Grab A Seat

I had no idea until a few years ago that people put bacon in Brussels sprouts. Most of the time, the way we eat them is the way my Aunt Bev makes them on Thanksgiving: sautéed with leeks. Sometimes I roast them after a toss in maple syrup. Last year, during the final stretch of my pregnancy, Rich and I went on a date and I had a great Brussels sprouts salad, which I talked about for months afterwards.

Lemonade Brussels sprouts

I actually had to stop talking about the salad, and Brussels sprouts altogether, because during Sylvie’s pregnancy she developed an aversion to them, sort of like a pregnancy craving in reverse. She would basically dry heave at the mere thought of a Brussels sprout. Months after she had Leo, when someone mentioned the two worded vegetable, she had to excuse herself from the kitchen. But last week, after my friend Gayle shared an article with a bunch of really tasty-sounding Brussels sprouts recipes, I felt compelled to test the waters again with Sylvie. Fortunately, she assured me she was back in love with the vegetable.

That’s a relief, because I had a pound of them in the fridge that Rich found on sale, and I had set my sights on a recipe – Brussels sprouts with shaved parmesan and sherry vinaigrette – from The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli. When I told Sylvie about it, she oohed into the phone. I promised I’d get up the recipe shortly.

Sylvie’s reaction to the recipe was basically a miniature version of how I’ve been with nearly every recipe in this book. Beet, pickled onion and hazelnut vinaigrette? Tell me more. Black kale, shiitake and kumquat vinaigrette? Grab a seat. Farro, spaghetti squash and pomegranate vinaigrette? Oh? Honestly, I found myself bookmarking meat recipes because they sounded so amazing. Apparently LEMONADE is a cafeteria that specializes in Southern California comfort food that now has multiple locations, from Venice Beach to Downtown L.A. And yes, there are also actual lemonade recipes, including ones like pear basil and watermelon rosemary. I’m definitely going to be making that last one this summer, once all the snow has melted off our rosemary bush out front.

Lilli has discovered the wonders of pizza.

Lilli has discovered the wonders of pizza.

This recipe takes a little bit of time, if only because Brussels sprouts themselves take a little time to prep. After the prep, you blanche them for two minutes in salty, boiling water, toss them in a little sherry vinaigrette (which you’ll have wisely made before the blanche), and then you roast them in a hot oven. (Hotter, we’ve decided, than the 350 degrees the original recipe calls for.) Once they are room temperature, you toss them with the rest of the dressing and some shaved parmesan. When I told Rich about the blanche-and-toss-while-hot instruction, he reminded me that we’d heard Yotam Ottolenghi on America’s Test Kitchen radio show last month, who said he does the same with his vegetables.

So save your bacon for another time, and go make these Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts, Shaved Parmesan, Sherry Vinaigrette from The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli

Ingredients

1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, yellow outer leaves discarded

1 cup sherry vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Coarse salt (I used kosher)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shaved Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise and add them to the boiling water. Par-cook for 2 minutes until softened slightly. Drain the sprouts in a colander and transfer to a mixing bowl.

While the sprouts are still warm, toss with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette to coat. Because the sprouts are still warm, they really absorb the vinaigrette and soak up the flavor.

Transfer the sprouts to large baking pan lined with parchment or foil and spread them out into a single layer. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the Brussels sprouts for 25 minutes, until slightly charred on the outside and tender on the inside; shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.

Put the sprouts into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. The Brussels sprouts can be easily prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated.

To the cooled Brussels sprouts, add the remaining ¾ cup of vinaigrette, cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 cups.

Sherry Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, minced

2 Tablespoons honey or agave nectar

3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground ppper

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the shallot, honey, vinegars, and oils; season with salt and pepper. Whisk or shake to blend. Keep any leftover vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 cup.

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Currying Favor

Dan, my world traveling, three bean salad-loving friend, is back stateside. When he came to visit, he came bearing gifts from Cambodia: a scarf for me, a T-shirt with what I assume is the Cambodian alphabet for Lilli, and some spices. Actually, I guess he only came bearing gifts for me and Lilli. “You can write an entire blog post about those spices,” he said with a slight smile.

Lilli's 1st Bday at Hebrew Play

Of course, all this happened months ago, and the curry powder and lemongrass, elaborately packaged in handmade woven sacks, remained unopened in the cupboard. Until last week, that is, when I was sent Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson from the kind people at Harvard Common Press. I know, first Rich doesn’t get a gift, and then he gets a week of vegan food. But every dish we had (and I choose dishes I thought he’d enjoy) was very good. The sesame noodles were slurped up by us and Lilli, who is turning into a carb fiend. The chocolate peanut butter brownies were good but not great (you know how picky I am about my chocolate and peanut butter). The morning mushrooms, sizzled in a pan with equal parts Tamari and maple syrup, were great, and not just in the morning.

But the best dish we’ve had so far from the book were the baked sweet potato and green pea samosas. They were terrific, actually. And I got to use the curry powder Dan brought us (see, I made the spices into a gift for all of us to enjoy) for the filling. I haven’t had a chance yet to make the sweet potato and pineapple gratin with coconut milk, but doesn’t that sound so good?

The samosas were a very hands-off dish for most of it, and they’re doubled baked and not fried. First you bake a sweet potato. It called for a large sweet potato, and I grabbed a huge one — 1.5 lbs to be exact — too big, it turns out, for the toaster oven. So after I scrubbed it (skin-on) and wrapped it in tin foil, I tossed it in a 450F oven, and walked away for about an hour. Helpful hint: Place a pan underneath the sweet potato because it will probably drip gooey innards onto the floor of your oven. Trust me on this one; I speak from experience.

The dough is simple: water, flour and a touch of oil. It’s mixed together in a bowl and left alone, covered on the counter, for a half hour. Once the sweet potato is roasted, you add it to a sauté of minced onion, garlic, ground coriander and curry powder — in my case, curry powder which was hand-delivered from Southeast Asia. The recipe calls for the addition of fresh or frozen peas, which is a natural for samosas, but I saw this as an opportunity to add edamame for a little bit of protein.

Lilli and Oma

Once you roll out the dough and add the filling and seal it with just a touch of water – remember, we’re dealing with a vegan recipe – you bake them until they’re golden brown. You can actually bake the sweet potato a few days before you get around to making the dumplings.

The results are delicious — not delicious-for-a-vegan-dish, just plain delicious. Ask Lilli, who has become very picky about her sweet potatoes. She usually drops them to the side of her high chair, but absolutely adored this spiced filling. There was more filling than fit in the samosas, so I gave it to her as a side for a few meals – minus the edamame, to avoid choking hazards.

I don’t have any photos of the samosas. In most cases, I forget to snap a photo, but in this case, Rich thought the finished product was remarkably unattractive, so I let it be. None of them turned out like the puffy triangles at Indian restaurants. But don’t let that stop you from making this dish.

Baked Sweet Potato and Green Pea Samosas from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Ingredients

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup water

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons neutral vegetable oil, plus more for brushing

1 small onion, minced

1 large sweet potato, baked until tender, peeled and diced (Note: I just scraped the flesh off the skin and plopped it into the pan of spiced onions)

½ cup fresh or frozen peas or edamame

1 garlic clove, minced

2 heaping teaspoons curry powder

½ heaping teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, water, and 2 teaspoons of the oil until well blended. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are soft and the flavors have developed, about 10 minutes. Mash the filling slightly to combine. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16-inch square that is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into sixteen 4-inch squares. Place a small amount of the filling in the center of each square. Dab a little water on the edges, and fold one corner over the filling to the opposite corner to make a triangle. Seal the edges. Place the samosas on the baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.