Since my last post my desire to cook has come in drips and drabs. It’s not lost on me how ridiculous it is that I spent over a year and a half looking for a condo with the perfect kitchen – big, updated and full of light – and I’m barely cooking in it. I confess a lot of it has to do with the fact that after a month without internet or cable, I’m wired for both again. So I’ve been catching up on Pinterest and shameful amounts of TV watching. (And no, the pantry renovation is still not done, or even started for that matter.)
This means when I do have the urge to cook I go with it, no matter how strange the craving. The weather has turned quite crisp these past few days and in spite of it I’ve been craving salad of all things. I’m not usually one to gravitate toward the light and fresh so I’ll blame it on a weekend away in NYC for a wedding eating indulgently and drinking heavily. (That’s me in the middle at my sorority little sister’s wedding.)
This salad was actually inspired by a brunch date I had with my girlfriend a few weeks back. We went to a newish spot in my neighborhood Crosby’s Kitchen where I found myself torn between the special Eggs Benedict with carnitas or their Brussels sprout salad. I know given my much documented love affair with pork it seems like a no brainer, but there was significant waffling at the time. I ended up going with the pork but vowed to return for the salad.
Instead, I decided to come up with a version in my own kitchen. Because I haven’t tried the restaurant’s version (yet) I can’t say how close this comes, but I will say it is delicious.
The salad starts with Brussels sprouts that are lightly blanched and then finely chopped or shaved. You can use a knife if you’re skilled, otherwise I found the slicing blade on my food processor worked fairly well. Typically when I’ve made Brussels sprouts I’ve roasted them or braised them, so blanching them was an entirely new method for me. I wasn’t sure how much I’d like them without the caramelization you get from roasting, but they pleasantly surprised me. Boiling them briefly in salted water really does draw out some of the characteristic bitterness, a plus for people who think they don’t like Brussels sprouts. It also yields the perfect texture, slightly more tender than raw but without losing crunch.
I mixed dried blueberries, toasted almonds, crisp bacon and shredded Manchego cheese in with my sliced sprouts and dressed it lightly with a low fat lemon vinaigrette. You could opt for a full-fat version if you so choose but I was certain with the richness of the nuts, bacon and cheese I wouldn’t miss it. (And I didn’t.) I loved how the flavors came together – a little bit sweet, a little salty, a little savory, and a little tart. The pieces of everything are so small that it’s easy to get a little bit in every bite, almost like a slaw. The flavor profile is a lot like the Kohlrabi, Fennel, and Blueberry Salad I made for my summer dinner party, but with ingredients that are more widely available come fall. I’m also completely sold on shaved Brussels sprout salads and already envisioning subsequent versions. (Especially since I found out after the fact that Trader Joe’s sells Brussels sprouts pre-shaved. How convenient.) I’d like to try a version with cranberries, blue cheese and pecans since it seems well suited for a Thanksgiving meal. I’m sure the permutations are almost endless.
Lemon Vinaigrette recipe from Cooking Light
-1 pound bag Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and yellow leaves removed
-4 slices bacon
-1/2 cup water, plus more for boiling Brussels sprouts
-1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 cup dried blueberries
-1/2 cups sliced almonds
-1/2 cup shredded Manchego (ideally aged)
Prepare a large bowl (you’ll want one big enough to hold the Brussels sprouts after cooked) of ice water and set aside. Bring a large saucepan or pot of salted water to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until just tender (about 2-3 minutes). You’ll want to watch them closely to avoid overcooking. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the heat and drain before adding to the ice bath.
Thinly slice Brussels sprouts using a knife or the slicing blade of a food processor. Add to a large bowl and set aside.
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow the extra grease to drip off.
While the bacon is draining, make the dressing. Combine water through black pepper in a jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to mix.
To assemble salad, add dried blueberries, almonds, and Manchego to the slivered almonds. Crumble bacon over the top and toss with dressing to taste. (I used about a 1/3 of a cup of dressing.)