We inherit a lot from our parents. Good legs, hair texture, stomach sensitivities, the belief that (at any moment in time) Goodfellas is probably playing on cable TV and it is your civic duty as a human to be watching it.
Upbringing plays heavily into our food palettes as well. I’ve never seen anyone in my family drink milk by the glass – nor did they ever encourage a dairy preference – and as a result I’m only 5’2″ and am now in an endless struggle to find yoga pants that have an inseam shorter than 30″.
This disdain for milk will never change, even if now I’m living with someone who dunks cookies in full glasses of the stuff and considers cereal the garnish in a bowlful of 2% cow product.
But there have been flavors that, in my newly independent, adult appetite, I’ve uncovered tastes for. Flavors that I was never exposed to until at least college because my parents and/or pop culture dictated that they were inferior. The first thing that comes to mind is Swiss cheese (which I had to discover on my own at Villanova, where I took my wild spontaneity out on food choices rather than young Philosophy professors). But the one I really want to talk about now is Brussels sprouts.
I know, every Nickelodeon cartoon from Rugrats to The Wild Thornberrys probably made some minute reference to the putrid horror that was these sprouts. So I took it as a great relief that, since my mom didn’t harbor very warm feelings for these mini cabbage monsters, I never had to come face-to-face with them on a plate.
But at some point, once I’d graduated and was back sleeping in my twin bed with a Tommy Hilfiger daisy duvet, my parents had a change of heart and invited sprouts to the dinner table (Does this happen a lot? Kids go off to college and parents take a four-year vacation to Flavortown?) I remember them being decent. Crunchy, not soggy. Bright, not brown and wilting. It’s amazing what olive oil and a hot pan can do.
BUT THEN, I found this recipe and had all of the ingredients and made it at 9 p.m on a weeknight to use for lunches the next day and it was nothing short of an intense physical experience.
So if you, like me, have been living a sprouts-sheltered life, consider this the most potent gateway recipe you could ever imagine.
Holy Balls Brussels Sprouts Salad
Makes 8 servings (that you’ll feel compelled to eat all at once). Adapted from Shutterbean.
“24” Brussels sprouts (Quotations because I don’t freaking count out sprouts. A pound or so is fine.)
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 c pecans (or walnuts or almonds), chopped
9 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard (shout-out to the Trader Joe’s employee who found me the last case in the back, you rule)
Salt & pepper
Rinse your sprouts. If any of them have shady looking outer leaves, just peel the layer off. Chop the bottom stems off. Next, you’ll need to shred them (in a choose your own adventure kind of way.) A food processor works wonders, a mandolin would do the trick, but also might take your ring finger with it and that would be really unfortunate if you spend Saturday nights crying about the prospect of marriage and/or just really like rings. If you’re tool-less, chopping them up with a good knife would do the trick.
In a large bowl, add the shredded sprouts, cheese and nuts. In something taller than a bowl (like a large glass or 2 c measuring cup) or something that closes (like a Ball jar if you’re an artisan like that), mix the oil, vinegar, mustard and some shakes of S+P. Make sure everything gels nicely.
Dump that vinaigrette onto your sprouts and give it a good stir with the arm that’s starting to have nice definition since your boyfriend bought you new, heavier hand weights for Christmas.
Refrigerate and eat it all day long because it’s good for you and you deserve it.