Brussel Sprouts with Basil, Mustard Seeds, and Rice Noodles

 

P1030463The other day my friend Erica suggested I do some posts for people who do not feel at home in the kitchen. She wanted ideas for dead simple meals to cook for one. I said I thought that was a great idea and I would get right on it, and I will…but first, first, I made this.

This is the opposite. This is far too complicated a dish to cook for one person, and certainly far too complicated a dish to start making for one person at 8:30 at night when you’re leaving for three weeks of travel in two days and haven’t started packing or finished the work you need to do before you go. But, Noah doesn’t like meals that are made up almost entirely of brussels sprouts, and there was an 11 ounce box of brussels sprouts that had to be used in the next two days. Who else was going to eat them? Plus, after playing with this recipe for five months I’m finally happy with it, and now it’s all I want to eat. So, I made it. And then I thought that since I so rarely spend five months playing with any recipe, I should probably share it with all of you.

Ironically, I played with this recipe for five months because it is a riff on one of my favorite dead simple meals for one: roast brussels sprouts + pasta + squeeze of lemon + fried egg. So, in October, when I was flipping through Madhur Jaffrey’s At Home with Madhur Jaffrey and noticed that she had a recipe for Indian brussels sprouts with rice noodles, I decided to make it immediately.

But, I don’t know. It was kind of bland. I didn’t have the curry leaves the original recipe calls for so that might have been part of the problem, but the proportions didn’t seem like what I wanted either. So I kept fiddling. I added more basil, more mustard seeds, more rice and it still didn’t do it for me. Two weeks ago, in a fit of pique, I finally doused the whole thing in some coconut oil mixed with cumin and coriander and suddenly I felt like I had hit brussels sprout nirvana.

You might invite some one over to eat this with you, if only so you don’t eat every last bite of it by yourself. That said, if you happen to like being in the kitchen and love brussels sprouts, I think you’ll find this worth the effort even if it’s a meal for one. For the rest of you, I promise simpler recipes soon, although that may have to wait until I’m done with the travels…

Brussel Sprouts with Basil, Mustard Seeds, and Rice Noodles (Adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey) 
 
This dish is more brussels sprouts with noodles than noodles with brussels sprouts. As is, I think it could easily serve two, which didn’t stop me from eating all of it by myself. If you prefer your dish more noodle and less vegetable based, you could easily double the amount of rice noodles. 

– 11 Ounces Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and quartered

– 1/2 cup chopped basil

– 2 tablespoons olive oil

– 2 teaspoons raw white rice

– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

– 1/2 cup water

– Small handful rice sticks

–  1 tablespoon coconut oil

– 1 teaspoon cumin

– 1 teaspoon coriander

– 2 shakes cayenne pepper

– Salt to taste

* Trim and quarter your brussels sprouts.

* Bring a pot of water to a boil. Take off heat. Add rice sticks and let sit 8-10 minutes until soft. (Check box for directions as all rice noodles are a little different.)

* Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat.

* When hot add rice, a few seconds later add mustard seeds.

* When the mustard seeds start to pop add brussels sprouts, basil, and a sprinkle of salt. Stir and fry for five minutes, until the brussels sprouts begin to turn brown.

* Add a half cup of water to brussels sprouts and cover. Turn heat to low and cook for 3-5 minutes.

* Meanwhile heat coconut oil and then stir coriander, cumin, and cayenne into heated oil. (To save time and dishes I have done this in the microwave more than once.)

* Drain rice sticks and add to brussels sprouts, pour coconut oil mixture in to pan, and stir fry for 2 minutes.

* Serve with hardboiled egg, salt, or hot sauce.

 

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Spelt Bread

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Growing up, I spent a lot of time in Home Depot. My parents love nothing more than a good kitchen renovation, except maybe gutting a barn to turn it into an office or laying their bathroom tiles, so I spent a lot of time waiting for them to pick tiles or wood. Unlike the time I spend in our big suburban grocery store, where they stocked Babysitters Club books that I could read while my mother bought dinner, at Home Depot there was no children’s paperback aisle.

This was a great disappointment to me, but fortunately trips to Home Depot were not a total loss. Right next store there was bread bakery. It may seem like this should not have been that exciting for someone who grew up with a constant supply of homemade sour dough, but this bread was nothing like my mother’s crusty, tangy, almost spongy boules. That bread, which formed the basis of almost every piece of toast or sandwich that I had during my formative years always seemed so wholesome and virtuous. It was the bread of educational science projects at school.

The breads at this bakery on the other hand were soft, nearly crustless loaves made with yeast from packets not the air. And the loaves were packed with raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, or other indulgent ingredient of the ’90s. The bakery always had a big cutting board lined with open loaves of bread and you could  pick your flavor and have a sample slice smeared with soft butter from a huge tub. Basically, these loaves were the bread equivalent of the The Babysitters’ Club: a treat to buy off whiny-kids, but not virtuous enough for everyday consumption.

