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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip @ My Pantry ShelfOnce you fall in love with Brussels sprouts, it is impossible to get enough.  We eat them like candy at our house, or most of us do.  One child has chosen to shun these green meatballs for now- more for us!  While we enjoy them shaved in salads and sauteed with garlic, the best preparation in my opinion is to simply toss them in oil, season them with salt and pepper and roast in the oven.

Brussels Srouts and dip

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip can be served as either an unexpected appetizer or a gratifying side dish.  The Brussels sprouts caramelize a bit in the oven and match beautifully with the blue cheese and yogurt dip.  The dish hits all the notes of a warm, savory, dippable treat, but without the guilt of fat and carbohydrates that so many appetizers carry.

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Thanksgiving is never at our home.  Each year we alternate between my and my husband’s parents’ homes.  This holiday is decidedly my favorite.  I love the cool weather, the rustling of leaves, the family crammed into the kitchen to gossip, stir, and sip.   And of course the food.  Each of the homes we visit have special dishes that we love, but since each year we miss one of the homes, I like to make our favorites ahead of time so we do not miss out.

Stuffed Winter Squash with Rice and Sausage recipe is a take on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  My parents have hosted Thanksgiving every year for my entire life (and longer). Each year they put on an impressive spread with many mouth-watering dishes, but my favorite is by far the rice stuffing.   Inspired by their once neighbors and long-time friends, my parents early on shunned the bread stuffings they were raised on and adopted a rice version of the dish.  Wild rice baked along with flavorful Italian sausage, fresh vegetables and herbs to make a tasty, toothsome (not to mention gluten-free) side dish.  This stuffing is delicious baked in the bird or baked in a greased casserole dish, but love the look and taste of baking it in delicata squash halves.  It also makes for very tidy serving.  The stuffing can be made ahead a day or two and kept covered in the refrigerator or a couple of weeks ahead and kept in the freezer.  Wait to stuff the squash halves until the day of baking.  One of the squash boats is a generous serving, perfect if it is your main side dish. If you are serving it with many side dishes, such as on Thanksgiving, they neatly cut in half.

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Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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Curried Cauliflower Pickles

January 10, 2012

Wandering through the produce market, it is easy to become entranced.  I most recently succumbed to cauliflower.  The big snowy globes of pure veggie power were calling my name.  They may just be the most versatile winter vegetable, ready to adapt to any flavor profile or dish in which they are called to serve. I filled my basket with four huge heads and began dreaming of the possibilities.  Two heads went straight into a double-batch of pickles.

Curried Cauliflower Pickles are a crunchy, intensely flavored Indian condiment.  Serve them on the side of any Indian-inspired dish or nibble on them as an appetizer.  They are not too bad straight from the jar either.  Awaken the flavors by toasting the spices in a dry pan before adding them to the jars.  The cauliflower, ginger, and garlic all pack into the jars while raw.  After pouring the boiled brine into the jar, submerge the jars in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the jars.  In this time the cauliflower cooks to a perfect tenderness.  While the pickles are ready to eat in a week, they will continue to become more flavorful with time.  Shake the jars periodically to distribute the spices that have settled to the bottom.

T, my good friend and canning comrade, turned me on to this recipe from Alton Brown.  The original recipe did not give directions for how to can the pickles, so I cross-referenced with my other canning materials to determine the processing time.  I altered the spices a bit to suit my taste.  The curry is fairly mild.  Increase the amount of spice if you want more intensity.  Adding some chile flakes or hot peppers would be a nice touch as well.

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Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin

November 21, 2011

Sweet potatoes are not very popular at my family Thanksgiving gathering.  There are a few of us that enjoy them, but by and large they are passed around the table and politely declined.  Even I, a professed yam lover, took years to warm to this tuber.  It was not until I had them roasted and unsweetened for the first time that I took a liking to them.  I think the added sugar is what gives sweet potatoes a bad name in some circles.  If you love those super-sweet marshmallow-covered casseroles, then more power to you, but I cannot stand them.  In my opinion, the key to a delicious sweet potato dish is to let the sweetness of the potato itself shine through and season it in a savory way instead.

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw

November 6, 2011

It has been a slow transition to fall around here.  Halloween has come and passed, but until today the skies have been clear and the air relatively warm.  This must be the reason I have not yet completely embraced the hearty warm foods of the darker months.  Now daylight savings has come to an end and the rains are finally pelting down. The last of the tomatoes found their way into salsa and the eggplants into stir fries. It is time to break out the symbolic fall and winter vegetables and what better to start with than brussels sprouts in salad form?

Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw is a bright and crisp salad.  Brussels sprouts (which are rarely served raw) are sliced very thin and tossed with red onion, a lemony mustard vinaigrette, and percorino romano cheese.  If you think you do not like brussels sprouts, be sure to give this a try.  Leaving them raw keeps them crisp and mild in flavor with none of the distinctive odor that comes from cooking them.  Serve this salad with just about anything, but I love to serve it beside some other rich saucy dish where it adds a fresh and acidic counterpoint.

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For many people Brussels sprouts rank right up there with lima beans and lutefisk for the food they would least like to see on their dining table.  While I cannot speak for the other two, I can tell you that Brussels sprouts have been unfairly charged.  These dense little gems are not only delicious, but also incredibly nutritious and filling too (a feature that is quite a strength in the month of January when many of us are attempting to recover from the holiday bulge).

It is easy to understand why these green meatballs earned their bad rap.  Boiled to oblivion, the leafy globes take on a putrid aroma and ooze  nasty green juice when you attempt to cut off a bite.  The key to creating a delicious side dish is to prepare them properly.  I often halve the Brussels sprouts,  toss them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven.  It is super easy and they turn out delicious. The dish enclosed in this post, however, is cooked on the stove top, allowing for more even cooking.  It has quickly become our favorite.

The recipe included today is based on one published in our local paper a couple of months ago.  The original recipe includes bacon and 1/2 cup of olive oil.  While I have no doubt that those additions add a lot of flavor to the dish, I am not feeling nearly as decadent as I was last month (see aforementioned holiday bulge).  Feel free to add the bacon and drizzle on as much oil as you desire!  What I share with you are simply sauteed Brussels sprouts topped with garlicky bread crumbs and parmesan.  They are easy to prepare, delicious, and nothing like the Brussels sprouts you may have eaten (or pretended to) as a kid.  Try them and let me know what you think!

Brussels Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

Adapted from Scopa Restaurant

(originally published in Press Democrat)

Makes 4 servings as a side dish

2 pounds Brussels sprouts

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3 hefty pinches of black pepper

1 pinch of salt or to taste

1-2 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs (see note below)

1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Trim and quarter the brussel sprouts.  Heat pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add  the quartered brussel sprouts, salt, and pepper.  After 30-60 seconds move the sprouts around to caramelize all sides.  Repeat this every minute for about 5 minutes.  As the pan becomes dry, add a drizzle of remaining olive oil every 2 minutes or so.  The goal is to achieve a deep golden brown color on 1-2 sides of each sprout.  Be careful not to burn them or they will turn bitter.

Once sprouts are caramelized, cook for another 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat to finish cooking the sprouts through to their center.  Toss with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan and serve immediately.

To toast breadcrumbs: Saute breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ clove of minced garlic on medium heat until browned.   Watch carefully, the breadcrumbs will go from brown to burnt very quickly.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe:

Brussel Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

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