It’s rare that we go to the store to buy vegetables, since we normally get all we need for the week (and them some) from the CSA share that we pick up each Tuesday afternoon. While we were away on vacation, we temporarily stopped our shares, and when we got back, our refrigerator was bare. A trip to the produce section was in order.
We didn’t have any particular recipe in mind; instead, we just hunted for vegetables that looked fresh and tasty, figuring that we’d be able to create a dish from whatever we selected. We really think that’s the best way to shop. Pick the freshest and nicest-looking produce because it will taste best, then create a meal around whatever you pick. It seems backwards at first, but that’s really the way people cooked for hundreds of years before the commercialization of farming.
So, from our Brussels sprouts, we came up with this Scratchin’ original recipe. Let us know how you like it.
This is a super mix-and-match dish. Instead of Brussels sprouts, you could use broccoli or cauliflower. Instead of dried cranberries, you could use dried apricots. And, in place of pine nuts, nearly any nut would be a good substitute. It’ll be different, but we’re sure it’ll be good. But, we do recommend that, if want to use another type of cheese, go with a strong cheese, such as an aged Cheddar, or a blue cheese. And, as always, if you choose Parmesan (or Grana Padano), you know that it doesn’t come in a green can.
Procedure in detail:
Soak cranberries. Place the dried cranberries in a small heatproof bowl — we used a Pyrex measuring cup — and cover with boiling water. Let stand at least an hour so the cranberries will absorb most of the liquid. We plumped them so they wouldn’t be like little rocks in the final dish. Once plumped, drain and set aside.
Toast pine nuts. Place the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat to toast. While toasting, stir often and watch carefully so they won’t burn, and, once lightly browned, remove from the pan and let cool. Set aside.
Blanch and shock. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil. How much salt? It depends on the amount of water, but the water should taste salty, like the ocean. Once boiling, add the Brussels sprouts and cook (technically blanch, since they won’t be completely cooked) until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold running water until completely cool. Drain thoroughly. You might not think this step is important, but we find that blanching and shocking cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.) not only helps them stay green, but removes the bitterness that many people don’t like.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment to save cleanup time.
Toss. Drizzle the olive oil over the Brussels sprouts, add the salt and pepper, and give everything a good tossing. We did this right in the colander to save time and cleanup; you can, too.
Roast. Brussels sprouts go on the prepared pan and in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. Midway through, take them out and give them a good stir, trying to flip most of them over so both sides can have even roasting time.
Add cranberries and nuts. After thirty minutes, stir in the pine nuts and cranberries and press everything together in a tight group, but keep it to one layer. Top with the grated cheese, then it’s back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so, long enough to heat the cranberries and nuts, and melt the cheese, but not so long that anything burns.
This is a tasty dinner, mainly because of the roasting of the Brussels sprouts. Some of the leaves git a bit browned and crispy, making them slightly sweet, yet a bit crunchy. The cranberries add a sweet (dried cranberries are sweetened) and tart taste that complements the slight bitterness of the sprouts, and the nuts and cheese add just a bit of oil to cut that bitterness even further. We’ll give it four stars in the worth-it category.