brussels sprouts and bacon, oh my

It’s no secret that I love Brussels sprouts.  So last weekend when I found a new recipe for them in the March issue of Bon Apetit and said recipe involved bacon?  Well, it was a no-brainer what I’d be fixing that evening.

In addition to loving this particular vegetable I am also a huge fan of one-pot cooking.  The components for this dish are all done in the same skillet so there is less clean-up afterwards.  Awesomeness.

The pungency of the Brussels sprouts mixed with the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the raisins and shallots, and the kick of apple cider vinegar at the end results in a beautiful marriage.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the parsnips and meatloaf for last Sunday’s meal.  I hope that you will enjoy them too!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins (from March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1 lb), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.

While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

milk & honey (and raisins too)

Last week I had a request for a bread recipe so this past weekend I leafed through a bread cookbook I was given for Christmas to make good on the request.  I was feeling for a slightly sweet bread so decided to make a loaf that involved milk, honey, and raisins.

The cookbook emphasizes whole grains and the vast majority of the recipes call for a mix of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour.  (There is an entire gluten-free section which I plan to experiment with over Lent as I have already decided to give up wheat this year.  Oh boy…)

The recipe is very simple, though not something you can whip up in a half hour because the dough has to rise several times throughout the process.  Which makes it a perfect weekend baking project!

The result is a dense loaf that is only mildly sweet which I quite enjoyed.  It is wonderful still warm with butter (as is all bread I’ve ever encountered) and coffee.  If you are a fan of light and airy bread then this is not the recipe for you as the whole wheat does make it a bit heavy (see use of the word “dense” above.)

And I discovered this morning that this loaf also makes a beautiful French toast.  Bake away!

Milk and Honey Raisin Bread (from “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

Makes enough dough for at least two 2-pound loaves.  The recipe is easily doubled or halved.  (I recommend halving it unless you have VERY large mixing bowls.)

  • 4 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast, or 2 packets
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on the top
  • Raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.

Combine the remaining ingredients and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle).  You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine.

Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 10 days.

On baking day, grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch bread pan.  Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (cantaloupe-size) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Elongate the ball into an oval and place it in the loaf pan; your goal is to fill the pan about three-quarters full.  Allow the loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 90 minutes (or 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash, and then sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until richly browned and firm.  Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

Remove the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.

a meal Michelle Obama would approve of

I did a very bad thing last night.  For the first time in months I ate fast food.  I NEVER eat fast food but every now and again after a long week it just sounds good.  And even though yesterday was only Wednesday it had already been a long week and a few coworker/friends of mine and I decided that we needed to escape the office for a bit and indulge.  I’m feeling a little guilty (and tubby) this morning and decided to atone by posting on a very healthy meal I made over the weekend…

The healthy meal starts with lentils and you all know how I feel about lentils.  Delicious!

Then you add some carrots, garlic, and onions.  Sounds good so far!

While that was cooking I got started on a favorite side dish of mine that I learned from a friend who made it for a dinner she hosted years ago.  It involves spinach, raisins, pine nuts (I did not have any on-hand so substituted walnuts) and onions.  It’s tasty and healthy!

The combination is savory, sweet, salty, crunchy, and overall packed with things that are good for you.  I love it when things that are good for you actually taste good too!

Back to the lentil dish… it also involves pan-grilled salmon but this morning I realized that I did not get a photo of the actual salmon.  Oops.  The salmon is in the picture below but you can’t tell because I buried it with the cooked lentils and it turns out I was supposed to put the salmon on top of a bed of lentils.  I’m not running a restaurant here, people– it doesn’t always look pretty.  But it tasted pretty darn good and it almost makes me feel less bad about the chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, and custard/cookie dough concoction that I ate last night.  Almost.

Pan-Grilled Salmon Fillets with Lentils (adapted from recipe by Mark Bittman in “How to Cook Everything”)

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup green lentils, washed and picked over
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mixed dry herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 center-cut salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin on (but scaled) or off, pin bones removed

Place lentils in a large, deep saucepan with water to cover.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 15 to 20 minutes, then add the carrots, onion, garlic, and herbs.

Continue to cook, adding water if necessary (keep this to a minimum), until lentils and vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.  Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, and keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (I don’t own non-stick cookware so I put a little olive oil on a non non-stick skillet to coat the pan) over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the bottom of the skillet with coarse salt, then add the salmon, skin side down.  Cook over high heat until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and cook 1 additional minute.  Place about 1 cup of lentils in the center of each of four serving plate and top with a salmon fillet (I mistakenly did the opposite.  It will be much more attractive if the salmon is on top!)

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins (found at www.epicurious.com, original recipe by Joyce Goldstein in “Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen”)

6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I did not have pine nuts on hand so substituted walnuts, I have also used pecans in the past and they were good too)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside. Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.