brussel sprouts [and a few kind words]

It’s amazing what a few good words can do to lift one out of a spell of discouragement.

You can’t watch or read the news without some fear of the collapsing global economy and our lawmakers failing to come together to make something — hell, anything — work…
We sit by and live our lives as normal as we possibly can, because we value the rituals and routines of everyday life. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about the Occupy protests or the world that seems to be in constant unrest, but I do believe in being kind to each other when everything else is messy and uncertain.

I value cooking in these times because it centers me. It gives me a sense of healthy accomplishment.

I know that when I have a few ingredients, I can turn it in to something that tastes good. I have a starting point and an end. I know that if I add a little cream to a watery beet soup, it turns it into something magical. And lastly, I know that if I saute brussel sprouts in leftover bacon fat, they put a smile upon the face of those who delight in the little nutty, green cabbage knobs. (At least that’s the best way I can describe them.)

But don’t let the cabbage part scare you! (Or the knob part, for that matter.) Brussel sprouts have a bad reputation, I think. It wasn’t until I ate them, properly cooked, that I found enjoyment in those layered greens.

If you’re not sure on how to cook a proper dish of sprouts, let me throw a recipe at you. It seems to work well in our warm little apartment, and maybe you can try it too!

You’ll need about 1 1/2lb of brussel sprouts.
Also:
1/2lb bacon or pancetta, chopped into lil’ bits
olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
salt
pepper

First, peel off the dark green leaves that are probably already falling off the sprouts. Cut off a bit of the hard, woody stem. Cut them in half (length-wise) and slightly cut through the center [white] stem. This will help cook them more evenly and will allow more flavor inside the sprout.

Get a big pot of water boiling, add enough salt so that it tastes like the ocean. (Which means, pretty salty) Blanch the sprouts for about 2 minutes or until they just become tender. Stick them in an ice bath and start sauteeing your bacon. When the bacon gets almost crispy, take it out and reserve about 2T of fat for sauteeing the sprouts.

Add to pan, along with the bacon fat, 1-2T of olive oil and bring up to heat. Toss in your brussel sprouts and cook until they are heated through and tender. Turn off the heat and add your chopped bacon. Salt and pepper to taste. Be careful with the salt though, because if you’ve blanched them right, they may be salted just the way you want them.

Squeeze a little lemon juice into the pot and toss. Serve warm alongside some roasted potatoes and chicken or really, with anything. They’re in season, so eat them while you can!

And hey, that holiday is coming up — the one where we eat a lot? As we contemplate on what we’re thankful for, remember the people that helped grow and most likely kill your food. Honor those sacred ingredients and feed people thoughtfully.

Always, always, always…

Remember to give thanks [and a few kind words.]

-josh

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