Almost Vegetarian has a fun thread going right now about Dinner For One. I have a great affinity for those secret favorites, the ones you would probably never serve to company but can be so satisfying when you have no one to please but yourself. For example, here is one that I made a bunch of times a few years ago, when I was discovering how much I love Brussel sprouts if they are cooked properly.
Of course, if you don’t care for Brussel sprouts, which many people don’t, this recipe is your worst nightmare. If you love them, your mouth is probably watering and you are considering putting down the book and running out to the grocery. It doesn’t much matter. There are several important things to notice about this recipe. First of all, it is much harder to write down then it actually is to do. The point is not for you to memorize it and repeat it, but to free up your imagination and your palate to eat what you enjoy. Second is that you can actually think with your taste buds. If you stop and consider can you see that this dish is nicer with a whole wheat bread than say a country white, or a baguette? Can you tell that it works better with Brussel sprouts than, say, broccoli? Wait, that’s a trick question. It works better for me with sprouts, but you might love it with broccoli. You can also imagine variations. Would you like to add a squeeze of lemon juice? Toasted hazelnuts? Some fresh-ground black pepper or chili flakes? Olive oil instead of butter? Do whatever appeals to you, and taste the result in your imagination first. Finally, especially with simple dishes, the quality of the ingredients matter. Oh, it will be perfectly edible even if you used frozen sprouts, cheap salted butter, iodized table salt, and a national brand loaf of bread. And sometimes that might be the best choice available to you, either due to expense or availability. But if you can use better quality ingredients, that is generally what turns a dish from edible to sublime.
Brussel Sprouts for Me
Serves 1 with a good book or a rainy night
About 10 medium size Brussel sprouts
Good quality sweet (unsalted) butter
Crusty whole wheat bread
Cut a couple of nice slices of the bread, and put them on to toast so they get lightly browned. Trim the stems off of the sprouts and remove any ugly leaves. If you like, cut a cross in the bottom. Rumor has it this helps them cook more evenly, but I can’t tell much difference. Microwave them on high for 2 minutes, or simmer them in a 1/8″ of water in a covered saucepan until tender but still bright green. While they are cooking, push the bread down again so it dries out a little more. Dump the cooked sprouts in a bowl and add a healthy pat of butter and a generous sprinkle of salt, and swirl them around a bit. Grab the bread, and enjoy using it to soak up the buttery juice and scoop up stray bits of sprouts.