  You can taste the finished product to ensure it meets your approval, if not this is the time to add a bit more salt, pepper, or what have you to get it to the seasoning level that will ring your bell.  Once seasoned according to your liking use it as you please.

Once seasoned to your liking cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours, 48 is best. The flavours need time to develop and since they are all newly acquainted they need to take the time to become intimate friends. Freeze for up to 3 months...

Place in casings or use as meat balls, patties or simply in place of ground meat for sauces or burgers. Yummy…

Much better than store bought and a lot lower fat content than commercial.  If you don't own a meat grinder (pity poor you) you can use ground pork instead of grinding your own.  Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix with your hands to achieve a consistent looking meat mixture.

I have also made this with chicken thigh meat.  Chicken breast meat is too lean to use but the thigh meat is fantastic and for my next batch I will be using chicken thighs or turkey thigh meat.  Enjoy and let me know what you think of it...

Baked Taco Seasoned Beef in Pasta Shells

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, minced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed
8 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and drained

3 Tbsp homemade taco seasoning mix  (recipe elsewhere on blog)

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)

30 jumbo pasta shells

2 cups salsa sauce of your choice

1 cup cheddar cheese (8 oz) (I used fresh cheese curd for tonight's version and it was fantastic)

1 cup mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat cook ground beef until browned, drain off any fat.

Place pan back over medium-high heat and add onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add taco seasoning and 1 cup water, stir well to incorporate then add the baby spinach, turn down heat to medium and simmer until all liquid has evaporated, stirring well.

Once all liquid has been rendered off, remove pan from heat, add cream cheese, mix well until cheese is incorporated into meat and spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.  

Cook the pasta shells according to directions on the package, but do not cook fully!!! Cook them only until they are pliable, no more than that, they will finish cooking in the oven.  Once the shells are pliable drain them in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and also they will not stick together then. Drain well.

Drink some red wine. May I suggest a glass of Character Red by Hester Creek ? An excellent modest priced red wine blend if ever there was one...

Pour 1 cup of salsa on the bottom of 9” × 13” baking dish.   

Stuff each shell with the meat mixture, but do not over stuff, just enough to fill it but allow it to close somewhat.  Place shells in the pan open side up. 

Cover shells with remaining taco sauce and both cheeses.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  At this point if the cheese hasn’t developed a brown crust turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes or until the cheese reaches the state of doneness you like.
Serve hot with additional salsa and some hot sauce, or sour cream even and be ready for compliments and adoring stares from those you have delighted…