Thursday, February 6, 2014

Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

January has been a slightly schizophrenic food month for me in which I have haphazardly skipped from intensely healthy foods to intensely indulgent ones. This one goes in the healthy camp since it's basic element is a nice, healthy vegetable. However, I'm sure there would be those who would argue that pecans, goat cheese, and maple syrup don't really deserve fully healthy billing. I'm not going to quite give it to them because the boiled unsalted unbuttered Brussels sprouts of the world are just the type of sin that has made the universe hate this completely delicious vegetable. Last week when I had some friends over for lunch, I asked them if they wanted Sunday supper or a warm Brussels sprouts salad. Yeah, they chose the Sunday supper. And while I don't blame them for this (because Sunday supper is amazing), I have a feeling that they didn't really know what they were missing out on by passing up the Brussels sprouts. It felt kind of like I'd asked them, "Hey, do you want this cracker that just dropped on the floor and got stepped on or these Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven?" They smiled politely when I asked about the Brussels sprouts, but I sensed the terror in their eyes--"Is she really going to make us eat Brussels sprouts for the lunch she invited us to." And Brussels sprouts deserve better feelings than that. Way better. Also, I should point out that this awesome salad is more than just a salad--it is a perfect little well-rounded meal complete with protein and calcium. Also, even though it calls for all kinds of indulgent and potentially expensive ingredients, you use just a bit of each to create a really decadent, fabulous vegetable dish without breaking the bank. I could eat it every day.

Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese
adapted from Rachel Schultz
Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.20
brussels sprouts: 2.00, cranberries: .30, pecans: .50, goat cheese: .30, other: .10

Note: This is fairly adaptable. You could use walnuts instead of pecans or even probably pine nuts to good effect. You could use feta or blue cheese instead of the goat cheese (any softish, spunky-ish cheese will do). Also, I used dried cranberries (that I threw in near the end), but the original recipe called for fresh, which she cooked with the brussels sprouts so they would burst and shrivel a bit on their own. So feel free to use what you've got.

Note: I halved this recipe (and then ate it all myself, yes, I did). If you make the full recipe, be sure you've got enough space in your pan that your brussels sprouts are all in more or less one layer on the pan.

Note: Yes, I did just use "handful" as a measurement and, no, that's not fair. My hand holds about 1/4-1/3 C of stuff, but seriously, this is a very adaptable recipe, so don't get too caught up in exact measurements.

1 lb brussels sprouts, quartered (and with ends and any wilty-ish leaves removed)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (yes, balsamic is definitely best, though you could probably get away with something else)
1 Tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff)
1 handful dried cranberries
1 handful pecans (lightly chopped or in pieces)
1 handful crumbled goat cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add Brussels sprouts and a generous sprinkling of sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally. Let them get some golden or even brown color to them. This is important. Do not fear the brown edges.

When they're browned and delicious, add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir. Add in pecans and cranberries and stir, letting cook for another minute or two.

Take off heat and add the cheese. Taste and add salt if necessary. Eat it. Oh, it's so good.


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