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Melt-in-your-mouth… Brussels sprouts?!! December 31, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. Okay, so some of us love the mini-cabbages called Brussels sprouts (named for the city of Brussels in Belgium, don’t call them “brussel” sprouts), and some of us hate them. Those who hate them were probably exposed to horrible, overboiled, bitter Brussels sprouts. Eeewww!!! No wonder most Brussels sprout-haters won’t try them again, unless they’re so cleverly disguised that no one would recognize them.

I happen to love Brussels sprouts. I love shredded Brussels sprouts sauteed in butter or olive oil with red pepper flakes. I love Brussels sprouts halved and roasted, drizzled with olive oil, salt (my favorite for this is the seasoned herb salt, Trocomare) and fresh-cracked black pepper. I love Brussels sprouts boiled and buttered like broccoli (just to doneness, mind, they should be brightly colored and emit not even a trace of foul sulfurous fumes).

Unfortunately, our friend Ben doesn’t share my love of Brussels sprouts, doubtless having suffered a hideous childhood encounter with the hated sprouts. I’ve occasionally been able to trick him into eating some if I mix them in with other roasted veggies like quartered new potatoes, sweet onions, and mushrooms. But normally I have to wait until he’s out enjoying a night with friends to enjoy Brussels sprouts and his other most-hated foods, all of which I adore: beets, okra, and big, meaty butterbeans (mature lima beans).

That’s why, when we were grocery shopping last week for our always-opulent, luscious Christmas feast, and I saw a package of plump, halved, delicious-looking Brussels sprouts, I surreptitiously slipped them into our shopping cart while directing OFB’s attention to the fresh-baked bread. Yum! Those sprouts looked really good.

I’d been planning to roast them, drizzled with olive oil. But when push came to shove, I decided to boil them up as I do green beans, asparagus and broccoli, until just tender. I add lemon juice, butter, salt, and fresh-cracked black pepper to the asparagus and broccoli after draining it, then swirl the pot a few minutes to let the butter and etc. blend in. For green beans, and now for the halved Brussels sprouts, I simply add butter, salt (again, Trocomare or RealSalt) and pepper, give the pan a good shake, and serve.

I can’t tell you how surprised I was by the deliciousness of the results. The sprouts were buttery, soft, melt-in-your-mouth good! It would never have occurred to me to boil halved Brussels sprouts; I’d always boiled them whole and roasted them halved. But I think halving them, then boiling them, gave them that meltingly good texture.

I’ve reheated the leftovers several times now (sob, now they’re gone), so I know my reaction wasn’t a fluke. I’ve never tasted Brussels sprouts this good before. If you love them, try this. If you love them and are trying to convince a sprout-hater to convert, serve this (if you can spare the extras!). I’m planning to halve my sprouts and cook them this way from now on. Yum!!!

‘Til next time,

Silence

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Am I making a big mistake? October 17, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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5 comments

Silence Dogood here. Ah, the trials of being a vegetarian trying to eat in a nice country inn. Last night, a friend and I met for a once-yearly supper at my very favorite restaurant. The food is just wonderful, but it’s certainly meat-oriented. Scanning the menu, I homed in on two things the generally-tolerant our friend Ben simply hates: beets and Brussels sprouts. (The only other two things I’ve ever known him to reject are liver and sauerkraut.)

As it happens, I love beets and Brussels sprouts. And on the menu for this particular Friday night, the restaurant had both a beet and Roquefort salad and a beet risotto, and well as listing Brussels sprouts as one of the veggie options. Great, two faved veggies I don’t typically get to eat at home! I’d lucked out! Or had I?

My experience with risotto in restaurants is that it’s invariably made with chicken stock. I asked the server if she would check for me. She returned in triumph. “No, there’s no chicken stock in the beet risotto!” Wow. But before I could even say anything, she added, “It’s made with lobster stock!” Oh. Well, so much for that. (And frankly, with beets’ earthy, full-bodied flavor, I’d have gone with the chicken stock myself.)

As we placed our orders, I was looking forward to my first Brussels sprouts of the season when my friend asked how they were prepared. “They’re served with sauteed onions and bacon!” our server replied enthusiastically. “Oh, no!” I screeched before I could stop myself. As our server regarded me with astonishment, I explained that I was a vegetarian and the bacon made them verboten. At which point we placed our orders and resumed our conversation. 

Several minutes later, our helpful server returned, flushed with success. “Our chef says she can make you Brussels sprouts without the bacon!” Excellent news!

But, as is often the case with vegetarians, when our food arrived, my Brussels sprouts not only had no bacon, they had no sauteed onions, either. They were sadly denuded, apparently pretty much everybody’s idea of vegetarians’ preferred fare.

