Foodie on the Half Shell: Eating for the season

Many connote the cooler seasons with a lack of fresh produce that is available to eat. Well, that may be true during the sub zero winters that we have been having, but so far we have had a beautiful November and there is still plenty of seasonal and local foods to cook and eat.

It’s important to eat seasonally, because if we buy food that is out of season that means that it is being shipped in from far away. The amount of miles that is between where the food is grown and to where it is eaten or sold is called food miles. A large amount of food miles causes a scary amount of gas emissions into the air, which is bad for the environment.  

Some of my favorite November foods are Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and beets. These may sound like intimidating foods to some, but I can assure you that if you try out the recipes that I created, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Salad: Heat the oven at 350 degrees. Clean one pound of Brussels sprouts by peeling off the first layer of leaves and cutting the rough bottom off. Cut large Brussels in half and leave smaller ones whole. Toss in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in ovenproof pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy and dark and green. Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble them up. When Brussels are done, toss in a bowl with the bacon crumbles along with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. Keep this dish delicious by not overdoing it on the oil and vinegar and topping it all off with Parmesan cheese.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut one large acorn squash in half and clean out the seeds. Then, cut the halves into about one-inch slices, so they should be little half circles. No need to cut off the skin, it is awesomely edible. Now, make a marinade with one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, two tablespoons of maple syrup (the real stuff), and some salt and pepper. Rub those slices down with this stuff and bake in an ovenproof pan for about 25 minutes. They should be super tender to the touch.

Beet “Caprese”: You will need two large beets or three smaller ones. Heat up two cups of balsamic vinegar and a quarter cup of sugar in a pot and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Boil beets in water until they are tender and their rough skin slides off easily. When the sugar has dissolved into the vinegar and the beets are tender and have their skins removed, shut off heat to the vinegar mixture and place beets into the pot. Let sit for 30 minutes. If they are not entirely submerged, rotate halfway through. When finished, slice the beets into about quarter inch circles. Layer with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, and drizzle balsamic reduction on top with a little salt and pepper.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Say yes to Brussels sprouts (especially during the holidays)

Brussels sprouts get way too bad of a rap for what they really are. People think that they are yucky because we are raised to think that way. These little balls of leafy goodness are delicious and very good for you. Brussels sprouts contain a helpful natural chemical called sulforaphane which has been known to be an “anti-cancer” chemical.

This notorious vegetable tastes very similar to cabbage when it is raw, but its natural sugars are released when cooked, creating a very enjoyable food. My favorite way of preparing Brussels sprouts is to grill them or roast them with some EVOO, balsamic vinegar, some salt and tons of pepper. Because of the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar, the outsides of the Brussels sprouts get caramelized and crispy. These supposedly evil vegetables are my favorite and complete my holidays.

I thought that it was about time that I give you guys a recipe of my own to show you that I’m not entirely talk. I am going to give you a recipe that is a very near and dear recipe and one that I usually like to keep to myself, like most of my recipes! I’ve realized, though, that I can only help people if I share some of my ideas.

It is a Brussels sprout gratin that I serve every holiday season that you can adopt into your seasonal spread every year. I started this heavenly casserole about four years ago on Thanksgiving. The original recipe that I used the first year was from a Williams-Sonoma magazine, but I have moved on and added my own twists and turns. Do not be afraid of this only because of the vegetable choice, but look forward to embracing this new food into your everyday life.

So, here we are everyone! My entire family and friends’ favorite holiday dish I make that I like to call the “Brussels Sprouts Awareness Gratin.”

 You will need:
2 lbs of Brussels sprouts
8 oz of Gruyere cheese
2 cups bread crumbs
Handful of good quality Parmesan
1 lemon
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of caramelized onion
3 cloves of crushed garlic
A few pinches of cayenne pepper
Some salt and some pepper for taste

First, you are going to clean the Brussels. Take off the bruised outside leaves, and cut them in half. Next you will bring the Brussels to boil in salted water until they are tender. Strain, and rinse with cold water to cease cooking.

While the Brussels are coming to a boil you will want to make your topping mix to go on top of the creamy Brussels gratin. Mix the breadcrumbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper and Parmesan.

To make the gratin, you will mix the boiled Brussels with the cream, the Gruyere cheese, the caramelized onion, the cayenne pepper and the crushed garlic. You will mix this all up until the Brussels are well covered in the creamy mix. Spread the gratin into a 5X13 pan and top with the breadcrumb mix. Put in the oven at 375F, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the gratin is bubbly and browned at the top. Finito! Enjoy!