Monday, February 16, 2009

Mmm. Brussels sprouts.

No, I was not being sarcastic with my title. I truly love brussels sprouts. Though I wasn't aware there was an "S" at the end of "brussels" until about a year ago. They were.. "brussel sprouts." I also grew up thinking it was "blesh you" and "sherbert." Apparently I have problems with pronunciation. I also say "bowlth." But anyway.

I love brussels sprouts. So on Friday, when I was wandering Central Market with my friend Colin and happened upon a two-foot long stalk of brussels sprouts for just five dollars. Not five dollars a pound. Five dollars total. I couldn't pass it up. I couldn't think of what to have them with.. but I knew I wanted it. Especially since I haven't seen brussels sprouts on the stalk since I was.. maybe six? My aunt took me to the farmer's market one day when we lived back in California to get strawberries and pomegranates and I saw this large stock studded with little green balls. "-That's- how brussel sprouts grow?" "Apparently."

So far.. I have gotten through about four inches of the stalk. I made Heidi Swanson's Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts last night to go with some pork chops for dinner. I used fifteen... and it took three inches worth of brussels sprouts. Then today, I decided I wanted to make something with some brussels sprouts for lunch. So I cut off five and planned.

I was thinking of just cutting them in half, sautéing them, then tossing them with brown rice. But I wasn't in the mood for rice. So I considered quinoa. But I didn't want that either. I also had some barley! But I didn't want to wait forty minutes for it to cook. And then I remembered I had recently bought a pound of whole wheat linguine. So I decided that would work. Sautéed Brussels Sprouts Linguine. Hmm..

But then I decided to shred the brussels sprouts since I keep seeing people doing that. And and and! And I wanted herbs. And to make a cream sauce. And.... yeah. I started the idea.. but, erm, I don't use cornstarch for the reason that it always has a weird flavour. But I decided to use it. Bad news. As much parmesan and oregano I added, I could not get rid of that cornstarch taste. Luckily, I hadn't added the pasta or the sprouts to the sauce. So I just tossed that out and went back to my original plan. Pasta. Brussels Sprouts. Oil. Butter. Salt. Pepper. Parmesan. Leftover Tri-Tip. And it was delicious.

Now. I know apparently a lot of people think brussels sprouts are gross. What I've come to find out is that the longer the brussels sprouts are cooked, the more they break down, and the more... pungent.. they become. And this cabbage-ness is what people don't seem to like. If cooked properly, the sprouts will be tender, but still a vibrant green colour. I seem to be an anomaly, though, and I like brussels sprouts when they're way too overcooked. I like them cooked properly, too. But if you give me overcooked brussels sprouts, I'll still love them. I also like mushy pasta. And mushy peas. And stale Oreos.

But anyway. The pasta. You can also leave out the brussels sprouts completely and it would still be good if you really do not like brussels sprouts.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Black Pepper Linguine
Serves 1-2, depending upon how hungry you are... I was reeeeeally hungry.

5 moderately sized brussels sprouts, thinly sliced (or however much you want)
olive oil
coarse sea salt (or whatever you have)
Pepper. Lots of pepper.
1.5 Tablespoons butter
Some kind of meat if you want. I had some leftover tri-tip in the fridge. So I threw it in.
whole wheat linguine, about a fifth of a one pound package (I never measure my pasta.. I just grab "what looks right.")
freshly grated parmesan cheese, sprinkled on at end

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it and add a little oil and cook the linguine according to package directions. Or however you normally make your pasta.

Whilst that is going on, heat some oil in a skillet on high. (I used a basic metal pan. No non-stick for this.) Sprinkle in your shredded brussels sprouts and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow it to sit for a minute or two to get some caramelization, then toss with tongs a few times. Remove sprouts from pan and set off to the side.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and heat it up, lowering the heat to about medium-high. Add in the leftover meat, stirring continuously, and cook for about a minute. Throw in the butter and continue stirring. Lower the heat to medium, medium low. Grab your pasta with your tongs and just transfer it to the skillet, allow most o the water to drain of before you transfer it.. there will be some water that transfers, but it's fine. Toss the pasta with the meat and butter mixture. Season with a bit of salt and lots of pepper. I really like pepper. Add in the brussels sprouts and toss together, allowing the sprouts to heat back through. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with parmesan. Devour with a fork.

Then groan, sit back and complain that you ate too much, and proceed to pick brussels sprouts out of your braces for twenty minutes. Well. If you're me. I got braces on Thursday. The brussels sprouts are the only things so far that have gotten stuck -every-where. But it was so worth it.

If you caught the inconsistency of the pictures, one was from the day I had leftover tri-tip, and then I made more the next day, but I no longer had any.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Amano Chocolate! Ta-da!

Yes, I suck at updating. I think it's because I'm pretty sure nobody really reads this. I only get the few courtesy reads from people whose blogs I've commented on. But beyond that.. I don't get much traffic.

Either way, I should work on this.

But for today, I'm here to talk about my recent BlakeMakes Sooper Heroes win: Amano Chocolate. Jembrana Premium Dark Chocolate. Seventy percent. It's -very- dark. But don't let those people who say "the darker the chocolate, the more bitter it is." This chocolate is not bitter at all. It's not incredibly sweet like milk chocolate, but it is in no way bitter.

When I first tasted it, though, I did have myself braced for the lack of sweetness I was expecting to come. The higher the cacao content, the more intense of a chocolate flavour you get... and the more risk of me sneezing. Really. Too intense of a chocolate, and I sneeze. I don't know why. I just always have. So I ate it slowly. I savoured it. I didn't chew. I simply broke off a piece, placed it on my tongue, closed my mouth, and let it melt.

Wow. The chocolate was actually sweeter than I had expected. Again, it still wasn't as sweet as, say, a milk chocolate. But it was not too dark at all. It was very appealing.

As for the flavour... maybe I'm just an odd taster. I tasted the chocolate, discerned a certain flavour to it. Then read the back of the box. And I laughed because of what my taste buds tasted. The box describes the chocolate as having a "nuttiness." Well. You know how so many people like to describe chocolate as "fruity"? I never could understand how a plain chocolate could taste fruity until I had this bar. There was something with the flavour that I could only describe as... fruity. I tried coming up with other descriptions, but all that stuck out.. was fruity.

I ate about a quarter of the bar. And then.... I commited culinary sacrilege. Or brilliance. Depending on how you look at it.

I took this seventy percent, high-quality, rare chocolate bar... and made a grilled cheese sandwich with it. Just a half sandwich. One slice of whole grain white bread. Thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese. And three squares of this chocolate bar. Then I grilled it on my cast iron griddle, dry. No butter or oil to compete with the flavour of the chocolate and cheese.

I felt so sneaky making it. Like a little kid taking three cookies more than they were allowed.

It was the best grilled cheese ever.