How To Make Brussels Sprouts That Aren’t Gross

by | Dec 3, 2012
Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Hate brussels sprouts? So did I. But I also don’t like being a picky eater, so I was determined to learn to like these little devils.

This is the recipe that finally made me love brussels sprouts. Bacon makes anything taste good, but these days I appreciate the sprouts even without it.

Buy the freshest brussels sprouts you can get your hands on, preferably from your local farmers market. Like any vegetable the fresher it is, the tastier and more nutritious it will be. I usually buy a pound or so. The smaller they are, the better (sweeter and less bitter) they taste.

The secret is to halve and blanch the sprouts before cooking them with other ingredients. This helps them cook through and gets rid of the nasty, bitter taste that can be so characteristic of sprouts. The other trick is to balance the remaining bitter flavor with an acid like lemon or red wine vinegar. Oh, and did I mention bacon?

I prefer to purchase my bacon from a local butcher. Get two slices, but for a larger batch of sprouts increase it to three.

This recipe is delicious with either walnuts or hazel nuts. If you decide on hazel nuts, I prefer to toast them in the oven first (350 degrees) until the skins start to turn dark and crack, about 10-15 minutes. I then roll them in a paper towel or plastic wrap to separate the skins from the nuts. Don’t worry if all the skins don’t come off, they’ll still taste good.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 cipollini onion (or 1 leek or 2 baby leeks)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or hazel nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp butter
Blanching Brussels Sprouts

Blanching Brussels Sprouts

Start some water boiling and add a few pinches of salt. Rinse and halve your brus sprouts. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add sprouts and set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. Do not rely on yourself to remember, overcooking at this stage will ruin your meal. Boil sprouts exactly 5 minutes, rinse with cold water, strain and set aside.

In the meantime, chop cipollini onions (or leeks) and the nuts. Slice bacon (pieces stacked) into half inch slices.

Heat a pan on medium heat and add bacon slices. Allow bacon to cook about 4-5 minutes, until fat starts to render in the pan. Add the nuts and stir. If you are using cipollini onions, add those too (wait if you are using leeks).

Cook nuts and bacon until the bacon is almost done, then add butter. You can add leeks at this point or skip this step and add Brussels sprouts directly. When leeks just begin to soften (about 1 minute), add Brussels sprouts, sea salt and pepper.

Stir sprouts and turn most of them so their cut faces are resting against the pan. I strongly recommend using tongs for this. After about 2 minutes, stir the sprouts and sprinkle on oregano. Continue to cook, stirring every 2 minutes or so until the faces of the sprouts are all browned and onions begin to caramelize, 8-10 minutes. In the last 3 to 4 minutes, add vinegar (or lemon). This step is essential to cut any last bit of bitterness remaining in the sprouts. Use the taste test to determine precise cooking time (depending on the size of the sprouts).

Brussels sprouts pair beautifully with almost any protein. Pork, chicken and fish work especially well. Here they are served with French green lentils.

How did you learn to love brussels sprouts?

Originally published October 27, 2008.

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Healthy Dessert Recipe: Sautéed Bosc Pears With Toasted Walnuts & Balsamic Reduction

by | Oct 31, 2012
Bosc Pear With Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

Bosc Pear With Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Reduction

“Darya, my biggest problem is…I have a sweet tooth. Are there any recipes or desserts you suggest?”

One of the hardest things about transitioning to a healthy diet is cutting down on sugar. I definitely remember this from my own experience.

Luckily this difficulty is temporary.

The longer you go without sugar, the less you want it. In fact it has taken me awhile to reply to this question because I have not been motivated to make dessert in such a long time.

I eat sweets on occasion, but almost always these situations are circumstantial: a friend’s birthday, a favorite restaurant or other special occasion. And I am only excited about the experience if the dessert in question is profoundly exquisite. (In San Francisco, this is way more common than it is in most places.)

What this all means is I rarely find reason to seek out and/or make dessert.

But after creating this recipe, I may reconsider. This dessert is incredibly delicious, and not unhealthy at all. I thinly sliced some bosc pears and briefly sautéed them in butter with cinnamon. I reduced some balsamic vinegar for a semi-sweet topping, but otherwise did not add any sugar. I garnished the pears with toasted walnuts and shredded basil.

This recipe also works with other firm fruits such as apples, peaches and strawberries, all of which are available this time of year at the farmers market.

Sauteed Bosc Pears With Toasted Walnuts, Balsamic Reduction and Basil

Ingredients:

Bosc Pear

Bosc Pear

  • One bosc pear, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tsp butter
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/4 c. walnuts
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 5 basil leaves, chiffonade into strips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, core and cut bosc pear into 1/4 inch slices.

