I’ve been a fan of Brussels sprouts since childhood. When I made my first Thanksgiving dinner for friends forty years ago, I fixed Brussels sprouts the way I remembered from family meals. I cut a little “X” in the stem end and boiled them, watching closely and removing them as soon as the center was tender, but the outside was still green. Guests politely took one or two while I and the few other fans finished the rest. Some Thanksgivings later, a friend offered to bring the Brussels sprouts, steaming them, adding bits of crispy fried bacon and cloaking all in a mustard cream sauce. These rich, disguising flavors made some converts, and this preparation held for many years. Then, fifteen years ago, deciding to feature the nutty, delicately cabbage-like flavor of Brussels sprouts, I thinly sliced each sprout and sautéed the slices in butter. For the first time, nearly everyone ate Brussels sprouts. For Thanksgivings since then, I’ve served Brussels sprouts this way or, in another great variation that features the flavor of Brussels sprouts, I’ve halved or quartered each sprout, tossed the pieces in olive oil and roasted them on sheet pans in a hot oven. Caramelized Brussels sprouts are popular with just about everyone.
My and guests’ experiences with Brussels sprouts mirror a trend among chefs and home cooks. Over the past decade, restaurants began serving roasted Brussels sprouts as appetizers and sides. Creative recipes for Brussels sprouts began appearing in cooking magazines, newspaper articles and blogs. And in the Skagit Delta this fall, rows and rows of Brussels sprouts stretch across the fields to meet the demand for this lovely vegetable.
Always on the lookout for recipes that celebrate the new popularity of Brussels Sprouts, I was intrigued by a recent New York Times Cooking recipe by Susan Spungen for Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad. In the introduction, she writes: “If you like a good kale salad, or any type of crunchy salad, then you will love this one, which combines shredded raw brussels sprouts with roasted brussels sprouts leaves.” I did love it and have made it several times with the Brussels Sprouts growing in my winter kitchen garden. I’ve also developed a delicious variation with cabbage and kale that uses the same raw and roasted techniques.
Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad
1 pound Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 small shallot, halved
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ ounces Pecorino Sardo, or other sharp sheep’s milk cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1 scant cup)
⅓ cup whole raw almonds, roughly chopped
Trim the sprouts, cutting a good 1/4-inch off the bottom. Pull off the large leaves (you should have about 2 cups of them); set aside. Shred the remaining sprouts thinly, using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, or use a knife to halve them through the core, then thinly slice them. You should have 5 to 6 cups
Toss the shredded sprouts with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and massage with your hands to tenderize them. Set aside.
Finely mince half the shallot and mix with the sherry vinegar, mustard, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. While stirring, slowly pour in 4 tablespoons oil, then drizzle the dressing onto the sprouts, mixing thoroughly. Toss in the cheese and place in a serving bowl. (Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, if not serving right away.)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the other half of the shallot, and on a small baking sheet, combine the shallot with the reserved sprout leaves, almonds, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat, then roast, tossing once or twice until the sprouts begin to crisp and brown, 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the hot ingredients on top of the salad (do not toss) and serve immediately, with more cracked pepper on top.
After I trimmed a ¼ inch from the stems, it was easy to slip the outer leaves from each sprout and collect two cups of green leaves. I used the food processor to shred the inner sprouts and then tossed them with the lemon juice and salt.
It was one of those cooking leaps of faith to combine the sliced shallot, chopped almonds and sprout leaves and believe that they would all finish cooking at the same time, but they did. The crispy leaves and nuts and the soft shallots make a wonderful combination and a beautiful topping for the shredded leaves and shaved pecorino. The dressing is really tasty too. I used maple syrup.
To serve this salad, reach deeply with the salad spoons and capture both bottom and top layers. The salad is beautiful in the bowl and on the plate.
The roasted Brussels Sprouts leaves reminded me of roasted kale leaves and the shredded Brussels Sprouts centers reminded me of cabbage. With these similarities in mind, it was a short step to making this salad with cabbage and kale. I followed all the instructions of the original recipe and would make this version again too.
Winter salads are so hearty and satisfying. I’m grateful that Brussels sprouts and their brassica cousins will keep us in salads through this cold and dark season.