Every farmers’ market I visited in the early spring had Brussels sprouts just as the weather was beginning to turn just a slight bit warm. This week for Thanksgiving the temperature has plummeted here in the South from sandal weather to long-john weather in a matter of two days. And that means Brussels Sprouts and other cabbage family foods are available at all of the local markets just in time for Thanksgiving.
These little baby cabbages are versatile to work with for many reasons. Like their large cabbage cousins, they can be eaten raw, cooked or prepared somewhere in-between. They hold their color and texture quite well and for this simple recipe you’ll need a couple of handfuls of Brussels sprouts and about a hand full of any other spring or fall vegetable that you like from your local farmers. I like to use cauliflower, carrots, chard and a small amount of green onion, all of which are harvested at the same time. If you happen to have green garlic, it works well in this recipe too along with quinoa, rice or protein like rabbit, chicken, duck or white fish . For a twist on this dish, add some lightly cooked turnip noodles tossed with baby pea shoots and seasoned well with salt & pepper.
The other delightful thing about warm fall vegetable salads is that the olive oil harvest has just started to come in so the oil is quite fresh and this is the easiest time to taste the flavor of fresh oil blended with the vegetables. Oils taste different depending on the type of olive and region they are grown so try several types to find the single origin or blended olives that fit your style of cooking. These oils age throughout the year, but not in a positive sense like wine. The flavor can change dramatically from the first six months to the last of the year. My preference is to never use oil more than a year old. Storage temperature, air and light are key to maintaining the best flavor be careful about checking the harvest date which is noted on the bottle and think about how quickly you use oil to decide what size of bottle fits your needs. Many oils are now being packaged in a dark purple bottle that offers even more UV protection than the green bottles and this should help preserve the harvest better in future years. The downside of this bottle, as I found out this week, is that it’s really hard to see how much is left!
Locally, Southern Season in Chapel Hill has an excellent selection of oils and particularly of organic oils. They offer individual appointments to taste several varieties with the help of one of their knowledgeable staff members and I recommend this service if you are just starting out. Be prepared to talk to the staff about how you plan to use the oil so they can make recommendations. Take notes because just like wine and vegetables, each year the harvest changes and over time, and you should be able to get a feel for a particular producer and the flavor of the oil they bottle. I also find the staff at Olio2Go in Virginia to be quite adept at finding small farms with unique flavor profiles that can add a lot to specific recipes depending on what you’re making and the cooking (or raw) technique. Wherever you shop, make sure the staff understands how you intend to use the oil so they can make good recommendations, and be sure to ask about the producer and their cultivation methods if sustainability or organic farming is important to you.
For this recipe, a good knife, shredding board or mandoline is helpful since all of the vegetables are going to benefit from a short time in the pan. The Brussels sprouts should be thinly sliced since it’s the easiest way to deal with the size of these cabbages. They will not cooked more than a couple of minutes, so the thinner the better. It’s actually nice if they are still a bit on the raw-crisp side in this salad. You will also need to treat carrots and cauliflower the same way, thinly slicing them. The chard gets the main vein separated from the leaf for this dish. Chop it up into smaller pieces and cook it with the carrots and cauliflower or save it for a soup stock or another dish. Baby green chard is a bit less expensive than Brussels sprouts, so it’s a good veggie to use to add some bulk to this dish if you prefer a lot of greens in your salad. Another alternative is pointy head or savoy cabbage. All three are mild flavored and work well with the other vegetables. The green onion can be added in small or larger sections, depending on your preference. The main thing to note about making this is that you want each item in the pan as little as possible in order to cook it and retain the color and crunch. It’s more of a warm salad than a stir-fry dish.
As an alternative, you can roast this salad, starting with the carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and just blend in raw chard and green onions. Roasting gives you the opportunity to develop some sweeter flavors of the vegetables. It’s also possible to get everything prepped and hold the carrots and cauliflower mixed with olive oil in one container and the greens in another so cooking takes less time. Or cook the carrots and cauliflower and just warm them with the greens at the last-minute before serving or serve them with raw greens. You have endless possibilities with this recipe to suit your needs.
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad
- 1.5 lbs of thinly sliced or large shredded Brussels Sprouts
- 4-6 oz of carrots, clean (skin if you want to) and julienne or large shred
- 4-6 oz of cauliflower, cleaned and thinly slice
- 2 small green onions, slice however you prefer
- 2-4 oz baby green chard, thinly sliced
- 3-44 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground peppercorns
- Optional additions – turnip (spiral noodles), brown rice, quinoa, fried egg
- Clean and dry all of the vegetables.
- Slice or shred all of the vegetables. Mix the cauliflower, carrots and stems from the chard together. Toss lightly together with half of the olive oil, and all of the salt & pepper.
- Mix the Brussels sprouts, chard and green onion together and toss with the remainder of olive oil.
- Using a wide stainless steel frying pan, bring the heat up to high and add the carrots, cauliflower and chard stems and cook for about a minute. Turn the heat back to med/high and continue to cook, stirring to avoid sticking and promote a little browning. Cook about 3 minutes.
- Add the greens and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. The Brussels sprouts should be just beginning to wilt and take on a little color. Adjust the seasoning and serve warm or blend with quinoa, rice or other protein.