07 August 2012

The Return of the Inconsolable Brussels Sprout!

Remember this guy? The last time I saw him was five years ago when he quietly slipped off my windowsill and disappeared from my life.  ‘Twas tragic, but no more than the time I cheerfully chopped up his friends from the farmers market and braised them into a creamy, velvety, delicious mess.  I totally get why he was mad.  But jumping out of a third-story window? Seriously, dude, you didn’t have to be so melodramatic.

Thoughts of the self-pitying sprout had crossed my mind during the past six years, but I truly never thought I would ever again cast my eyes upon his sorrowful face. One evening, however, he came hopping up the back stairs, a transformed sprout. All smiles and hugs, seemingly eager to rekindle our friendship.

I offered to take him out for a beer so we could catch up. Apparently his first few years were a blur. Lots of drinking, lots of partying, anything to escape the memory of my face and my pointy knife.  Eventually, he came to terms with his place in the food chain.  Poor little sprout.  To realize that those who detest you are actually your allies, as those who love you are only planning to chew you up and use your life force to propel their own.

Well, it turns out the smiles and hugs were just a show. After a few hours at the bar, he was a blubbering mess. Completely out of control!

He ended up calling me some nasty names, stomping off on his shiny little feet and going home with some lady that I occasionally see around the Goose Island Brewpub.

I heard nothing from him until a few weeks later when his all-too-recognizable shrieks suddenly pierced the tranquility of my afternoon. What now!? I looked up from my book and uttered a shriek of my own (albeit a few octaves lower than his) when I saw this:

Aaaaaaaaah! Well, my daughter does love her brussels sprouts.
I rescued the trembling sprout from my daughter’s clenched hands and hurried him out of the room. Unfortunately, in my shock, I had forgotten about the kale and brussels sprouts salad that was unapologetically displayed on the kitchen counter. I tried to cover  the sprout’s eyes, but it was too late.  At the sight of his shredded kin, his teeny weeny shrieks turned into teeny weeny sobs, and he practically lost his trimmings all over himself.

Oh, the saddest sprout!  His misery was palpable. I could almost taste him it.

I left the room to attend to my daughter’s distress (hell hath no fury like a four-year-old denied her brussels sprouts), but when I came back, the little guy was nowhere to be found.
I checked the cutting board.
I checked the garbage disposal.
I even checked the vinegar jars (brussels sprout pickles, anyone?).
He was nowhere.

Then, a little giggle.
A few more.
I ran to the source of the titters, and was overjoyed to find that sad sprout had indeed accepted his fate, joining his kind in a delicious kale and brussels sprouts salad.

I served the salad to guests that evening, secretly smiling to my little buddy as people ate the salad and raved about it.
The End.

Wait, what’s that I said? Something about guests raving about kale and brussels sprouts? And did I mention that they were RAW?  Raw brussels sprouts? Shut up.  It’s true. This salad is a completely unexpected and magical experience. The garlicky, mustardy dressing melts into the kale and tenderizes the leaves with its acidity. The almonds add a toasty crunch, and the salty pecorino fuels one's addiction to the salad. I can't decide if the dried cherries (an adaption from a different kale salad) add bursts of sweet tartness or tart sweetness, but whatever they do, I am completely enamored with this dish. I just want to  roll around in it and eat it and eat it and eat it eat it and eat it and eat it eat it and eat it eat itand eat it eat it and eat it eat it.

Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad
~ adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2011

Note: To save time, I sometimes skip the step of toasting the almonds (the olive oil goes straight into the dressing instead of the skillet). But the toasted almonds sure are nice. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything about skipping that step.
Another note: The salad can be dressed ahead of time. The dressing actually marinates the kale leaves, making the salad better the second day. 
OK, one more note: Once, I added a touch of honey and red wine vinegar. It was delicious. 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 pounds total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cherries or cranberries (this is my addition; I like it)
1 cup finely grated Pecorino (I also use Parmesan)

Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld. 
Cut the center stem out of the kale leaves and discard. Thinly slice them. (A food processor makes quick work of this. I highly recommend using one.).
Trim brussels sprouts and thinly shred them with a knife or a food processor.
Mix sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel–lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.


Sara MacKenzie said...

That looks fantastic. Rather stupidly, I moved to France before I realized there is no kale here. None. It's a tragedy of epic proportions. The closest I can get is bok choy.

Missie said...

Yum! Sounds delicious and healthy...thanks!!

emily said...

this salad is better than all of the brussel sprout and/or kale salads i've ever made. you win.

Erielle said...

NOT better than the sprout slaw that you put on those lamb sandwiches, though! I will think of that every day for each of the remainder of my days on this sweet earth.