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.

Tuscan Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

tarry-marketSeveral weeks ago, Sheila and I enjoyed lunch at Tarry Market in Port Chester. Tarry Market is the brain-child of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianach and is a mini-Eataly for Greenwich residents who detest traveling to New York City.  Tarry Market has undergone a bit of makeover toward the end of last year, when they greatly expanded their dining facilities. I wouldn’t recommend it for dinner, but it is something of a cross between an Italian salumeria and a French Bistro. We go there frequently for lunch and are rarely disappointed. We will normally order one of their delicious sandwiches from the rotisserie (prime rib, porchetta or veal) with the daily soup. One day we were served a very tasty cannellini bean soup with some escarole or kale and Sheila decided to recreate this belly-warming soup at home.

Borrowing inspiration from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection, she prepared a variation of Tuscan White Bean soup with frizzled shallots and pancetta (Sheila’s variations are highlighted in bold). (Note:  The pancetta and shallots add a bit of crunch.  Definitely worthwhile). Enjoy.

Variations on Delia’s Tuscan White Bean Soup with Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 8 oz of cannellini beans
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 good sprig each of parsley, thyme and rosemary (Sheila added additional rosemary)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of escarole (chopped)
  • A small rind of parmesan cheese (This addition makes any soup taste great!)
  • 2 pints of chicken stock
  • 4 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper

Ingredients for Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta Garnish

  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced into rings
  • 3 oz thinly sliced pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil

Preparation of the Tuscan Soup

  • Soak beans overnight in twice their volume of cold water.  Drain before cooking.
  • Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onion until is softens (5 minutes)
  • Add escarole and cook down (2 minutes or so)
  • Add garlic and continue to cook for one minute.
  • Add the drained beans, parmesan rind, celery, herbs, ay leaf and black pepper (but no salt).  Pour in the stock and stir well.
  • When soup begins to boil, turn down heat to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pot.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.
  • Check to see if the beans are tender and then gently mush a few of the beans and continue for another 10 to 15 minutes or so.
  • Add lemon juice and 2 Tbs of olive oil shortly before serving.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove parmesan rind.  Allow it to cool slightly and then cut in small pieces and return to soup.

Preparation of Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

  • Roll pancetta into a cigar shape then cut into fine shreds.
  • Heat 2 Tbs olive oil at high temperature and add shallots cooking them for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove and allow to drain.
  • Add 1 Tbs olive oil to the same pan and fry the pancetta for 2 minutes or so.  Drain.

When you are ready to serve the soup, sprinkle the shallots and pancetta over the soup.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

 

Beans, Greens and Cornbread

Found below is a video promoting the sale of the Blackberry Farm Cookbook. For those not familiar with this southern treasure, Blackberry Farm is located in the foothills the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and is a luxury resort famous for their traditional southern cooking.

The video below demonstrates how easy it is to make a very traditional southern dish of beans, greens and cornbread. Clearly, any food preparation that uses Benton’s Bacon and heirloom grains from Anson Mills will most certainly get my vote.

Doesn’t get much better than this on a cold winter’s day!