I hate Brussels sprouts. But as I say that, I realize: I’m not sure I’ve ever actually eaten Brussels sprouts before today. You see, most people generally boil them (why, oh why?) and is there anything more unappetizing than the smell of boiled cabbage? Are we living in Willy Wonka’s England? Am I Mrs. Bucket, trying to feed Charlie and Grandpa Joe and all of the other Buckets on single-leaf cabbage soup? No. No, I’m not.
So why did I buy Brussels sprouts, you ask, if I can’t stand them? Good question. Weeks and weeks ago, when I was still blithely thinking I would have time to breathe, let alone cook, in April, I went to my farmer’s market. I honestly can’t remember when it was: at least a month ago, maybe even longer. And there were Brussels sprouts, loose and on the stalk, at the Madura Farms stall. And I remembered this side dish of caramelized Brussells sprout leaves from Kiss My Spatula (who hasn’t blogged since the Fall, more’s the pity) and well: I decided to try something new. Many moons (and a trip to London, another to DC, a huge PK analysis and a 118-page report) later, I pull those same Brussels sprouts out of the crisper drawer, and to my utter astonishment: they still look perfectly fine. Crisp. Green. Adorable.
Brussels sprouts are, after all, simply baby cabbages. And I do like crisp, crunchy, non-disgusting-mayo coleslaws, and I’m fond of cabbage in certain soups and stir-frys. So why not a lightly sautéed Brussels sprout salad? Why not, indeed. This salad, or side dish, if you prefer, is fabulous: the candied nuts make it, of course (what recipe is not better with a few spicy, salty, candied nuts tossed in?), but the buttery, lightly maple-scented Brussels sprout leaves were surprisingly addictive. Enough green cabbage flavor to make you know that you are getting your 5-a-day, but enough sweetness and crunch, savory nuts and tangy cranberries, rich butter and maple flavor to keep you coming back for more.
Peeling the tiny, cute leaves off of each little sprout is a contemplative exercise: pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some nostalgic tunes, and enjoy the process. This salad is definitely worth the effort.
- ¾ cup mixed nuts & seeds, coarsely chopped (I used pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds here)
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- 3 tbsp butter, divided
- 3 tbsp maple syrup, divided
- flaky sea salt & cayenne pepper, to taste
- about 1 lb Brussels sprouts
- 1 large shallot, minced
- In your largest skillet, combine nuts, seeds & dried cranberries over medium heat. Toss frequently, toasting for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant, but do not allow to burn. Add 1 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of maple syrup. Toss well, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until butter and syrup begins to dry out and nuts are thoroughly coated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Spread on a large baking sheet to cool & crisp.
- Trim the stem end off of each sprout, then peel the leaves off from the stem end, trimming again as needed. Things get a little less neat as you reach the heart of the sprout: you can choose to pull these tiny leaves apart and use them, or save for another purpose.
- Heat your large skillet (no need to clean) over medium-high heat, melting the remaining 2 tbsp of butter. Once the butter foam subsides, add the minced shallot, stir, and sauté for about 30 seconds, until just starting to soften. Add the Brussels sprout leaves and stir, coating in butter and sautéing until just wilted, about 1 minute. Add remaining 1 tbsp of maple syrup, just enough to very lightly glaze the leaves. Sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, until softened, fragrant, and bright green. Transfer immediately to a serving platter and toss with the candied nuts. Serve warm.
- All manner of nuts, seeds and dried fruit could work well here: choose your favorite combination.
- The original recipe called for brown sugar instead of maple syrup in candying the nuts: I suspect about the same amount, 2 – 3 tbsp.
Best eaten fresh. If you must store, re-heat and mix with orzo, rice or couscous for some texture before eating.
Fall into early Spring.