Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans


The Pie doesn’t particularly like Brussels sprouts, but the rest of us adore them.  To find a compromise this past Thanksgiving I pulled inspiration from a number of different recipes, and also from a salad I’d eaten at The Black Tomato two nights before, and came up with something that we all loved.

I’m not going to give you measurements for this recipe, because to be honest I didn’t measure anything, just kind of threw it in when the inspiration struck me.  Besides, everyone has their own preferences as to amounts and proportions in a salad.  Just estimate and you’ll be fine.  This version served ten people with tons of leftovers.

First, you cut up your Brussels sprouts.  We tried them first with a mandolin, but then found it was easier just to slice them thinly with a stupid sharp knife.  Cut off the tough stem part at the bottom and discard any bruised or torn outer leaves, then carefully shave those suckers down.We ended up with a medium-sized bowl full of bits of mini-cabbage.Because this was sort of a do-at-the-last-second kind of salad, and because Thanksgiving at the last second gets a little hectic as things come out of the oven and the turkey needs to be carved, I wanted to set up a mise en place for this so everything would be ready to go when I needed it.  Accordingly, I prepared the rest of my ingredients ahead of time.

Three finely chopped green onions.

Two finely sliced shallots.

Two handfuls dried, sweetened cranberries.

A handful each finely chopped radicchio and Boston lettuce.

Goat cheese, or chèvre.

Pecans, ground in my food processor.

Pecan pieces, for garnish.

Mix together the goat cheese, cranberries, and ground pecans.

Set that aside for now.

In a large frying pan or skillet melt about a third of a cup of butter at medium heat.  Toss in your green onions and shallots and sauté for a few minutes until softened.

Chuck in your massive amounts of Brussels sprouts and stir them around until they’re thoroughly coated in butter and start to wilt.

Add in the raddichio and the Boston lettuce and stir to mix.  Drizzle gently with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a healthy dash of real maple syrup.  Toss to coat and remove from heat.

Add in your goat cheese mixture and toss it well.

Sprinkle with pecan pieces and serve warm.

Stir-Fry at Cait and iPM’s

Hang in there, those of you facing Hurricane Igor!

The main trick in food photography, I have learned, is to always, always, always use natural light in your photographs.

The problem with living in Canada is that half the year, the sun sets really early and your good afternoon light turns blue.  Unless you want to start cooking your dinner at two in the afternoon, you have to put up with a lot of noise in your now blue-tinged shots.  I apologize in advance.

A downside to cooking in other people’s kitchens is that friends my age often live in quirky apartment buildings and so don’t have the enormous picture window with which I have been blessed in my own kitchen back in St. John’s.  The light quality in these places, therefore, isn’t all that great.  I should really start using my low ISO feature.  Some kitchens don’t even HAVE windows, which is a real shame, both for the sake of my pictures, and for the cooks themselves.  How can you enjoy cooking if you don’t like being in the room where cooking takes place? 

Anyway, tonight I went over to visit Cait and iPM.  You may remember them from their visit to St. John’s in June. Cait is a computer guru and she is in the process of making my laptop able to survive the extra two or three years of service I need it to give me before I can afford to replace it.  Their kitchen is fortunately roomy enough for my purposes, but as it was late in the evening, the light’s not all that great.

In the middle of the produce section of Loblaws, Cait and I decided on a stir-fry, so I picked up some broccoli, mushrooms, green onions, snow peas, and fresh garlic.  Cait already had chicken, carrots, soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, so it was a simple matter of adding hoisin, black bean, and teriyaki to the basket and off we went.

At home, Cait set to haranguing my computer and making it do her bidding and I set to chopping.  Cait owns neither a cutting board nor a non-serrated knife so it was an adventure trying to julienne the carrots and broccoli stalks.  But I did it.

I also sliced up three boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well.  Nice and thin.

Ruby, who is only a puppy, tried to convince me that chicken was the best thing for her and that what we thought was her proper dog food was actually poison.  She failed.  But she’s cute.

In a small bowl, mix together about two tablespoons each of brown sugar, vinegar (I prefer rice vinegar but Cait only had balsamic), hoisin, teriyaki, black bean, and soy sauce.

Slice up about three cloves of garlic and plop them in a pan with olive oil.  Heat that sucker up.

Add the chicken, and stir until just cooked through, between 5 and 10 minutes.

