It happens every Sunday. Crowds jostle for space around the popular tables at the farmers' market to check out the hip Meyer lemons, the chic wild arugula, and the sexy red strawberries (yes, you really can get fresh strawberries in San Diego in the dead of winter).
This past Sunday the Brussels sprouts were carelessly dumped in a lop-sided pile, causing stray runaway sprouts to keep rolling off the table's edge and onto the concrete. Inspired, I thought I would take on a challenge. A makeover for three undatable vegetables: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. The make-up? Breadcrumbs.
There aren't many foods in Italian homes that don't get egged and breadcrumbed to spectacular results. Vegetables from eggplant to zucchini, meats from chicken to veal, and seafood from calamari to smelts, when made with the right breadcrumbs, are brilliant in their simplicity and fabulous in their flavor. Fortunately, my mom and dad had recently sent me a fresh container of Buono's Bakery breadcrumbs from Rhode Island. Seriously. My parents actually ship me breadcrumbs.
Turns out that the closest place to get good breadcrumbs from my apartment in California is exactly 2,970 miles away (I Google mapped it). We cannot get good breadcrumbs here. "You're crazy!" you say. Nope. We're not. We have lived in California for 3 1/2 years; we have tried pounds of breadcrumbs. They just don't compare. Every time we got breadcrumbs, we would always say, "Well, they're not as good as Buono's." So we decided, why not have mom ship us some? And so it began.
To keep my meals low-cal and healthy, I don't fry vegetables; I prefer to bake them in a hot oven or to sautÃ© them with a little bit of olive oil or butter. While I often make Brussels sprouts with a maple syrup or brown sugar glaze, I love this lighter, cleaner version as well. Here, the sprouts are par-boiled then sautÃ©ed until blistered, browned and slightly crunchy. The savory butter and garlic mellows the sprouts' bitterness, and the citrus adds a tangy, bright touch. It's a breeze to make, and with the right lighting and make-up, even Brussels sprouts can look pretty.
Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Lemon
Makes 4 servings.
3 cups Brussels sprouts,halved
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of lemon zest
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, toasted
Salt & pepper, to taste
Peel off any marked outer leaves of the sprouts and trim the bottoms; slice in half. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water; this will stop the cooking and maintain the sprouts' vibrant color.
To toast the breadcrumbs, place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, while giving the pan handle a few shakes to toast the breadcrumbs evenly. Once they begin to turn golden, remove them from the heat and place in a bowl, as the heat from the pan will continue to toast them.
Meanwhile in a skillet over medium heat, sautÃ© the garlic in the butter. Once the butter begins to bubble up and the garlic starts to jump a little, add the sprouts. Cook about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown spots start to appear on the sprouts. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Add the toasted breadcrumbs into the skillet and toss gently. Add more breadcrumbs on top before serving; sprinkle with lemon zest if desired.
(Susan Russo is a freelance food writer in San Diego. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com/.)
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