I Love Brussels Sprouts!

Like a tree hugger, a stalk hugger.

Like a tree hugger, a stalk hugger.

Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight:  this post is NOT an April Fool’s day prank; I can — and will — declare my love for Brassica Oleracea any day.  Per Wikipedia, the name derives from the original cultivation in Belgium, beginning as early as the 13th century.  (Proving their timelessness!)  They are part of the same family as cabbage, thus their mini-cabbage appearance, which admittedly makes them pretty damn cute.  Brussels are super healthy for you, chock full of vitamins A, C and folic acid plus a plethora of other healthful compounds.

I didn’t eat sprouts as a child, so I’ve never had some memory of a mushy mess holding me back from an appreciation.  I started eating sprouts about 7 or 8 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.  Primarily, I roast these in the oven, dressed simply in olive oil, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.  I’ve also made other dressings and toppings, always keeping the sprouts as the main star, but my preparation hasn’t strayed far from roasting . . . until now.  Courtesy of  the amazing cookbook (no hyperbole, truly amazing) Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, I have a new means to enjoy them:  Brussels Sprouts and Tofu.  This recipe is quick and simple, and involves searing the sprouts until crisp and browned.  Using my well-seasoned cast-iron pans, these became almost carmelized with a sweetness and crunch I’ve never achieved from roasting.  I was stuck in a preparation rut and now I’ve seen what I’ve been missing.

A lot of my cooking involves just that, cooking.  I improvise often and my measuring cups are mostly saved for baking.  What I appreciate about actually following a recipe is that it gives you an example of how things can work, knowledge which you can then add to your existing repertoire.  The tofu/sprouts recipe was excellent, but what stood out to me was all of the options expanding upon this concept.  And that is what cooking is all about: experimentation.  I’m taking my sprouts recipes to the next level!

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An Ode to Old Pots

My Great-Grandma Johnson's dutch oven with Hungarian Mushroom Soup

My Great-Grandma Johnson’s dutch oven with Hungarian Mushroom Soup

If there is something more comforting a home-cooked meal,  then surely it is preparing it in heirloom pots.  I’ve been converted to the cult of the cast iron cookware; the superiority is edible. So when given the opportunity to bring home my great-grandmother’s Belgian enameled cast iron pot and pan set, I jumped at the opportunity.  A full set of flame orange cookware that has lasted generations now resides in my home.  I cannot tell you how special it is for me to enjoy food prepared in the same pots my great-grandmother used.  When I see soup bubbling away on the stove in her dutch oven, my heart swells a little bit more.

In our disposable culture, food and items for food preparation are discarded thoughtlessly.  Pots and pans are made to last just a few years instead of a lifetime.  When you peruse antique stores, many of the items still remaining (and coveted) are useful food preparation items such as: cast iron pans, Mason jars, enameled coffee pots and non-mechanized implements (i.e. egg beaters).  Often these items are purchased for display and not re-used, although in all likelihood they still have a great deal of life left in them.  I’m grateful that I can continue the cooking traditions with my own family cookware, making memories and meals with the same equipment used to feed previous generations.  The new secret ingredient in all of my food is the love emanating from the family pot.