Monday, November 17, 2008

Sprouts! (Thanksgiving edition)

Tonight I got a text message asking about brussel sprouts.

I think there was a time when I did not like sprouts of any kind. "Sprouting" doesn't sound very appetizing. Luckily, I became more adventurous at some point. I think it sprouts became more attractive to me when I tasted a great recipe from a little cooking school in Chicago that I worked at. I've adapted/changed the recipe over the years and I'll share it here as soon as I can find (all of my recipes are hiding somewhere in a mountain of boxes). I made it for Thanksgiving last year and it was an overwhelming hit. We ate the little guys cold right out of the refrigerator the next day like they were candy. For now I'll just say that the combination of maple syrup and mustard in a glaze is surprisingly addictive.

Pre-cooked sprouts, Milwaukee, Thanksgiving 2007.

But back to the problem at hand: what is the easiest way to cook the sprouts? Boiling, simmering or steaming are of course very simple. Steaming is great because you lose less nutrients into the water. Depending on the vegetable, you can lose up to over a third of the nutrients to water if you're boiling, as opposed to about 15% by steaming.

My favorite method for sprout cooking, though, is sautéing. I was going to wait until I could find the recipe to post it here, but what the heck. I'll just write what I can remember. Throw a pound or so of sprouts into a pan with olive oil, shallots, salt...maybe a handful of pecans. Sauté for 5 minutes or so, then add a bit of water and let them cook covered all steamy for another 6-7 minutes. This will get them tender enough while the initial saute will have them golden around the edges.

Next whip up a combination of REAL maple syrup and dijon mustard, (1/8 c syrup to 1/4 c mustard--this can change based on your tolerance of spicy or sweet), maybe add a bit of garlic powder or fresh ground black pepper to this, and pour over the sprouts once they're tender when forked. I like to let the glaze cook down a bit before taking them off the heat. The perfect vegetable side dish. I believe it could turn any anti-sprouter into a sprout-lover.

Oh ALSO! When you're washing the sprouts, a good thing to do is to let them soak a few minbutes. This allows water to get in between the leaves and clean out any dirt or bugs hidden within.

Quick Fruit Sauces

I can remember quite a few breakfasts with friends where someone was making pancakes and there was no syrup in the house. Who can plan for everything? Definitely not me. Pancakes without syrup is a tragedy, of course, but also an opportunity to experiment with extras just sitting in the refrigerator. I have two recent examples (with photos!) to cite.

1. Peach-Mango-Pineapple Sauce

We had some leftover pineapple, some peaches that were too mealy to eat by themselves, and an amazing mango. I tossed these into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons sugar, maybe a 1/4 cup water, a couple of teaspoons balsamic vinegar, and a drizzle of vanilla. I let it cook down for a while, maybe ten minutes, adding a bit more sugar or vinegar if needed. And a dash of salt too--really brings out the sweetness nicely.

French Toast with Jonathan, South Bristol, Maine. September 6, 2008.

2. Apple-Raspberry Sauce

We were making pancakes. We had a few apples and a carton of raspberries, and some candied orange peel (that we sadly forgot to use!). I sliced the apples very thin and cooked them down in the same way as the more tropical version above, but this time with a bit more vanilla. I think vanilla really complements apples well.

I only added about two thirds of the raspberries at first, so that a handful could be thrown in toward the end. That way the texture of the berries is preserved for tasting pleasure when poured on the pancakes. I think this sauce would also be great with a bit of bourbon thrown in toward the end.

Pancakes with Alicia, Chicago. October 13, 2008.

Both of these sauces would make great preserves.