Add the sauce mixture and stir to coat all the chicken.

Plop in your vegetables and stir to get them all coated, too.I ran out of room in the pan and therefore had to transfer half my cooking to a nearby pot.

Let the vegetables cook a little bit, but not too much.  You want them still crisp, but brightly coloured.  Probably you want to cook them for about seven minutes or so.

Serve over rice, and if you have lovely Fiestaware to do it on, all the better. 

iPM went back for seconds so I know it was good.

Tomato Lunch

A rain charm to fend off the storm.

It’s a rainy afternoon from where I’m writing.  It’s only eight degrees outside but I’m determined to think of summer.  What better lunch, then, than a tomato salad?

Here is my tomato.  It’s had a hard life being imported from somewhere into my refrigerator, but I’m not a snob when it comes to aesthetics.  Of course, this would be a different post altogether if I had my mother’s multicoloured heritage tomatoes at hand.  But we make do with what we can.

Let me take this opportunity to introduce to you a tiny piece of steel that makes eating tomatoes so much easier: the tomato huller

Rather than simply slicing off the top of the tomato and discarding it, or using a knife to cut into the top and leaving a tomato slice that looks like a victim of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this little tool quickly and neatly removes the tough bits of tomato attaching the stem to the flesh without wasting all that tomato-y goodness.

So first you remove the stem.  Just pop that sucker right off.

Then take the huller and dig the little spokes into the area around the stem-hole.

Ease the huller around the edge of the stem-hole and work it underneath, like an ice cream scoop.

Then just scoop away the icky parts.  Tada.

Makes it easy to slice up your tomato, lay it, salted and peppered, on a plate with some fresh basil leaves, and drizzle it with a smidgen of vintage balsamic vinegar (because we all know how much I love vinegar).

You can see how that lovely top slice didn’t go to waste.

I grated a wee bit of asiago cheese on top and ate it with a roll (which I baked myself!) to sop up the juices.  Mmm.

Go-to Garlic Basil Vinaigrette

Salads here in Newfoundland is a rare t’ing, b’y.  At least for us.  It’s hard to get vegetables that you want to look at that closely.

What this means is we don’t buy those huge bottles of salad dressing, which are usually too strong, too full of extra stuff we don’t want to put in our bodies, and last for way longer than you like the flavour.

We make our little vinaigrettes instead.

The trick with a good vinaigrette is in the emulsification of the olive oil with the vinegar.  You can do this by shaking it vigourously in a closed container, or by whipping it to a frenzy with a whisk.  The choice is yours.

Here we’ve got about two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, three tablespoons vintage balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon dried basil and another teaspoon minced garlic.  But you can put whatever you want in there.

Shake it up good and stick it in your fridge for up to two weeks.  The flavours will actually improve the longer you leave it in there.

White Bean Dip with Roasted Red Pepper

I got this baby from the Ontario White Bean Producers website.  And then of course I modified it.

First you take your beans.  The recipe called for 2 cups of white beans (white navy beans).  I thought this meant 2 cups of RAW beans, but no, it meant 2 cups of COOKED beans.  As a result, I have SO VERY MUCH bean dip.

Anyway, take your beans, in any form.  If they’re raw, give ’em a good cook.  Simmer them in a pot of water for about an hour.  Make sure that your water doesn’t totally evaporate, and add more water if you have to — burnt beans is a smell no one needs to have in the kitchen.

While your beans are cooking (or sitting politely in their can, waiting on your convenience), take a pan and sauté yourself a finely chopped onion with some fresh sage (or frozen sage if you’ve got it).  Once the onions are translucent, remove pan from heat and plop in 6 or 7 cloves roasted garlic (about one head) just to get them warm and toasty.

In a large bowl (with the aid of an immersion blender) or food processor, combine your cooked beans, your onion/garlic/sage mixture, one or two roasted red peppers, cut in strips (from a jar or make ’em yourself), a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch or so of sea salt.  Blend that thing silly until it’s smooth and creamy.

Pile 'em on and blend 'em silly.

Serve as a dip with pita chips or crackers, or use as a bean base in quesadillas, wraps, and sandwiches.

Because I have so very much dip, I managed to foist some off on D and J, and I’m going to try to freeze the rest.  I will let you know how that goes.

Pita chips are yummy.