The Miracle of the Brussels Sprouts

           Ceci n'est pas une pipe

We've been busy and then we were gone half the weekend. Sunday was my writing day, so David took ZandO to the winter festival at University Circle. When it came time to make dinner, my cupboards looked woefully bare. I was even (once again) out of pasta. We could have just had sunbutter sandwiches and carrot sticks, but then I wouldn't have had anything to feed my kids for lunch the next day.

What I did have was a lot of winter storage vegetables. A ton of squash ... but, no, squash takes some planning.

Potatoes! Cheesy smashed potatoes, still in their jackets, would make a great base. But what to put on top?

Ah-ha! A big bunch of mystery greens sat in the crisper drawer. Before Thanksgiving, I'd gotten two bunches of these from City Fresh. The first bunch went into a pasta & chick pea concoction with lemon juice and a good bit of Parmesan. The were wonderfully rich and chewy, with a pleasing sharp note that worked nicely with the earthy beans and cheese.

At City Fresh there was speculation that they might be Brussels sprout greens. Turns out they were.

Can you see the baby sprout?
I took out the bag, hoping that most of the bunch would still be edible, and removed a bouquet of sturdy dark green leaves and was surprised to discover that several of them had begun to grow baby Brussels sprouts in the cold dark of my fridge!

There were eight tiny sprouts in all.

I removed them and set them aside, then tore the leaves from the stalks and chopped them into smallish bits.

The leaves seemed like they were on the tough side, so I doubted a simple saute was going to work, but a quick braise might soften them up.

While the potatoes cooked, drained, and sat waiting for the masher, I softened some onion in bacon fat (goes so well with greens of all kinds!), added a generous quantity of garlic (6 cloves maybe?), then tossed the greens in. After they'd softened for a bit, I added the baby sprouts and poured in a cup or so of vegetable broth, covered the pan, and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Sometime during the mashing process, I decided this meal was going to be too squishy and was going to need some kind of crunch. I'd noticed the tail end of a bag of walnuts in the freezer when I went to get out the bacon fat. I'm not sure I've ever had walnuts with greens, but it seemed like the flavors could be complementary. I sent my table setters off to do something quiet for 5 minutes and quickly toasted the walnuts in a little omelet pan then chopped them into small but toothsome bits.

Before serving, I finished off the greens with a good dash of malt vinegar. We added hot sauce to taste at the table.

The finished meal was served in a broad shallow bowl. Potatoes covered by greens, sprinkled with walnuts, all crowned with teeny, tiny miracle sprouts.

 The baby sprouts were tender and a little sweet. They tasted like they'd come from an entirely different plant than the rich greens. The potatoes were a perfect base, and the walnuts were definitely the right choice. Without them the dish would have been fine, but they provided a perfect counterweight to the other ingredients - crunchy, toasty, slightly astringent.

I did good.


  1. Oh, and you neglected to mention how well they went over with the campers.


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