Tan is the new black as far as Thanksgiving is concerned in my family. Okay, sure, there are always boiled peas, doing their job year after year as the stand-in vegetable, but no one eats them, which is too bad since left over peas are kind of miserable. We are too busy eating turkey and mashed potatoes and Pepperidge Farm stuffing smothered in gravy. Have I told you about our stuffing tradition? It's really quite embarrassing in the midst of the local, organic, whole, non-packaged, farm to table movement, but we prefer our stuffing out of a bag. I've tried homemade stuffing loaded with carrots and celery and sausage and others with chestnuts and apples. They are delicious, but still Pepperidge Farm is better. My mom won't even taste homemade stuffing she's just that committed to the bag version. She grew up on it. Her dad, my Pop, used to make it for Turkey day and they had a strict no-homemade-stuffing rule in their house; no stale cubed bread floating in a sea of celery and nuts or cubed cornbread and kale. If an aunt or uncle attempted to bring homemade stuffing there was always Pepperidge Farm as back up.
Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. (Have you tried it?) We think Pepperidge Farm stuffing is the bomb-digity. It is fluffy and completely undisturbed by vegetables or roaming pieces of meat. You can pour endless amounts of gravy on it and you will still find a few crispy bites, the pieces that were on the top and sites of the dutch oven as it cooked. I love that combo of soft and crunchy.
But as you can see this post isn't entirely about stuffing. Stuffing is a done deal in our house, there is no need to reinvent it, what needs reinventing, or rather an introduction, are vegetables. And I'm talking real vegetables, not maple syrup spiked sweet potatoes under a layer of broiled marshmallows because we have those in spades. We also have piles of boiled peas as I mentioned. Everything on the Thanksgiving table is so heavy - turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes - so how about a vegetable with a little lightness to it, a little crunch to offset all the cream?
Zach and I love Brussels sprouts so I figured I might as well take advantage of Thanksgiving away from my sprout abhorring family to bring them into the mix. I didn't want to boil them or roast them because that means taking precious oven and stove top space in my already super tight kitchen and I also didn't really want another hot and steaming side dish. I wanted something a little crunchy, a little salty, and a lot tasty. I saw a recipe for shaved Brussels sprout salad a little while ago in a cookbook, or was it at a restaurant? Either way I figured it was the perfect companion, the perfect lively green tinge to our tan turkey day feast.
I wanted to offset the bitter with sweet and savory and salty, so I settled on shaved sprouts with pomegranate, parmesan cheese, bacon and roasted hazelnuts, all tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Remember my shopping list from yesterday for my trip to the market this morning? No? Well, anyway, all the ingredients were on there and I set out this morning with my striped backpack (have I told you how much I love stripes and how almost everything I own is striped?) and picked up everything on the list along with a few non essentials.
These small golden pomegranates caught my attention and thankfully there were some sample seeds to taste. They were sweet and only a touch tart, with that perfect pop of juice, so I bought two. I had already bought two standard pomegranates from Turkey, which I used for todays salad, but I'll use these for the real deal this weekend (yes we have to have Thanksgiving on Saturday because it's not a holiday here). Also, did you know that pomegranates from Turkey are more tart while pomegranates from Spain are more sweet? I didn't know that. If they aren't labeled you can tell the difference because the ones from Spain are much lighter in color, not quiet as vibrant as the fuschia ones from Turkey. I'm not sure where these mini golden ones are from - any ideas?
What's surprising is just how damn good this salad is. Yes all the ingredients that go into it are good on their own, but together they are super-mega-fein as the Swiss would say. The flavors compliment each other so no one ingredient stands out against the others. The ingredients make themselves known by their textures; the pomegranate with it's pop, the hazelnuts and bacon with their crunch, the cheese with it's softness and the sprouts for the gentle bite.
I know there are a lot of Brussels sprout haters out there, all of whom have probably stopped reading at this point, but if you are still with me (mom!) I want to let you know that this salad does not taste overtly of Brussels sprouts. It tastes like cheese and bacon tossed with sweet seeds and a crunchy green. Perhaps if you are on the edge, tempted by these tiny sprouts, than this is for you, a gentle reentry into sprout land.
// Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad //
serves 2 but can be double, tripled, quadrupled without trouble
this recipe is also very much a 'whatever floats your boat' recipe so be sure to add and subtract quantities to taste
130 g Brussels sprouts (about 8 or so)
50 g / 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
50 g / 1/3 cup hazelnuts
4 strips of bacon
juice 1/2 lemon
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400ºF / 200ºC. Pour the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for about 13 minutes to roast. Set a timer. If the nuts are fragrant and slightly brown in color they are done. If not roast for a couple more minutes, checking to make sure they don't burn. Take out of the oven and cool.
Cook the bacon using your preferred method until nice and crispy and drain on a paper towel.
Shave the Brussels sprouts on a mandolin. Watch your fingers! Shave the parmesan cheese and dump it in with the sprouts. Add the pomegranate seeds. Crumble the bacon in on top once it has cooled. Chop the nuts and add those in as well.
Make the dressing by whisking the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard together. Drizzle on slowly tossing as you go and only using as much as needed to coat the leaves. You will likely have extra dressing, which means you'll have more for another time!
...It seems like the blog world is loving the B-sprout right now...check out Kelsey's shaved sprout and lentil salad and Jacqui's sprout salad with hazelnut and pomegranate with avocado dressing.