Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nooks, Crannies and Underbellies


      While I don't consider last week's bread pudding recipe a difficult one, the amount of ingredients initially appears foreboding. This week's recipe makes up for it with its minimal ingredient list and has been requested by an old friend back from our days of environmental altruism in the under-served parks of New York City. I remember that time firmly and specifically, probably from the man-made sensory demands of the city juxtaposed against the serenity of the concrete-bound patches of green. It was the only time I wore a uniform for a job and sometimes I felt like I was a newly released prisoner doing public service work, but the people were good and it was an amazing way to learn the nooks and crannies (even the underbellies) of such a massive town.

      Along with the Seven-Seafood Soup from the Dominican fish shop under the overpass near Dyckman and the lady who sold mangoes with a salty chili sauce nearby, the grocery store near my apartment in Harlem was teeming with ingredients that supported giddiness and exploration. I remember this Brussels sprouts dish well; it was enjoyed on skewers at a tapas-themed, whiskey-hydrated party and has stayed in my seasonal repertoire ever since.

Browned Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Fresh Rosemary and Smoked Pecans
adapted from Just A Taste in Ithaca, NY

      Smoked pecans are called for to make this dish vegan-optional but for the meat eaters, two pieces of crisped bacon, roughly chopped is an excellent substitution. If using pecans, start by making them first so that they can be used as garnish as soon as the Brussels sprouts are tender. And you may want to cook the Brussels sprouts in two batches if you don't have a skillet large enough for them to cook in a single layer (the integral part of the "browned" aspect).

For the Brussels Sprouts 
6 T olive oil or butter
6 c Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 t sea salt

1/2 c water
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T fresh rosemary needles, minced

2 T fresh lemon juice

For the pecans
 1 T olive oil
1 c pecan pieces
1/4 t sea salt

1/2 t smoked paprika (available in most co-ops or Spanish sections of grocery stores, Angel being a popular brand)
2 t maple syrup

      Start with toasting the pecans. In a heavy bottomed skillet over a medium-low flame, heat 1 T of olive oil. Add the pecan pieces and sea salt, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat. Let the pecans toast, stirring often, for about five minutes, or until fragrant. Be careful that they don't scorch -- pecans have that tendency. Add the smoked paprika and maple syrup at the very end, stirring again to coat, and remove from heat to let cool. 

      In the same heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat (in single layer batches, if necessary), heat the olive oil or butter. When the fat is hot enough so that the Brussels sprouts sizzle upon contact, add them and the sea salt, stirring to combine and arranging them so they are all face down. Cover the pan and let the Brussels sprouts get a chance to brown -- about four minutes.

      Remove the lid, check that the Brussels sprouts have gotten the chance to brown and then add 1/2 c water, minced garlic, and rosemary and then replace the lid. Let the Brussels sprouts steam in the water and become tender -- about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, check for tenderness and then add the lemon juice, stirring to combine and waiting 30 seconds before removing from heat.

      Pour the Brussels sprouts and any remaining liquid on a serving platter, garnish with pecans or bacon (or both!).

Yields: a side dish for 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes, pecans included

Styling and Writing by Adria Lee  | Photography by Amy Pennington


  1. We've eaten variations of this recipe at Washington DC's Estadio (as well as at Ithaca's Just a Taste). All three are good, but Adria's adaptation is the best!

  2. Thanks, Mom! (But why do you keep writing under "Anonymous"?)