Pretty Green Brussels Sprout Slaw for #LetsLunch

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, when thinly shaved and mixed with lemon, toasted walnuts and pecorino romano in this wintry slaw.

Summer won’t be here for months according to the calendar, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait until July to break out our cole slaw recipes. Cabbage is the perfect vegetable to bridge the winter-to-spring divide with its crisp texture and earthy, slightly sweet flavor.

Since heavy, creamy cole slaw doesn’t appeal to me most of the time, I was thrilled to discover some healthier and tangier slaws that hold the mayo. I developed a slew of healthy ethnic slaws for Relish Magazine, but one of my favorites is this one made with pale green baby Brussels sprouts.

Cabbage and the other cruciferous vegetables all share a subtle sweetness and can star in a range of creative salads and slaws. Cabbage is delicious raw and adds a crunchy component to any meal. Treat it like you would any lettuce: chop up the cabbage of your choice, drizzle it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, cilantro and minced garlic if you dare to make a fresh and light slaw.

This slaw makes a great side dish or even a main meal with the addition of some grilled chicken, fish or shrimp.

Look for: With red or green cabbage, choose one that feels solid with smooth, well-formed leaves. Napa cabbage should look fresh and green. Brussels sprouts should be small with tight heads that are free of yellow leaves.

The facts: Just one cup of cabbage has just 17 calories and is loaded with good stuff including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

Bonus Points: The entire cabbage family is powerful cancer fighters; it contains 11 of the 15 plant chemicals know to fight cancer, according to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Who knew these beautiful, pale green and gold rosettes were hiding inside Brussels sprouts?

Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Walnuts
This simple Brussels sprout salad is based on a recipe created by Jonathan Waxman; a similar dish is a popular item on the menu at Gottino in New York City. Leaving the Brussels sprouts raw allows their natural sweetness to emerge.

1-1/2 lbs small Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and crushed
3 Tbs. large grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Using a mandoline or adjustable blade slicer, slice the Brussels sprouts into thin disks. Toss lightly to separate the layers. Add the walnuts and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Whisk olive oil and lemon juice together and drizzle over the Brussels sprout mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 cups

Adapted from Jonathan Waxman, author of A Great American Cook, Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

Croque Monsieur With Cheese Bechamel for #letslunch

Open-faced croque monsieur is delicious hot, cold or in-between.

Just like revenge, sometimes dinner is best served cold – or at least at room temperature. It’s pretty comfortable here in California, but for the rest of the country, the idea of heating up the kitchen with the oven sounds pretty unappealing.

So the bloggers in the #letslunch group decided to share our favorite cold dinners this month. Whipping up a salad makes for a cool and easy meal, but I decided that that makes it too easy.

Croque Monsieur, the French grilled ham and cheese sandwich, is one of my favorite meals to eat lukewarm or hot from the oven. It takes a little time to whip up the bechamel, but aside from that, it’s as easy as toasting cheese on bread and so much more satisfying. There are lots of ways to present it, but I like Croque Monsieur open faced and topped with juicy summer tomatoes.

Croque Monsieur

4 slices of crusty levain bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup cheesy bechamel (recipe follows)
12 slices thin smoked black forest ham
4 slices ripe tomato seasoned with salt and pepper
8 tablespoons shredded melting cheese like fontina or swiss
2 teaspoons hard grating cheese like Pecorino Romano or parmesan
2 teaspoons olive oil
Slice bread about 1/2 inch thick. Drizzle with olive oil and then flip over. Spread top of each with 1/8 cup cheese bechamel sauce, being sure to take sauce to the edges of the bread. Top each piece of bread with 3 thin slices ham and a slice of ripe tomato seasoned with salt and pepper. Crown each slice with 2 tablespoons shredded melting cheese and then 1/2 teaspoon hard grating cheese. Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Bake at 400 til brown and bubbly on top and crisp on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature or just warm, and serve. Makes a great lunch with poached or pickled asparagus or green beans.

Makes 4 servings

Cheese Bechamel Sauce

Makes 1-1/2 cups

4 tablespoons butter
4 T flour
3 cups warmed whole milk
salt to taste
a few grates of nutmeg
1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded cheese swiss or gruyere

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over low-medium heat. Whisk in the flour. It will be bubbling. Let the sauce cook for several minutes. Watch it and keep whisking it keep it from browning.

Remove from the heat, pour the milk in all at once and continue to whisk. Now you can add more milk to make it thinner. Let it keep cooking until it doesn’t taste like flour any more. Once it’s nice tasting, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of Swiss or gruyere and stir until it’s melted in.

Dinner Tonight: Bistro Salad with Brioche Croutons

I could eat a Bistro Salad with real brioche croutons for dinner almost every night.

There’s something fun about eating foods at the wrong time of day. Pizza for breakfast or cereal for dinner is so much more interesting than eating either one in their typical time frame. Of course, eggs are one of those elemental foods that transcend the confines of time. What would Vietnamese com tam and grilled pork be sans oeuf? Or a big bowl of ramen noodle and pork belly soup from Momofuku Noodle Bar without the egg?

My favorite way to eat eggs at night though is on a Bistro Salad, the simple dish of frisée lettuce, bacon, croutons and a runny poached egg in a tangy vinaigrette. Some people call it Frisée Aux Lardons or Salade Lyonnaise. But that latter can also refer to a salad that comes with a tasty surprise of chicken liver, lamb trotters or offal that’s popular in Lyon. No matter, once you taste it, you’ll be calling it one of your favorite salads ever.

Bistro Salad with Brioche Croutons

3 cups mixed baby greens, like frisée
1/4 cup vinaigrette
salt and pepper, to taste
4 soft-poached eggs
3 slices thick bacon, cut in 1/2 inch sections and cooked
12 Brioche Croutons, recipe follows

In a large bowl, toss the baby greens with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. To assemble the salad, divide the salad greens between two salad bowls. Lay two of the soft poached eggs on the greens in each bowl. Sprinkle half the bacon pieces on each of the bowl. Top with the Brioche Croutons and serve.

Brioche Croutons

Makes 1 cup
3 one-inch slices brioche
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the crusts from the brioche slices and then cut them into cubes that are about 1/2 inch square. Put the brioche cubes on a baking sheet. Reserve the crusts for another use if you like.

Combine the melted butter with the olive oil. Drizzle the butter mixture over the brioche cubes, tossing them lightly to make sure they are well-coated.

Put the cubes in the oven and let them brown for 15 minutes. Halfway through, using a spatula to turn them over. After 15 minutes, the croutons should be a golden brown and fragrant with a toasty buttery smell.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Note:
Make more of these than you think you will need; you will eat a bunch of them before they ever hit the salad.