Earlier this week I shared my first official Thanksgiving recipe for the year. Now that I think about it though, I guess I started sharing things a little out of order.
Sometime next week I’ll let you guys in on my secret for perfectly cooked, perfectly moist turkey, and I might even give you a sneak peek into the rest of the meal. Today, though, I’m sharing my first course.
Have you ever noticed how certain vegetables get a bad rap?
Brussels sprouts have a reputation for making children stick their tongues out and gag, but I know more people who love them than don’t. I never ate brussels sprouts growing up, I don’t even think I’d tasted one until college. A few years ago I was gabbing with my mom on the phone when I casually mentioned that i was roasting brussels sprouts for dinner. She was like, “Really? Brussels sprouts? You like Brussels sprouts?”
This got me thinking. Maybe it was the parents that didn’t like brussels sprouts? Maybe I grew up thinking they were gross even though I’d never had them, because my parents thought they were gross? If that was the case, I would guess that that generation didn’t like them because of the way they were prepared by the previous generation, our grandparents.
Growing up I also thought I hated asparagus. My grandfather has a gorgeous vegetable garden with a huge asparagus patch, and every spring he’d get really excited when the pale little stalks started coming in. He’d be out in the garden bent over staring at the ground with a little paring knife just waiting for the moment they were ready for harvest.
But then my grandmother would wash the stalks, plunk them into a pot of boiling water, and boil the ever loving crap out of them until they were reduced to limp, flabby, grey-green strands having little in common with what went into the pot initially. Then they’d be served, covered in butter and smelling like farts, where I’d politely decline or push them around my plate until I was excused. If I was forced to guess why my parents might not have liked brussels sprouts, it probably was because they’d only ever had them prepared the same way my grandmother prepared asparagus. Boiled until mushy and farty and entirely unappetizing.
Oddly enough, I was gabbing with mom again sometime last week and she mentioned that my 16 year old sister had ordered brussels sprouts out at a restaurant. My how the tables had turned! It was my turn to ask, “Really? Brussels sprouts? She likes brussels sprouts?”
This time around though, mom’s response was a little different. “Yeah, She does! We both do. We love them!”
My my how times have changed. In world where Kale is king, Brussels sprouts might be queen. Or at least, maybe the little prince?
I think that the trend of properly cooking vegetables, leaving them bright and crisp and flavorful (and more nutritious), has finally reached the restaurants in my little slice of Upstate New York and taught my mom to finally see brussels sprouts in a different light.
For this recipe I wanted to get as far away from mushy, farty, overcooked sprouts as possible, so I shaved them super thin with a mandolin and tossed them completely raw with a few simple ingredients.
The first time I tested this salad out on Russell, the sprouts I used were sort of sad and wilty and well past their prime, and the resulting salad was really unpleasant. No matter how thinly I shaved them, they were rubbery and flabby and no fun at all to eat raw. Russell said the salad was awful and that I should do something else, something with wilted brussels sprouts or maybe arugula or something.
I almost took his advice and ditched the recipe altogether, but I knew I really had something with this idea, and that better fresher sprouts would result in a far superior salad. So, I decided to ignore Russell’s advice and try the recipe again with fresher, crisper produce. Even Russell had to admit it was a huge success, entirely different from the first attempt.
So, take it from me, when eating them raw you really need to make sure your brussels sprouts are as fresh as can be.
This salad is bright, light, delicate, and wonderfully refreshing. While it would make a great side salad for any meal, it’s the perfect thing to serve along with a rich, hearty, heavy meal like Thanksgiving dinner. It’s exactly what you want along with all that decadent food. The crisp bitter walnuts, crunchy sweet bursting pomegranate seeds, freshly shaved raw brussels sprouts, and simple bright lemony dressing are a welcome contrast against all the rich roasty indulgences that make up the rest of the meal. A lot of similar salads call for goat cheese or parmesan to compliment the acidic and bitter flavors, but I intentionally kept this salad as light and simple as possible, and it couldn’t be more perfect.
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
generous salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 to 2 cups pomegranate seeds
To make the dressing combine olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl or lidded jar and whisk or shake until well combined. Can be made a day ahead an stored in an airtight jar.
Slice off the tough bottoms of the brussels sprouts and discard. Using a mandolin slicer (use a guard and watch those fingers) or the slicing blade of a food processor (or with a sharp knife and some patience) slice the brussels sprouts as thinly as possible. Soak in very cold water for 5 to 10 minutes before drying with a salad spinner or some kitchen towels. If necessary, this can be done a day ahead and covered with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap or an air tight lid.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them for about 8 minutes or until they smell like toasty nutty heaven. Be careful they don’t burn. Cool.
Combine brussels sprouts, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and dressing and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.
Note: Brussels sprouts should be as fresh as you can find them or they can be rubbery and a bit unpleasant to eat raw. The thinner you can shave them, the easier they’ll be to eat.