Place balsamic vinegar in small sauce pan and gently heat until simmering. Allow to reduce, swirling occasionally until reduced to 25-30% volume, about 10 minutes. Reduction should be dark and thickened. Test by seeing if it coats the back of a spoon (and tastes good). Do not over reduce.

While vinegar is reducing, place walnuts on a cookie sheet and put in oven. Toast walnuts, turning once or twice for 6-7 minutes. Do yourself a favor and set a timer. It is very easy to burn toasting nuts. I set the time for 3 minutes, toss the nuts, then reset for another 3 minutes. Remove nuts from oven, allow to cool, then coarsely chop.

Heat butter in a pan on medium heat until it begins to foam. Add pear slices and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook gently until slightly tender, about 3 minutes on each side. Turn with a thin spatula.

Place pears on a plate and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Sprinkle on chopped walnuts and basil. I didn’t try it, but I bet this would be awesome with gorgonzola and port (or other dessert wine).

Try it and let me know what you think!

Do you ever cook fruits for dessert?

Originally published October 12, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Early Spring

by | Feb 19, 2012
Daikon Radish

Daikon Radish

Normally in San Francisco we lament our lack of summer. Despite being in California, this city is notorious for being buried under a 300 ft blanket of fog from June til August. But this year, winter is oddly lacking.

We’ve had some rainy days here and there, but they haven’t lasted long and have been interrupted with unapologetic bursts of sunshine. As you can imagine, this is affecting our crops.

Broccoli

Broccoli

Even though we’re only half way through February, winter produce has dwindled dramatically, and we’re already seeing spring vegetables like fava beans and green onions.

Spring Onions

Spring Onions

I don’t know if this makes me happy or sad, but it is definitely odd. I mean, isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

February Tomatoes

February Tomatoes

But the nice part is walking through the market is a pleasure. The sun is out, but I haven’t seen the thick crowds we get in the summertime on those rare nice days.

Romanesco

Romanesco

Today I focused largely on green vegetables, but also brought home some seasonal goodies like mandarins and walnut oil.

Roasted Walnut Oil

Roasted Walnut Oil

I’m not sure what to make of the weather, but at least I’ll be eating well.

Today’s purchases (~$40):

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Farmers Market Update: Peas and Carrots

by | Apr 10, 2011
Beautiful Carrots

Beautiful Carrots

If you ever wondered why Forrest Gump thought peas and carrots went so well together, it must have been because he loves springtime.

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas

The reason we think most foods go together, in fact, is because they tend to be in season around the same time and traditional recipes put them together.

Cute Asparagus

Cute Asparagus

But it turns out lot of things go well with carrots. Their sweetness and crunch is a wonderful contrast to many of my favorite spring treats, like spinach, asparagus and collards.

Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

As I mentioned last week, chard is fantastic right now as well. These red and white Swiss chard bunches were so bright I actually had to turn down the saturation in Photoshop, which most photogs know is almost never done on food photos. The pink was just blinding.

Beautiful Chard

Beautiful Chard

It’s also a great time to get beets, fennel, lettuces, artichokes, herbs and other vegetables.

Red Beets

Red Beets

Hearts of Romaine

Hearts of Romaine

Spring Artichokes

Spring Artichokes

Not always associated with spring, but a seasonal treat nonetheless are fresh walnuts and mushrooms.

Walnuts In Shell

Walnuts In Shell

Trumpet Mushrooms

Trumpet Mushrooms

I’m still waiting for the spring fruits to appear. Though a few strawberries have popped up here and there, they haven’t looked good enough to buy yet. So while I’m waiting, we’re still eating up the delicious oranges, mandarins, pomelo and tangelos while we can.

Golden Nuggets

Golden Nuggets

Finally, if you’re into lilacs (the best smelling flowers ever), this is the most lovely season I’ve seen in years.

Lilacs

Lilacs

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Thanksgiving Leftovers

by | Nov 28, 2010
Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Is Thanksgiving the official end of autumn? Because it sure feels like it.

The farmers market felt very different today than it did just a few weeks ago. Most of lingering summer vendors have finally packed up their wares for the winter. The only autumn fruits left are apples, persimmons, pears, quince and a few grapes. Luckily, citrus is poised to jump right into its place.

Fuyu Persimmons

Fuyu Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Naturally the weekend after Thanksgiving few people opted to visit the farmers market in the rain. These are my favorite days at the market, since it’s so quiet it is easy to talk to vendors and discover new things. A calm day at the market is a rare and wonderful treat.

Autumn Citrus

Autumn Citrus

There are a few special items available right now that will only be around for a little while. Feijoa, or pineapple guava, are delicious little green fruits that grow locally this time of year. I also found someone selling fresh ginger roots, stems and all.

Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Now is also a great time to get fresh seasonal nuts like walnuts and chestnuts.