I think this came about because of the two kinds of vegetarians—the stick-thin folks who are vegetarian for health reasons and would run screaming if they ever saw so much as a drop of oil or butter, but eat ten times their own weight in unspiced brown grains and raw and steamed vegetables every day, and the folks who are vegetarian for moral reasons but would really prefer nicely cooked, flavorful food, thank you so much. Unfortunately, the public concept of vegetarians tends to stick on the former. How many times have I been offered steamed zucchini at gatherings where everyone else was served food?!! But I digress.

Anyway, here I was with these Brussels sprouts. Not wanting to waste them, and only being able to eat so much at the best of times, I had them packed in a to-go box with half my beet salad (which was delicious), most of my lentil salad (also quite good), and half my baked potato (subsequently divided and enjoyed immensely by our puppy Shiloh and parrot Plutarch). I had the leftover lentil and beet salads for lunch today (OFB tried not to even look at the beets). But this still left the Brussels sprouts to deal with.

Last night, however, when I was putting the to-go box in the fridge, I noticed that OFB had carefully saved the last half-cup or so of my yummy tomato-based pasta sauce from our last spaghetti dinner. My first thought was: “What on earth are we going to do with that?!”  Followed quickly by: “Well, I could add it to black bean soup or lentil stew or refried beans for extra flavor.” But then two and two came together: What if I sauteed some onion in olive oil, stirred in the Brussels sprouts, then put them in a mini-loaf pan, covered them with a little shredded Parmesan and the leftover tomato sauce, and baked them just until the sprouts and sauce were heated through and the cheese had melted?

Good idea, or big mistake? You decide!

       ‘Til next time,

                 Silence

An unfortunate series of events. March 22, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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8 comments

Silence Dogood here. Last night was not what you’d call a good night. In fact, short of murder and mayhem, it was a really bad night. And it’s all our friend Ben’s fault.

Good soul that he actually is, he’d gone off to visit relatives for the weekend and left me up here to get some pressing work done. But that old “when the cat’s away” thing happened, and little did I know how literally it was going to happen. OFB is generally good about eating his vegetables, but he hates Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts, and when I was at the grocery yesterday afternoon I saw they had big bags of plump, perfect sprouts on sale. I figured I’d cook some for supper and watch a silly movie while I was eating it. Nice break, and Ben had already seen the movie and thought it was stupid, so I’d get to do two things he wouldn’t have enjoyed, right?

Wrong. There are lots of ways to cook Brussels sprouts, including steaming and sauteeing them. But I wanted to caramelize them to bring out their rich flavor, so I decided to make a one-dish meal and roast them. Not wanting to make a big production out of this since I was eating alone, I cut up a big baking potato, a couple of carrots, a sweet onion, and some Brussels sprouts and layered them in a baking pan with olive oil, butter, and Trocamare (a spicy herb-salt blend). Then I covered the dish with aluminum foil so the veggies could get tender, put it in the oven at 350, and got back to work.

If you’re still with me, you may be wondering what’s wrong with that? Well, nothing. The veggies cooked up tender and flavorful, the Brussels sprouts were sweet rather than bitter (the reason most sprout-haters hate them), I put “Get Smart” in the DVD player and sat down on the sofa to eat and enjoy.

Urk! That “sat down on the sofa” part proved to be my undoing. There’s a reason people tell you to always eat at the table, and mess that I am, I should know it better than most. But I have never, ever, made such a mess as I managed to make last night when I tipped that olive oil-and-butter-laden plate into my lap. My skirt, my slip, and the Indian sofa cover beneath me were totally saturated with grease, and my favorite top was seriously grease-splattered, too. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! (I’m pretreating them all now with undiluted liquid detergent prior to washing them this afternoon; if anybody has a more effective idea, please let me know.)

To say that I was discombobulated by this disaster is an understatement, since I love to have everything neat and tidy, because then I don’t have to give it a second thought and can focus on things that really matter. But I didn’t realize just how discombobulated I was until I let our golden retriever Molly out for a final bathroom break before bed. Mind you, it had been sad enough to see Molly going on hunger strike and lying, snout to the door, waiting for our friend Ben to get home. But to open the deck door for her to go outside and then see our cat Linus flying out in a great escape almost did me in.

Faithful readers will know that Linus, aka Linoose, is not the brightest bulb on the string. Far from it. But he is big, beautiful, and totally lovable and affectionate, and he holds my heart between his huge, clueless paws. To see him race off into the night and not know whether I’d ever see him alive again was such a crushing blow that I gave up all attempts at remaining awake and just crawled into bed.

In fact, I’d have assumed the whole Linus escape venture had simply been a nightmare had his much smarter sister, Layla, not reminded me that something was amiss with her distress cries. I have been out calling and calling this morning to no avail. So, please, keep Linus in your thoughts today and pray for his safe return. I can’t bear to lose him.

            ‘Til next time,

                            Silence