My first grown-up taste of brussels sprouts came some years ago at the hands of my friend Caroline, a serious kitchen-gardener who has transformed many a palate with her cooking. Caroline braises them in watery stock until they’re so savory that they melt, and her recipe sounds simple enough. But when I gave it a whirl I didn’t have the touch, and turned the whole pot to mush.

Well, brussels sprouts are at the farmer’s markets all winter long, so it was time to get back on the horse. I consulted my usual sources. One author suggested picking off every leaf (advice that some people are paying money for) then searing the whole pile at once. Others advised steaming then finishing in a frying pan with herbs, bacon, cream, or all of the above.

Eventually we settled on my sister-in-law’s easy and elegant method and haven’t ventured beyond because they come out so wonderfully when done her way. She slices them into coins and then sautes in olive oil until they’re nicely browned. The only seasonings are salt and pepper, if you don’t count the considerable flavor and slight sweetness that comes from caramelizing the outer leaves. This week I picked up a fresh supply of bright green brussels sprouts at Pike Place Market, thinking they’d look good on the plate with our strip steaks from the Methow Valley. And they did, but it was the bulgur wheat that combined best with the sprouts for rugged and tasty eating. The steaks were merely an afterthought. Here’s the recipe:

Sarah’s Brussels Sprouts with Bulgur Wheat

2½ cups water / 1 cup bulgur wheat / 1 tbls chopped mint / 1 chopped scallion / 1 tbls olive oil / 1 tsp lemon juice / 1 tsp lemon zest / ½ pound brussel sprouts / salt & pepper

Heat water in a saucepan. When pot reaches a rolling boil, remove from heat, add bulgur wheat, cover, and let rest for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil plus lemon juice and zest, and add salt and pepper to taste. When wheat is ready, pour into a mixing bowl and stir in herbs and olive oil mixture. Leave at room temperature while you cook the brussels sprouts.

Cut hard nubs off the sprouts and slice into 4 or 5 coin-shaped pieces. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-high and swirl in vegetable oil to coat. When hot add the sliced brussels sprouts, including pieces of leaves that have become detached. Stir intermittently until well browned, 10-12 minutes. You may need to moderate the heat to prevent burning. Pour on top of bulgur salad and serve. Feeds 2.

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