Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Underloved But Cute as Heck: Brussels Sprouts—Worth One More Try


How many of you actually like Brussels sprouts? Raise your hands. Aww, shucks, this is starting off badly. Um, how about this? How many of you who do not like Brussels sprouts would be willing to try them one more time if they are fresh and prepared well? Now we are getting somewhere. I was in that category myself until my Great Brussels Sprouts Epiphany recently, wherein I bought fresh Brussels, made them in fun ways, and enjoyed the heck out of them. And me, someone who up until recently swore there were only two foods I hated: Brussels sprouts and sea turtle (served in Japan, accompanied by the fresh turtle blood. Thought to be an aphrodisiac, but still ick. But I'm getting off track).

What's the matter with Brussels? They are so iddy bitty and so gosh-darned cute. Like baby cabbages, with adorable curvy little green leaves all over dere widdle globular bodies. They look like something fun to pop into your mouth. I've tried to like them and tried to like them, but one bite of that annoying bitter taste, and well, there's good bitter (like freshly brewed gourmet coffee) and there is bad bitter (like arugula that's been allowed to go to seed but you still try to eat the leaves anyway. Think green quinine. Yuck. There I go again--sorry!).

Trying one more time, I bought some fresh Brussels at a grocery store. Tried to cook them as little as possible, and served them with a lemon-butter-almond sauce. The result was pretty darned good, though not drop-dead from delight yummy. Encouraged, though, I tried again--this time with the idea of roasting them. How delicious many veggies are when roasted--how irresistible, how, well, sweet. And that was when I began to think of Brussels as my newly discovered old friend. And this recipe is ridiculously easy, beautiful to behold, and, my gosh, is that me reaching for seconds and thirds of Brussels sprouts? Now I'm down to hating only sea turtle.

P.S. Fresh Brussels sprouts are NOT bitter unless overcooked. Bitter ones are either not fresh or boiled to death. Fresh
Brussels, prepared well, you are gonna love!

P.P.S. You can always toss in crumbled cooked bacon (or pancetta) for a cheat that might make leary eaters try--and maybe fall for--Brussels.

P.P.P.S. You can also grow Brussels in the garden. They make gorgeous spires with the Brussels sprouts as the buds on the spires. Some grocers now carry Brussels-on-the-spires, too.

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Roasted Tricolor Veggies, Italian Style

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 pound of fresh Brussels sprouts, each head cut into half lengthwise
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used Meyers lemon, but any kind will do)
6 cloves fresh pressed garlic (lots of garlic makes this dish delish!)
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt (I love Vege-sal)

Parboil the sweet potatoes for two minutes, and then drain. Add the veggies and all the other ingredients to a large bowl and toss to mix thoroughly and to coat the veggies. (Don't worry that the sweet potatoes are steaming hot--just don't burn yourself.) Spread onto a baking sheet or lasagna pan and roast at 350 F for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to make sure veggies get even heat exposure.

I cannot tell you how wonderful and colorful and charming this dish is. Sure, you can use lots of other combinations of vegetables, but the green, orange, red are gorgeous together. And the flavor of those slightly crunchy little Brussels is phenomenal--completely rounded out by the sweet flavors of the sweet potatoes and roasted peppers. Enjoy!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What to Do with All That Leftover . . . Ham—Asian-style Ham Noodle Salad

Do you have pounds of leftover ham in your refrigerator that you don't know what to do with? Do you find you can't face another plate of, well, sliced ham? Here is an easy and fabulous trick to serve your loved ones leftover ham that has almost no hint of its former origin. You will win praise and admiration, and secretly know you were smart to use up rather than toss out. Also, if you love Asian restaurant ginger-soy salad dressing, you will find this great recipe below.

Ingredients

· 1 (12 ounce) package chow mein noodles (you could also substitute soba noodles, or rice noodles)
· 2 cups cooked ham, julienned
· 1 cup pineapple, julienned (optional)
· 1 cup vegetables (julienned carrots, cooked haricot verts green beans [the skinny kind], mushrooms, asparagus cut in 1-inch pieces, etc.)
· 3 cups salad greens

Directions

1. Cook a 12 oz. package of chow mein noodles (they look like spaghetti noodles), as directed, rinse in cold water to stop them from growing, drain, and then set aside.
2. Julienne about half a pound (a couple of cups worth) of ham--long, thin slices work well with the chow mein.
3. Add in veggies. Make sure if you are using crunchy veggies to cook first if necessary (green beans).
4. If you have pineapple on hand, julienne it, and add to the ham.
5. Toss ham-veggie mixture with Asian Restaurant Ginger-Soy salad dressing (recipe below), along with the noodles, and serve over a bed of fresh greens, such as spinach, romaine, endive, etc.

Asian Restaurant Ginger-soy Salad Dressing

o 1 tablespoon ginger juice , from fresh ginger
o 2 tablespoons soy sauce
o 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
o 1/3 cup salad oil
o 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Grate enough fresh ginger root (a couple of tablespoons) to squeeze out 1 tablespoon of ginger juice. To the ginger juice add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 1/3 cup of salad oil. If you have sesame seeds, toss in a tablespoon (especially love the toasted kind, called irigoma). Remember how to make this dressing--it is to-die-for delicious with so many other salads, and is ridiculously easy to make.