Only a few days ago we were dealing with a spring heat wave with temperatures in the 80s. Yet today, we’re back to rainy and soggy, as I consider breaking out my winter coat for (hopefully) the last time this season. That’s the thing about spring: it’s fickle. Just like any relationship, it can entice you with warm, welcoming moments, like a spontaneous picnic date or romantic evening stroll. It can also turn on you in a heartbeat, leaving you cold and miserable, like when you first move in together and realize that his video game collection has somehow secured more closet space than your entire wardrobe.
I know what you’re thinking. Your read the title and automatically interpret one word–FATTENING. Well you’re wrong. There isn’t an ounce of cream in the stuff. Cheese, yes, but not an overwhelming amount. Mostly healthy veggies, milk and a dash of Parmesan. I made this recipe as part of my “let’s make Brussels Sprouts a feature food” project. Over the last few years I’ve come to love the bright green crunchy morsels and am sick of them cast off as a side dish. Grilled hanger steak WITH Brussels sprouts. Striped bass GARNISHED with shaved Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts are forever the sidekick. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. RoCCA was one of the first restaurants I saw that featured an appetizer that was purely Brussels sprouts. I was intrigued and inspired. If they can do it, why can’t I? I resolved myself to creating a dish that would finally put Brussels Sprouts in the spotlight.
St. Patrick’s Day causes a frenzy of leprechauns, shamrocks, green beer and everything Irish people can get their hands on. I’ve lived in the same building for almost 7 years and while I don’t know everyone, I don’t think we have any Irish, yet I can the scent of corned beef and cabbage is already permeating the halls, and wafting its way into my apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no exception. I already have some brisket brining and the strong scent of cabbage will take over in a few hours.
Any holiday or reason to cook, I’m all over it. And St. Patrick’s Day is no different…with maybe one exception, the Soda Bread. People get so excited about Soda Bread, with its crunchy caraway seeds and plump raisins, it’s almost like a dessert. The first time I visited Ireland, I was astonished to see our version of soda bread is really nothing like theirs. It’s still yeast free, using baking soda instead as a levener, but it wasn’t sweet at all. No raisins, no caraway seeds, just a simple bread, toasted with plenty of butter. I’m not going to pretend I know why the recipe changed to more of a dessert like bread moving across the Atlantic pond, but it did. Soda bread in both forms is good, but it’s not the bread I fell in love with. There was something about a hearty, ridiculously dense slice of brown bread that just made me swoon.
How do you eat your chickpeas? Most likely it’s in hummus. If you’re really fancy, you might roast them with a little curry or chili powder. But aside from that, really when do you have chickpeas as a feature ingredient of a meal? I keep dried chickpeas in my collection of mason jar beans and dried goods ingredients, but I rarely use them. Sometimes I’ll make hummus, or toss them in with some white beans or as part of a multi-bean chili. My black beans come and go, refilling the quart sized jar every other month or so, and the kidney and white beans go almost as quickly. But those poor wrinkly chickpeas just sit there. So in an effort to highlight this special ingredient (and avoid a trip to the store for different ingredients, I embarked on a dish to make chickpeas shine.
When you tell someone you’re having sirloin with a port reduction sauce, it sounds fancy, and something you shouldn’t attempt on a weekday night. Yes there are meals that you slave over for hours, days sometimes, and serve to a small dinner party. Complements fly, you graciously accept them responding with things like, “oh it was nothing” or “no, I really just love cooking” in your simple but stylish attire. No one has to know that you changed out of your oil and spice covered cooking clothes, showered and primped only minutes before they walked in the door. The party starts at 6pm, but you’re secretly hoping the party starts to break up around 9pm so you can don your fluffy pajamas, crawl under the blankets and sleep for days after your 48 hour cooking marathon. And then there are those days when you come home after work, exhausted, and whip something up in less than 20 minutes for just the two of you. Well here’s one of my biggest secrets. What if you could make fast look fancy?