Eat your vegetables! Mom's famous words. Just like everyone else, I too hated many vegetables when I was a kid. Brussels sprouts were at the top of my list with peas not far behind. It was many years later that I realized I couldn't figure out why I hated sprouts. I had never even tasted them, but I was told by other kids that the taste and smell was revolting. But what's the point of hating a food if you haven't even tried it? When I finally did try Brussels sprouts for the first time, I was completely taken aback at how good they were. I was converted and from that point on I think I became the adventurous eater I am today. That's what a little sprout can do to a person.
Roasted or sautéed, Brussels sprouts can be simply amazing. The key to cooking them is to not overcook them. That's when they develop a sulfuric smell and taste. Boiling them does no good either because the good flavors are cooked right out and all that remains is bitterness. Sautéing is the easiest and most rewarding method for cooking sprouts. A little oil, bacon fat, or duck fat is all that's needed to make them taste exceptional. In this recipe, warm sautéed sprouts are brought together with complementary flavors and textures. The crispy Asian pear adds sweetness, the savory bacon crunchiness, and the dressing is a decadent finishing touch. It's the perfect salad for an appetizer or side dish. And leftovers are even better for tomorrow's lunch.
The Belgians begun growing sprouts in the 1200s and somehow the vegetable's name became equated with Brussels. But it's the French who brought them to the states in the 1800s. Brussels sprouts are a unique vegetable in the cabbage family. They grow like little cabbages on tall stalks resembling the stems of its cousin broccoli. Readily available this time of year, Brussels sprouts are in season from June through January. In the average supermarket, sprouts are more likely to be found in pint containers than on the stalk. Whichever way they're available, sprouts should be bright green and hard and have tight-fitting leaves and very few blemishes. But try to look for them on the stalk. It's not only a treat to see how they naturally look, but also they're fresher on the stalk. Brussels sprouts are beautiful little vegetables.
Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Asian Pear and Bacon Vinaigrette
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 stalk Brussels sprouts (about 2 pints), trimmed and halved
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 strips bacon
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Asian pear, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 head green leaf lettuce, shredded
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
Warm olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add sprouts and cook until cut sides are brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add more oil if pan gets too dry. Add 1/2 cup water, cover, and cook sprouts until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and let any remaining liquid evaporate.
Fry bacon in a pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Reserve remaining fat in the pan.
To make vinaigrette, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoon bacon fat, vinegars, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to incorporate.
To assemble salad, combine sprouts, diced pear, and lettuce with half the vinaigrette. Serve salad topped with crumbled bacon and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Yield: 4 servings.