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Walnuts

Fresh Walnuts

One of my favorite things about the approach of winter is all the delicious winter veggies that are on the horizon. Vegetables tend to be overshadowed by the abundance of sweet berries and stone fruits in the summer, but in the winter vegetables are really the stars of the show. The cold stresses the veggies, causing them to condense their flavors and natural sugars.

Pumpkins and Padrons

Pumpkins and Padrons

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are truly special this time of year. Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. Root vegetables (like fennel and potatoes) and winter squash are also awesome right now. I included my favorite cauliflower recipe in this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Fennel

Fennel

In the late fall I’m particularly excited about the Brussels sprouts that you can sometimes find still on the stalk. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, try giving them another chance this year. Make sure you get very fresh ones (on the stalk if you can find them) from the farmers market, and buy the smallest ones you can find. Then try this recipe for Brussels sprouts with walnuts and bacon and come back and tell me what you think. Even Toaster likes Brussels sprouts.

Toaster With Sprout

Toaster With Sprout

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Last but not least, now is your chance to get Super Mario sized porcini mushrooms. Fresh porcini are a delicacy, and worth experimenting with if you can get your hands on them.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

What are you eating this weekend?

If you would like to share your own local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers please click here.

Today’s purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Santa’s Secret

by | Dec 20, 2009
Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Looks like I’m not the only one doing some last minute Christmas shopping this year.

I spied Santa Claus himself having lunch at the farmers market in San Francisco. You can’t really blame him either, because I doubt they are getting much good winter produce at the North Pole. He looks like he may have even lost some weight!

Hopefully he found some of the awesome citrus fruit available this time of year as well as these red Livermore walnuts from Hamada Farms, since they match his outfit.

Livermore Red Walnuts

Livermore Red Walnuts

Clementines

Clementines

And I wonder if Santa is the one responsible for hanging mistletoe all over the city? San Francisco residents BEWARE!

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

As for my own shopping, I actually didn’t buy much since I’m leaving town in a couple of days. I’m loving the Tuscan kale and other thick winter greens right now. And, as always, the Meyer lemons.

Greens & Fennel

Greens & Fennel

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

I also grabbed what will likely be my last bag of Padrones until next summer.

Carrots

Carrots

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Unfortunately I had to skip this challenge guaranteeing the best cabbage ever, because I already had too much food. If it’s still available in two weeks though, I’m totally on it.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Best Cabbage Ever

Best Cabbage Ever

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be closed next week, December 26, so I’ll be taking the day off.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

I hope you all have a delicious holiday!

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Farmers Market Update: Last Call

by | Nov 15, 2009
Last Call On Peppers!

Last Call On Peppers!

It’s getting really cold in the Bay Area, especially at night. That means the last of the late summer produce will be disappearing completely in a week or two: this is your last chance for peppers, tomatoes and eggplants until next summer.

To capitalize on this situation I got myself a big bag of tomatillos, the green tomato-like fruit in a husk. If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos think of green Mexican salsa, which is made with them. They are kind of like a tomato but a bit more tangy and acidic. Tomatillos are wonderful in sauces and with meats. I bought some poblano peppers and cilantro to pair with them, but haven’t decided yet exactly what I’m going to make. Suggestions?

Grapes

Grapes

Organic Tomatillos

Organic Tomatillos

In addition to the poblanos I was also sure to pick up a final bag of padron peppers, since I love them so dearly. I got 3 other pepper varieties as well. I can’t help it, I adore peppers. I will miss them a little every day until they appear again next year. Luckily I dried a bunch of different Thai chilies this summer to tide me over.

Grapes are another thing to stock up on while you can. They are sweet and abundant right now, but will start disappearing in the coming weeks.

But don’t worry, not everything is on it’s way out. Lots of new stuff is turning up as well.

I spotted some black walnuts at Glashoff Farms today, which I’m told is a special treat. Has anyone tried them?

Black Walnuts

Black Walnuts

Interesting varieties of garlic and onions are also popping up. I found 2 varieties of shallots today–French and Dutch–as well as sweet cippolini onions at Dirty Girl Produce. Leeks are awesome now too.

Baby Leeks

Baby Leeks

Red Garlic

Red Garlic

At Frog Hollow there was a new variety of pear today, the seckel pear, which is tiny and bursting with flavor. After a sample I couldn’t help but buy as many as I could carry. And of course I got a Warren pear for the road.

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Seckel Pears

Seckel Pears

It’s definitely time to start buying persimmons too. Just be sure you eat them when they are ripe, since unripe persimmons can be dangerous. The kiwi are looking good, though I haven’t tried them yet. Apples are still mind-bogglingly amazing.

And did I mention that citrus is starting to appear? Mandrins, grapefruits and lemons are all available now, although they are still a bit tart for me.

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Early Mandarins

Early Mandarins

Last but not least, it’s truffle season. If you have piles of money laying around that you don’t know what to do with, these Italian white truffles could be yours!

per OUNCE!

per OUNCE!

