It may feel like spring (or even summer, some days), but it's still March. While I do have a perky little row of radish tops in my garden, spring vegetables won't be available locally for several weeks yet. How does a conscientious locavore balance cravings for light, springy meals with the heavy winter vegetables available at the market? Ingenuity, of course.
I found this salad in Bon Appetit's Thanksgiving issue a few years ago (I never said it was my own ingenuity!). While Brussels sprouts may be a traditional holiday vegetable, this is not a traditional holiday preparation. It's light and airy contrast to most Thanksgiving side dishes. Those same qualities make it a great way to transition into springtime, too.
For a light dish, this packs a hefty flavor punch. The sharp, mustardy flavor of the sprouts (emphasized by the mustard dressing) contrasts well with the sweet and salty candied pecans. While I love it with pecans, I've also done it without to make it low-cal. The sprouts definitely have a bitter edge on their own, but when paired with several heavier holiday dishes, it's still light and tasty. Bonus! This is one of those dishes that gets better with time - the Brussels sprouts will hold up against the dressing for several days, losing a bit of their bite and becoming more delicate. That makes it a great make-ahead side dish for a party or an easy portable lunch.
Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing
From Bon Appetit November 2009.
1 c pecan halves
1/4 c maple syrup
1/2 tsp + 1 tbsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 c whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 c canola oil
1 1/2-2 lbs Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and any icky outer leaves removed (I cut any particularly large ones in half as well)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with foil (no cooking spray needed). Spray another sheet of foil with cooking spray and keep it ready (to cool the pecans on - the cooking spray keeps them from permanently adhering to the foil). Whisk the maple syrup, pepper and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake about 5 minutes, remove to stir, then another 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and quickly transfer the pecans to the cooking-sprayed sheet of foil. Using a fork, spread the pecans out and separate any big clumps (the syrup solidifies quickly so you'd better hustle!).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp salt. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook 5 minutes. Drain and rinse. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and canola oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the Brussels sprouts in a food processor (slice, don't shred - when they're shredded the pieces end up too small). Transfer to a large bowl and toss with dressing. Let marinate 30-60 minutes. Mix in pecans and serve.