Monday, March 30, 2009

Who's your sprout?

Adele and I first truly understood the potential of brussel sprouts in Ithaca, New York, when we were reveling at a friend's farm the evening before Thanksgiving. Food was abundant; drink was flowing. Our friend Simon was concocting a brilliant beef stew with massive red slabs that he'd bought from a Brooklyn butcher. Stephen, the owner of the farm, was cutting off large, unruly slices of whole-wheat bread that someone had brought from an Ithaca bakery. A bearded man in overalls was dumping fresh cranberries into a bowl in between swigs of his bottle of hard cider. And then there were the brussel sprouts, gently sauteeing in their cast-iron skillet, nobody paying them any attention. That's what usually happens with brussel sprouts, they go unnoticed, ignored little nuggets of verdure. As we later learned from the local vintner who prepared them, he had picked them that very day off their frozen stalks and cut them in half, sauteed them in olive oil for a half hour, and then topped them off with walnuts. And they weren't bad. But then, they could always be better. The seed of possibility had been planted.

When we got back home we picked up a few packages of brussel sprouts. Our mission was to take what had been so pleasing to the eye in Ithaca (the lush green of the sprouts peppered with the earthy brown of the walnuts, the whole shining in aromatic olive oil) and turn it into something just as pleasing for the palette. In other words, we were looking for something a little softer, and a lot less bitter. Our solutions were simple, and sitting in right in our cupboards: chicken broth and raisins.

What we used: brussel sprounts, onion, garlic, walnuts, raisins, cumin, tumeric, salt, pepper, olive oil and chicken broth.

Finely chop about half an onion and mince a clove or two of garlic. Sautee in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, wash, stem and halve the brussel sprouts. Add to the onions and garlic and stir to cover with oil. Add a couple teaspoons of cumin, a couple sprinkles of tumeric and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes, then add just enough chicken broth so that it comes up to about half the depth of the sprouts. Bring to a boil, and add the raisins and walnuts. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook until the sprouts are as tender and the liquid is nearly evaporated.

The finished product, which is quite pretty and smells lovely, makes a great side-dish for any meal. We've eaten it with everything from salmon to a simple cheese omelette to basic roasted turnips, which is how we ate them this evening.

Total prep and cook time : about 45 mintues.
Approximate cost : about 4$ for 4 servings

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