Today’s Purchases:

  • Fuyu persimmons (Paredez Farms)
  • Tomatillos (Paredez Farm)
  • Poblano peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Padron peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Pimento pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Piquillo pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Other random hot pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Seckel pears (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Warren pear (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Black twig apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Philo apple (The Apple Farm)
  • White winter permain apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Dutch shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Cippolini onion (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Tuscan (dinosaur) kale (Capay Organics)
  • Dry-farmed Red kuri squash (Little Organic Farm)

Is your farmers market still open? What does it have?

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Farmers Market Update: Early Autumn

by | Oct 11, 2009
Mini Pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the seasons change. Just last week there were figs everywhere, but I couldn’t find any today. Instead there were piles and piles of persimmons, a sharp contrast to the one sad looking crop from last week.

But you can’t say I didn’t warn you about this. Summer is ending and autumn is in full swing. How often do you get to see oranges sitting next to nectarines? Not very often, I can assure you.

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Oranges and Nectarines

Oranges and Nectarines

The main attractions right now at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market are winter squash, peppers, pomegranates and grapes. You can also find nice rainbow chard, apples, pears, green beans, melons, eggplant and tomatoes. The first crop of walnuts and almonds have arrived, and the stinging nettles at Star Route looked pretty good (if you’re into that sorta thing).

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles

Walnuts

Walnuts

I definitely learned a few new things while shopping today:

Apparently these Spitzenburg apples were Thomas Jefferson’s personal favorite. (say wha?)

Spitzenburg Apples

Spitzenburg Apples

Kabocha squash–my favorite as of last year–comes in both orange and green (I only knew about the green ones).

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

I also stumbled upon these funky looking jelly melons at Lucero Organic Farms. I had never seen these at the market before, so naturally I bought one. Also called “horned melon” and “blowfish fruit” I would have guessed these were native to Southeast Asia, but Wikipedia says they’re African. The sign up at Lucero claims they might be a good diet food too, whatever that means. If the one I got is any good I might get some more next week.

Jelly Melon

Jelly Melon

Following up from last week, I bought myself some of the sweet pepper chips from Happy Quail Farms, which were just too good to resist. And to spice things up I snagged two Scotch bonnet peppers from Tierra Vegetables. I think I’ll have to bring home a pair of nitrile gloves from the lab to handle these things, but hopefully I can turn them into something delicious.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Pepper Chips

Pepper Chips

And finally, I think I might have found my Halloween costume ;)

Today’s Purchases:

Fig Leaves

Fig Leaves

What are you eating?

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Stock Your Freezer

by | Apr 15, 2009
Rice Balls

Rice Balls

There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for the take-out menu I prefer to turn to my freezer. For one thing, even the taqueria directly downstairs from my apartment cannot whip up something as quickly as I can. And their grilled veggie burrito (not to mention the carne asada burrito!) is substantially more expensive than anything I would make–I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.

(This post is part four of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry, part two is Essential Groceries and part three is Seasonal Shopping.)

Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:

  • Frozen rice balls The single most essential item in my freezer is my giant bag of frozen brown rice balls. When I first explained the best way to make rice, I mentioned that I prefer to make a large batch and freeze it in individual servings. This is a trick I learned from a former housemate that always cooked traditional Japanese food (thanks Kiyoshi!). He used white rice, but I think this method is even more valuable for whole, intact grains since they are not particularly easy to integrate into your meals unless you make them yourself. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
  • Cooked legumes To know me is to know that I love beans and lentils. Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. Lentils cook pretty quickly (~20 minutes), but I like to make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker and freeze the rest in 1-2 tupperware containers that I thaw at my leisure. Lentils can be frozen as well.
  • Green legumes In addition to beans I have cooked myself, I also keep a stock of shelled, frozen soy beans and petite green peas in the freezer. These cook in just a few minutes and are delicious tossed with nuts, garlic and fresh herbs. My recipe needs some serious updating, but if you want an example of what I mean check out my Edamame and Peas Quick Fix.
  • Frozen fruit I always have a few bags of frozen wild organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast (sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds) and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
  • Walnuts I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
  • Soups I love soup and cook it often. If you have ever browsed through James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups, you know why. The problem with soup is there is only one of me and the recipes tend to serve at least 4 people. Unless you want to eat the same thing all week long, freezing your left overs is your best bet. An added bonus is that you end up with a freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on lazy days.
  • Bread I do not eat bread often, but love to have it in the house just in case. But I never buy regular, sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to go to my local bakery (Acme or Tartine), get a fresh loaf, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You would be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325. Alternatively you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
  • Meat Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
  • Sauces During the summertime my local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
  • Spices I have recently started grinding my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.

Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from monotony when you cook in large batches.

How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?

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