I had not thought about that bread in years, but last weekend I made the first loaf of bread I’ve made since my elementary school science project days. It’s a spelt bread and it reminded me immediately of the bread shop next to Home Depot, because its texture is so similar to those special slices of bread that bought my limited patience as a child.

Unlike sourdough, this bread does not have the makings of a science project. Frankly, it’s barely a cooking project. It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever seen. The dough comes together in minutes, and then suddenly you have had what turns out to be the deeply satisfying experience of making your own loaf of bread.

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It’s a spelt bread, so very low gluten and it’s packed with seeds and raisins. It’s excellent buttered out of the oven or toasted the next day. I ended up slicing up half of it and freezing. From our freezer it has toasted up nicely into the base for many tartines.

Spelt Bread:

This recipe comes from The Guilt-Free Gourmet by Jordan and Jessica Bourke. I was recently given the book as a gift. It was the perfect gift because I never would have bought a book with that title myself, but the pictures are beautiful and if this recipe is any indication it’s got great recipes for reliable standbys. I’m sold. 

 

– 3 2/3 cups spelt flour

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon sea salt

– 1/3 cup golden raisins

– 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

– 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

– 1 tablespoon molasses

– 2 1/3 cups warm water

* Butter an 8-inch loaf pan

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

* Mix together all dry ingredients including raisins and seeds.

* Dissolve molasses in warm water.

* Stir water and molasses mixture in to dry ingredients until well combined.

* Pour into prepared loaf pan.

* Bake 1 hour, until tester comes out clean.

* After 10 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool on rack.

* Serve warm with butter, as toast, or as open face sandwich. (Thus far I’ve had one sandwich with white beans, red pepper and egg and one grilled cheese with spinach. Both were delicious.)

 

California Inspired Shrimp Tacos + Date Shakes

Two of the first things I did when I got back from California were pick up a copy of Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic and buy a big box of medjool dates. This about sums up my experience in Southern California last month. I keep telling people that I spent most of my time there driving around, or more often sitting in traffic, and wondering why on earth people lived there only to turn a corner and think “well this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.” I still don’t think I would make that compromise, but, if I did, it would be food tilting the balance in California’s favor.

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The two stand out meals of my trip were a date milk shake, which I detoured solidly out of my way to pick up on my drive between San Diego and Los Angeles, and shrimp tacos, the mention or which may or may not have determined which Air B and B room I booked in LA. After the milk shake, I texted Robin to say, “Delicious but I have some ideas about how to improve this…mainly more dates, more booze.” After the tacos, I texted Noah to say, “We need to be eating more shrimp tacos.”

Last Sunday, in honor of the Oscars, we invited some friends over and got to work on both of these ideas. With some advice from around the internet (mainly here and here), I came up with a shrimp taco recipe that I love. I sent Noah out for a bottle of cognac, and, during a commercial break, I blended dates and ice cream together, stirred in some cognac, and poured the mixture in to responsibly small glasses. We toasted to living somewhere without constant gridlock.

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Note: As I was working on this post, Sprouted Kitchen posted their own date shake recipe. It looks awesome so if you’re looking for a date shake that includes protein powder instead of cognac, head on over there. 

 

Shrimp Tacos with Red Cabbage Salad: (Makes about 12 tacos) 

For Shrimp:

– 1 lb frozen shrimp

– 1 teaspoon chili powder

– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

– 3 garlic cloves

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 1/2 tablespoon olive oil + more for sautéing shrimp

For Red Cabbage Salad:

– 1/2 a small-ish head of red cabbage sliced as thinly as you can

– 1/2 of a small red onion thinly sliced

– 1/4 cup rice vinegar

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar

– 2 tablespoons canola oil

– Salt and Peper to taste

For the Rest of the Tacos:

– 5 or so thinly sliced radishes

– 2 sliced avocados

– 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

– 2 quartered limes

– Sour cream

– About a 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

– 12 corn tortillas

* About an hour or two ahead of time defrost shrimp in a bowl of cold water and a few tablespoons of salt stirred in.

* When ready to cook, peel shrimp.

* Toss shrimp with cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic, salt and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Let sit in refrigerator for half an hour.

*  Meanwhile, toss all the red cabbage salad ingredients together and let sit so that the cabbage softens in the dressing a bit. 

* Slice radishes, clean and pluck cilantro leaves, crumble queso fresco, quarter limes.

* Warm corn tortillas in oven set at 350 (takes about 5-10 minutes).

* Warm a small glug of olive oil in a pan. Add shrimp and saute flipping occasionally until they are pink and cooked through (3-4 minutes).

* Assemble tacos with warm shrimp, red cabbage salad, and whatever combination of radishes, cilantro leaves, cheese, sour cream, and avocado you like. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

 

Boozy Date Shakes: 

– 4 cups vanilla ice cream

– 10 medjool dates, pitted

– 1 cup milk

– 1/4 cup cognac

* Blend all ingredients but cognac until your shake is the consistency you want.

* Stir in cognac.