Learning to Embrace Brussels Sprouts

If you grew up in the Midwest, I am quite sure you dreaded coming home for Sunday lunch after Church.  Invariably, you were “treated” to the vegetable specials of overcooked Brussels sprouts and canned green beans.    I still know people who enjoy eating food prepared this way, but we are not on speaking terms.   Let’s face it,  who can blame the Russians from becoming a nation of alcoholics by trading in overcooked cabbage and borscht for a bottle of distilled potato juice?

brusselsspro

Skip the bacon and go Balsamic Vinegar

I’ll admit that Brussels sprouts was not often found on my plate until I sampled “shaved Brussels sprouts” at Mario Batali’s Lupa restaurant in New York some years ago.   Imagine?: Raw Brussels sprouts with what I believe was a dressing of olive oil, lemon and, perhaps, some anchovy paste.  Wonderful!   Since then, I have learned that culinary culture may have arrived in the Midwest when I received a wonderful recipe from Rose Shafer for “braised Brussel sprouts.”

Our latest favorite is a recipe from Mark Bittman that was published in the New York Times:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

Ingredients

  • 1 pint brussels sprouts (about a pound)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to coat bottom of pan
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (from Gourmet Living, of course!)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of brussels sprouts, and slice each in half top to bottom. Heat oil in cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers; put sprouts cut side down in one layer in pan. Put in garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook, undisturbed, until sprouts begin to brown on bottom, and transfer to oven. Roast, shaking pan every 5 minutes, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in Gourmet Living’s balsamic vinegar of Modena, and serve hot or warm.

We trust your family enjoys them as much as ours does.

Cherry Snowball Cookies for Santa

Snow Ball Cookie

Image from Food.com

I have been told by a precocious elf that Santa likes a whiskey (single malt please!) and a plate of “Cherry Snowball Cookies” after travelling all night downwind behind a team of reindeer. While a malt whiskey has always been served to Santa at our house, the Cherry Snowball Cookie is a relatively new addition.

The photo to the left from Food.com hardly does the snowball cookie justice since it features that overly-sugary commercial grade maraschino cherry typically used to adorn Manhattan cocktails served in Chestertown, Maryland.   While there is much to be said for the cuisine of Chestertown – particularly if you like the Canada Goose in a slow cooker – the bar scene has succumbed to commercialized  food for patrons that need a buzz while watching the Republican Presidential debates.   Mind you, I feel their pain.

Luxardo CherriesIn snobby Greenwich, educated chefs tend to opt for Luxardo cherries, which are actually the “original” Italian maraschino cherry before some mad scientist decided to add more sugar and artificial coloring.   Sadly, Luxardo cherries are often difficult to find in most supermarkets so we now buy ours on Amazon.

In any event, the recipe below uses Luxardo cherries and we strongly recommend that you incorporate them into your Snowball Cookie so Santa won’t be disappointed.  Without further ado, the recipe for Cherry Snowball Cookies from Elizabeth Morris (Toronto) that was published in a recent Penzey’s Catalogue

Cherry Snowball Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 dozen)

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond paste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (about 30) pitted Luxardo cherries, drained
  • 2 cups coarse decorating sugar (also purchased on Amazon)

Preparation

Heat the oven to 350º.  Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Using a hand mixer, beat butter and confectioners sugar in another bowl until fluffy. Mix in almond paste, vanilla and egg.  Slowly add dry ingredients until dough forms.

Roll dough into thirty 1-oz balls.  Working with 1 ball at a time, press thumb into dough and place a cherry in the center.  Roll dough into a ball encasing the cherry.

Roll cookies in decorating sugar and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.  Let cookies cool completely.

Santa will thank you as he loosens another button in his red outfit.

Carolina Gold Rice from Anson Mills

As GourMay readers are aware, I have been extolling the benefits of heirloom grains from Anson Mills for quite some time. I first came across this lovely company while listening to Sean Brock (Husk Restaurant in Charleston) explain the benefits of dining on naturally produced products. In this fascinating and short clip from the same show (“Mind of a Chef,” narrated by Anthony Bourdain), the history of rice in America is explained.

 

I relish “real” food with “real” taste and I applaud Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills for bringing back these heirloom grains which make such a difference in our dining experience. I encourage all readers of GourMay to visit the Anson Mills online retail store and experiment yourself with the difference that a grain of rice makes. Good taste never tasted so good!  I realize that Anson Mills does not have the slickest eCommerce website, but do try the Carolina Gold Rice, the grits, the farro (delicious) and the Sea Island red peas.

Bogey Pinson is trying the Polenta di Riso with braised squid and mussels. Found below is the recipe for “Simple Buttered Polenta di Riso,” which is a component of David’s more elaborate dish.

Anson Mills Simple Buttered Polenta di Riso

 

Description and Getting Prepared

In rice polenta, we see Carolina Gold telescope down into the finest granularity this side of flour, while carrying the unmistakable clean, sweet flavor that bespeaks its lineage. Serve with fish or vegetable stews. For this recipe, you will need a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (preferably one with flared sides), a wooden spoon, and a whisk.

Anson Mills Polenta di Riso

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (7 ounces) Anson Mills Carolina Gold Polenta di Riso
  • 4 cups spring or filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (optional)

Preparation

Place the polenta and water in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (preferably one with flared sides) and stir to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are soft and hold their shape on a spoon, 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in the salt, pepper, butter, and Parmesan, if using. Serve hot. (To keep the polenta hot for up to 30 minutes before serving, transfer it to a bowl, cover, and set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. If necessary, thin the polenta with hot water before serving.)

Thanks Glenn for helping to restore “food culture” in America one grain at a time.