Festive farmers still have the goods
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to the Bellingham Farmers Market with a clear mission: I wanted to find fresh brussels sprouts for the big feast that was just around the corner.
As I entered the bustling Saturday-morning melee, I knew it was likely I’d go home with more than the small green cabbage-like vegetables. The sun was out, and it highlighted the natural beauty of the late-season produce.
Cauliflower in small clumps gleamed from a large woven basket. Giant turnips took up serious table space, flanked by sturdy celery stalks, freshly dug ginger and boxes of onions. Deep-purple kohlrabi begged to be photographed. Delicata squash were lined up like soldiers along their more rotund counterparts. Red, yellow and white carrots intermingled like old friends. Shiny apples beckoned.
In addition to the greens and things that caught the eye like Christmas decorations, the smells from the onsite vendors also tantalized my senses. I could clearly catch sweet whiffs of kettle corn being cooked, but the other smells were more mystifying. Was that tea I detected? Pretzels? Wood-fired pizza? Indian food? All of the above? It didn’t matter; it was all good.
After making a couple rounds through both the indoor and outdoor quadrants of the Depot Market Square, I decided to purchase my brussels sprouts from Alm Hill Gardens. Other farm stands had offered them—all for $4 per pound—but they were the only ones that hadn’t already bagged them. This way, I could pick and choose the choicest sprouts, and control the amount I wanted to take home.
After making my purchase, I stopped by Cloud Mountain Farms’ booth for a hefty jug of cider and a few apples, then made a beeline to Alice’s Pies for two hand pies—small apple pies resembling turnovers that are specially made for snacking purposes.
With three Saturdays still remaining until the Bellingham Farmers Market slows down for the season—monthly markets will still happen in January, February, and March—I know I’ll be back to help round out recipe items for my holiday menu planning. And, since the brussels sprouts I made for Thanksgiving dinner were such a hit, I’ll be seeking those out for a repeat performance.
If you decide to make the Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts highlighted here, find ones that are on the small size and tightly closed. Also, make sure not to overcook them—that’s when they get a little sulfurous. It’s a simple recipe with big, tasty results.
Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
24 small brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or cheese of your choice)
Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any ragged outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact (or if you are lazy just toss them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil).
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.
Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately. Serves four.
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