Warm Brussels Sprout Salad

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I needed this salad this weekend. Despite the groundhog’s well-intentioned prediction, spring has yet to arrive in central North Carolina. The weather is cold, rainy and a bit depressing. I wanted salad, but it was too cold out for a traditional cold lettuce salad. So I was happy that I found fresh picked Brussels sprouts at the farmer’s market. They were the focus of a warm, roasted sprout salad that helped to elevate dinner from chilly to cozy. This was a big experiment, but it paid off–a (reasonably) healthy, warm salad that was satisfying and filling. I’ve made one adjustment here–I would definitely add a squeeze of lemon to lighten up the caramelized onions and bacon. We used only the zest, but I think the lemon juice would add a lot.

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad (serves 2-3)

3 cups cooked grains (quinoa, barley, rice)
1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed cut in half, lengthwise
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
3 strips local, smoked bacon
1 cup new crop pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 lemon, zested and and juiced
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, gently stirring sprouts every 10 minutes.
While sprouts Re roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan.
Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions to the bacon fat and sauté for 20 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When sprouts are roasted and browned on the edges, remove from oven.
In a large bowl, gently toss sprouts, onions, blue cheese, cranberries, crumbled bacon and pecans.
Divide cooked grains among serving bowls and top with warm salad mix.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

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Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (and bacon)

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So there I was, minding my own business, catching up on foodie blogs, when I saw it–the recipe for butternut squash macaroni and cheese. I love squash–all squash. And this seemed like a fun and delicious new way to incorporate some squash into winter comfort food. Ellie rolled her eyes when I mentioned it, but in the end, she had two helpings so I figure it must not be the end of the world 🙂

The original of this recipe was on Sugar Dish Me’s blog, and I know if she has posted it to the universe, it must be good. I made some modifications to allow for what I had handy and what I needed to use up in the refrigerator (namely, bacon). I also roasted my squash instead of peeling it and boiling it because I am both lazy and unable to cut the rind off squash without causing myself bodily injury. HERE is the original recipe, which qualifies for Meatless Monday and is lower in fat than my version–you can probably make up your own delicious variations of this to suit your taste and what you have handy.

The end result was a bit sweet from the squash, but also smokey from the bacon and caramelized onions. This is going into my “must repeat” file!

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon (makes 6-8 main dish servings)

  • 1 12 oz. package of mini rotini pasta (or your favorite shape)
  • 2 organic butternut squash
  • 4 strips uncured, local bacon
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • 2 cups Swiss/Gruyère cheese, shredded (Trader Joes has an excellent blend)
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  3. Cut both squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put the squash pieces on the baking sheet, cut side down and roast in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. When squash is tender, remove from the oven and let cool. Scoop the pulp into a bowl and mash. Set aside. NOTE: squash can be roasted ahead of time and refrigerated up to 3 days.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut the strips of bacon into small strips, about 1″ wide. Brown in a skillet until crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon pieces to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  7. To the bacon drippings, add onion slices and cook on medium heat about 10-12 minutes, until they begin to caramelize. Remove onions to plate with the bacon.
  8. In a large bowl, mix the squash, bacon, onion, milk, spices, salt and pepper.
  9. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Set bowl aside.
  10. In a large stock pot, bring pasta water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, according to the directions on the package. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  11. Return pasta to the pot and add the squash mixture. Stir well to blend. Add some pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
  12. Pour pasta mixture into a casserole or baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix the butter and bread crumbs together and sprinkle on top.
  13. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your baking dish (mine took a full 45 minutes).
  14. Serve immediately.
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