I have never been a fan of brussel sprouts. My exposure to them as a child was mostly at our holiday family dinners where my grandmother would steam them to death then smother them in butter. During the cooking process, they would permeate the kitchen with this old gym sock odor, even overpowering the delicious roasted turkey smells wafting from the oven. On the table, the brussel sprouts were globs of pale green in a bowl that had difficulty getting past my gag reflex.
Then this past year everything changed. At a family gathering, my sister brought a dish of brussel sprouts and leeks roasted in balsamic vinegar. They had this amazing, caramelized flavor, enhanced by the sweet balsamic vinegar. I even went back for seconds. My entire opinion of these tender little buds was altered.
So it was with excitement a few weeks ago that I spied the salad of the day at a tasty local bake shop in my neighborhood, Bushel and Peck: roasted brussel sprout salad. They had combined roasted brussel sprouts with orzo, cherry tomatoes, and feta in a poppyseed vinaigrette for a salad that was unexpectedly light and absolutely delicious. I had to recreate it, with my own twist of course.
I wanted to make the salad a little heartier for a dinner entree and my mind immediately turned to farro. I discovered farro a few months ago from Bob’s Red Mill. Farro is a grain, hailing from the Mediterranean, that has been around for centuries – estimates are as early as 8000 B.C. – and is common in cooking in that region, history suggests that farro was a staple of the ancient Romans diet. Raw, it closely resembles barley. Cooked, it retains a slightly crunchy exterior for a nutty taste. Farro is hearty and filling, so a little goes along way, and it’s a great source of fiber. I especially love the farro from Bob’s Red Mill because it’s a quality, organic product, and I get to support a great local, employee-owned business that has a national presence.
I changed the dish up even more by bringing in a citrus flavor. First, I roasted the brussel sprouts in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Then, I used lemon juice in the dressing, with a bit of thyme to play off the lemon and a teaspoon of honey to offset the tartness of the lemon. I also swapped the feta out for goat cheese, which is a bit milder and lets the flavor of the other ingredients shine through. The cherry tomatoes bring a sweet burst of fresh flavor to the salad, but the cherry on top is really the zante currants.
Make sure to use zante currants for this dish and not black or red currants. Zante currants are dried berries of the small, sweet, seedless grape cultivar Black Corinth. Whereas black, red and white currants are dried berries from woody shrubs that are completely unrelated. Zante currants are more flavorful and add just the right sweetness to this dish.
Needless to say, I have become a brussel sprout convert. They are in season now, so don’t miss out on these little gems of autumn. I, for one, am already working on additional recipes while I can still get my hands on them. How do you prepare brussel sprouts in your kitchen?
- Serves: 2
- Serving size: ½ of salad
- Calories: 511.4
- Fat: 18.8
- Saturated fat: 3.9
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.7
- Carbohydrates: 72.1
- Sugar: 21.0
- Sodium: 203.9
- Fiber: 13.4
- Protein: 13.7
- Cholesterol: 5.0
- ½ cup dry farro
- ½ lb. fresh brussel sprouts, halved
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- pinch of coarse sea salt
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup zante currants
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tsp honey
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp poppy seeds
- Cook farro according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Place the brussel sprouts in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil, juice of ½ of the lemon, and a pinch of coarse sea salt.
- Toss the steamed brussel sprouts with the oil-lemon mixture and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes on each side, a total of 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
- In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of the remaining ½ lemon, honey, thyme and poppy seeds.
- Add in the cooked farro, roasted brussel sprouts, tomatoes, currants, goat cheese and parsley. Toss so that everything is well combined and serve.