I have always been a very cookbook-dependent cook. And like so many others, I too have spent countless hours reading cookbooks like novels, familiarizing myself with recipes to the extent that there are no questions when I set out to make them. I enjoy it and have been doing so since I was a kid. My mom had a series of thin kitchen encyclopedias that I would periodically grab and thumb though before going to bed. That pattern hasn’t really changed much today and my bedside is like a mini library that is continually rotated between the cookbooks I move down to the kitchen and those that I take up to bed (when I can actually stay awake long enough to read).
I enjoy the challenge of being able to recreate a recipe I’ve had at a restaurant or heard about without seeing a recipe. It builds up my kitchen confidence a bit, and I’ve been doing it more and more. It’s also a really good exercise in paying attention to the flavors that cross your palate, picking up on the subtleties of certain components and using your kitchen know-how to bring it together.
It’s liberating to cook without a recipe, and a struggle at times to remember to stop and write it down as I go. I don’ t always do that when I’m throwing dinner together. And wouldn’t you know, when I go back and recreate one of my own creations, I can’t get it to be as good as it was the first time I made it.
That wasn’t the case with this dish. And in all honesty, I had a bit of a leg up on this one. A friend of mine had something similar at a restaurant, recreated it and made it for me last Superbowl Sunday right after I created a Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Walnuts and Shaved Parmesan salad. Wanting to make it right away, I held off until Brussels sprouts came back into season. Whether it be an appetizer, a light lunch or a side dish with dinner, this Charred Brussels Sprout Leaves and Almonds recipe has been getting a lot of play at my house lately.
It’s a healthy recipe that hits all the right buttons in the flavor department.
The key is to peel off the leaves of the Brussels sprouts – you won’t be able to get them all, so focus on the outer leaves and stop when you’ve reached the yellow center of the sprout – and then saute the heck out of the leaves until they’re charred in spots. (I prefer mine to be charred more than the images show.) Add in garlic and slivered almonds along the way, but don’t burn them because that would turn the beautiful nuttiness you’re achieving into a bitter disappointment. The addition of lemon zest and juice at the end brightens everything up and really rounds out all of the flavors in the way that lemon always does. I added the pomegranate arils more for visual effect and to pretty-up the darkness of the dish, but I admit that I kind of liked the pop of their sweet-tartness.
Have fun with this one. And try it out on those who say they don’t like Brussels sprouts. It’ll take some creative talk on your part, but I bet they’ll change their mind after trying this.
I tend to like this dish with a little more char, salt and garlic than I've indicated here. I've served this as an appetizer, as a side dish and as a warm lunchtime salad. I think chopped cranberries or golden raisins would be a fun addition. Play with it and see what strikes your fancy!
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest of half a lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
- Lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Peel outer leaves from Brussels sprouts and place into a bowl. Reserve small yellow Brussels sprout centers for another use or discard.
- In a large skillet over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and swirl pan around to coat.
- Add Brussels sprout leaves all at once and lightly pat down so leaves make direct contact with the hot skillet.
- Add the slivered almonds, salt and pepper.
- Cook until the all the leaves begin to char and the almonds toast, tossing as needed to keep the them from burning, about 5-7 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium, push the wilted, charred leaves and almonds toward the sides of the pan leaving an open spot in the center.
- Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and garlic and allow to cook for 1 minute.
- Toss everything together making sure to distribute garlic evenly throughout.
- Remove from heat.
- Add lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice and toss again.
- Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately.
2 pounds of Brussels sprouts should yield roughly 10-12 loosely packed cups.