Hello from Brussels sprouts season.
Please excuse the blurry picture – it’s been a while.
Wow. It’s been a whole eight months since my last post. Here’s what I think happened: after I moved back to the US from Berlin, I spent a lot less time alone. This was great, but I inevitably dedicated less time to thinking up recipes to share here. It used to be part of my weekly routine, and then it became bi-weekly, then monthly.
There was also something else nagging me though. The writing felt fake. I don’t know exactly how to explain this but all I can say is that the “voice” I assumed when writing blog posts just didn’t seem to be true. About this time last year, I was looking for a new direction, something to make the writing “stand out.” I even thought of changing the blog’s name and coming up with a new theme. Somewhere along the way it stopped being fun and felt like a chore. And the writing and recipes weren’t getting any more interesting.
There’s also the fact that living in NYC has changed the way I cook. I don’t go to farmers’ markets as often because I finally joined a CSA (great vegetables weekly but less rustic/charming market photo opportunities!). I also don’t have any kitchen space whatsoever and never invite people over for dinner. (Oh yeah, I moved to Manhattan in June and now share a 400 sq. foot studio with my partner. We don’t have a dining room table or any chairs – we use tatami mats – and barely own any kitchen utensils). It’s all great actually. I love it. But it means that cooking has been increasingly simplified and somewhat boring as a result (good, but boring).
Maybe all of these things created the perfect storm for an eight-month hiatus on Sabasalads. I hope I can now break out of that.
Now that I’m typing away I realize how much I missed this, and that instead of treating it like a job I should treat it like what it really is: a place to muse about whatever. A place where the stakes are low. This is a good thing! Also, I find it amazing that over the course of all these years (before and during Sabasalads), the one constant thing that always makes me happy is thinking and talking about food and drink. It doesn’t pay the bills, and it is a simple pleasure, but it always has been and always will be a pleasure. I have to listen to that.
Some people relax by exercising or reading or taking a walk. I like to read. I like to exercise. I especially like to take walks, but tend to use walking time as “thinking time” (I talk to myself when I walk – I scheme to myself). For me though the thing that puts my mind to rest is cooking a meal. Cooking or listening to radio programs about cooking or watching cooking shows or reading about food or following Wikipedia threads about the origins of a dish are some of the only activities during which I am not thinking about the pressures of the “real world.” I can’t think about these other things because I get so absorbed and feel so satisfied that there is no room for the other stuff. And I’m proud to say that I almost always make time for one of these things on a daily basis, other “real-world” tasks be damned. Now it’s time to start writing about food and drink again, but this time, I hope, with less affectation.
The next few months are going to be tough. I am nearing the final phase of writing up my dissertation. I’m on the job market. I am not sure what is next in my life, but I have some ideas and they will require some work. But I do not ever want to leave this space fallow for so long again.
And so, here’s a recipe for Brussels sprouts that I heard about via KCRW’s “Good Food”. It is salty, rich and delicious:
Notes: The recipe calls for sherry vinegar. I substituted balsamic vinegar and it worked fine- you want to just add a splash of balsamic though or it will be too acidic. The original recipe also calls for fleur de sel as a garnish. I did not have this either and just added extra salt to taste at the end.
1 pound Brussels sprouts (get the very smallest, sweetest you can find)
1-2 tbs unsalted butter
Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) to taste
Salt to taste
1 poached egg
In a sturdy skillet, brown the butter (you want the butter to cook a bit and develop flavor – let it foam up and wait until the foam subsides). When butter is browned add the Brussels sprouts and spread them out so that they all get some surface area. Reduce heat to medium and cook these for 3-4 minutes, until they are well browned on one side. Then season with salt to taste, toss and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
While the sprouts are cooking, poach an egg in boiling water and reserve for garnish.
When the sprouts are done cooking, deglaze the pan with a splash of vinegar. At this point, season with salt to taste and let the sprouts cook for a minute more.
Serve the Brussels sprouts immediately. Finely chop or crumble the chicharrones and sprinkle liberally over the sprouts and top with a poached egg.