My column last week was on some ways to use some of our more maligned ingredients – Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Also see this recipe for spicy cabbage stir-fry which ran in the NY Times after I’d turned in my column. Looks good.
Note: My trial run on this dish (pictured above, with new Canon Digital Rebel!) featured eqal weights of sprouts and dried pasta…it seemed a bit much on the former, so I dialed it back in the recipe below. But feel free to experiment or suit to your own tastes.
It’s no secret why fall is a favorite season for many people. It’s a welcome respite from summer’s often-stifling heat and humidity. The bright reds and rusty oranges on the trees and on the ground flip a switch in our brains: slow down. Fall is also one of best times of the year for eating, and not just for the usual suspects that are at their best when the days grow short. It’s the best time of year to reintroduce ourselves to some of those underserved ingredients, the ones you ate boiled to death and with a gun to your head as a kid, if at all. I’m talking broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Each of these oft-maligned vegetables can, if treated with some semblance of care and attention, surprise even the most jaded skeptic.
Broccoli is excellent in stir-fries and treated simply with a little butter and squeeze of lemon. But I’ve taken to Sycamore Restaurant’s treatment and started serving it with sundried tomato butter, which you can make at home. Let a half of a stick of butter soften, then mash together with minced sundried tomatoes. Chop broccoli — florets, stalk and all — into large pieces and steam until just barely tender. Toss with sundried tomato butter and serve.
I have no idea if they eat cauliflower in this part of the world, but we like it pan-fried with typically Middle Eastern spices such as cardamom and cumin. Serve with grilled lamb or firm fish and a squeeze of lemon.
Brussels sprouts — the kings of every kid’s culinary hell — end up being rather versatile if you set aside the boiling treatment. You can fry them and top with an Asian-style fish sauce or steam them and serve with lemon butter. But Brussels are good enough to play center stage as well, and in this pasta dish, they get top billing — along with proper respect.
PASTA WITH SAUTéED BRUSSELS SPROUTS BACON AND MISSOURI PECANS
1/2 cup Missouri pecans, chopped
4 ounces bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch batons
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 pound penne pasta
3 egg yolks, stirred
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley and olive oil to finish
Toast pecans on medium heat in a toaster oven or a pan on the stove, stirring often until deep brown — take care not to burn. Set aside, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for the pasta.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel and pour off all but a tablespoon of bacon grease; keep the rest for later. Add Brussels sprouts to pan, salt and sauté over medium heat until crisp, adding bacon grease as needed, about 12 minutes. About halfway through, drop pasta in the other pot.
When sprouts are done, add onion to the pan (adding bacon grease if needed), stir, and cook until softened, about two minutes. Ladle a cup of pasta water into the skillet and let it cook down, using a wooden spoon to loosen the good stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove pan from heat, drain pasta and add pasta to the sprouts and onions. Add bacon and cheese. Stir, add egg yolks and stir again. Taste for seasoning, adjust, top with pecans, olive oil and parsley.
Scott Rowson eats in Columbia and writes about it at showmeeats.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.