Instead of complaining about fall today, I'm going to share with you a recipe for the quintessential fall vegetable. No, I'm not talking about squash. Like white should not be worn after Labor Day, squash should not be eaten before Thanksgiving. And I'm not talking about rutabaga, either. Rutabaga is what Vermonters of yore resorted to eating during February blizzards when the snow was falling so hard they couldn't even see their way to the barn to feed the horses, let alone yoke them up or whatever and ride them into town for supplies. After they'd sucked dry the crusty bottles of condiments from the door of the refrigerator, eaten the cat and dog food, as well as the cat and dog, they'd head down to the root cellar and bring up the rutabaga.
What I'm talking about here are Brussels sprouts.
Maybe you've heard of them? They're a member of the cabbage family. My greek stepmother says they're better after a frost. They're delicious roasted and sprinkled with salt, but cook them with bacon, and your meat-eating, vegetable-hating husband will say, "It's better than your average brussels sprout, that's for sure." And better than your average rutabaga, too.
If You Don't Give a Fig About Brussels Sprouts, Eat Them With Bacon
from the New York Times
2 tablespoons olive oil [why a recipe that calls for 4 to 8 ounces of bacon requires olive oil is beyond me; I used 1 tablespoon, which was plenty; you could probably make this with even less than that]
4 to 8 ounces bacon, chopped [I chopped mine, but in the photos on the Times website the bacon is in pretty big pieces, so maybe slice it short ways into chunks]
1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and quartered
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste.
1. Put a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, then bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon starts to crisp, 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put sprouts through the feed tube of a food processor equipped with a slicing attachment and shred. (You can also do this with a mandoline [if you don't like having fingertips], or a knife.)
3. Add sprouts, figs, and ¼ cup water to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper, turn heat to medium, and cook, undisturbed [er, I stirred it], until sprouts and figs are nearly tender, about 5 to 10 minutes [for me, the recipe ended here: after about 6 minutes, my sprouts and figs were tender and the water evaporated; overcooked Brussels sprouts are gross, so I just stopped cooking at this point]. Turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until any remaining water evaporates, another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vinegar, taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings. [I have a new theory about Mark Bittman's serving sizes, which involves his sumo wrestler intern who types up the recipes; this would serve four as a main dish, but who eats Brussels sprouts as a main dish? People in olden times, during blizzards, right before they ate the cat.]
This dish reminded me of a slaw. A warm, salty-sweet, autumn slaw. The figs are lovely, sweet and a little gritty, and you can't go wrong with bacon. Next time I would chop the bacon into bigger pieces, quarter the Brussels sprouts instead of shredding them, and maybe top the finished dish with toasted walnuts. In the photo that accompanied the recipe on the Times site, the food looks gorgeous. Mine was not, but it tasted good.