Brussels Sprouts Salad
with
cranberries and dates

One morning at breakfast, yes breakfast, I had the pleasure of being introduced to this fabulous salad.  We were in Chicago and our good friend Mary, travel planner extraordinare, had booked us a table at Hub 51. {  http://hub51chicago.com  }

Amazing place. When in Chicago, go there. Heads up, It’s a popular brunch spot. so go the reservation route. This salad blew my mind because I am not a fan of brussels sprouts, but this salad … dang … so  good!  


I cruised the internet in search of a recipe and came across a number of them … the recipe below is the result of re-creating this salad in my own kitchen. I still can’t believe that I’m espousing a salad with brussels sprouts!  Brussels sprouts? I’d sit at the table for an hour after dinner was over as a kid, because there was no way I was going to eat those things. Well today, it’s a different story altogether, because I love this salad. This recipe falls into what I consider ‘weekend cooking’ as there’s some prep work involved initially, but after you deal with the sprouts, the rest of the recipe unfolds quickly. Give it a try. It’s clean, unique and totally yum.


Here we go …


Vinaigrette


3 T stone ground mustard

6 T champagne vinegar

3 T agave syrup

1 clove of garlic put through a press or minced

Several grinds each of salt and pepper

1/2 c apple cider

3/4 c grapeseed oil


Salad


2 1/2 lbs. of brussels sprouts

3 T dried cranberries

3 T slivered almonds

3 T chopped dates

4 T of a 4-cheese blend  (It’s sold by the parmesan cheese. Basically, it’s a blend of 4 Italian cheeses. We love it around here.)


Begin by prepping the Brussels Sprouts.  Cut off the base of a sprout to release the leaves. Peel off the outer leaves and collect the individual leaves in a large, glass bowl. After removing the outermost leaves, I trim off more of the remaining base, and peel off a few more leaves.  Once I hit the core, I move on to a new brussels sprout. Sounds tedious, but it actually moves along pretty quickly. You’ll fall into a rhythm. Trim the base, peel off a few leaves, trim more of the base and peel off a few more leaves. Quite often, I’ll cut a sprout in half after removing the outer leaves. The interior leaves are wrapped a bit tighter and cutting the sprout in half helps to release them.  Once you work your way through all of the brussels sprouts and have a bowl full of individual leaves, bring the bowl and your salad spinner over to the sink.


I’ve found that usually, I need to rinse and drain the leaves about four times to get out all the bits of dirt. Once the water runs clean, spin the sprout leaves in the salad spinner and set aside.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  While the water is heating, rinse out the large glass bowl, and fill it with water and ice. Set aside.  Once the water in the pot has come to a boil, dump in all the sprout leaves, give it a stir, and remove them in 8 seconds. That’s all it takes, 8 seconds. Drain the leaves into a colander and immediately move the leaves into an ice bath. I leave them in the ice bath for another 8 seconds. 

Drain the leaves once again via the colander and return the leaves to the salad spinner and spin off excess water.  Next, lay out the brussels sprout leaves on a strip of paper towel and let them air dry for an hour.  The leaves all have a nice bright green color.  They’re far more tender, but still have a decent crunch. Finally, you’re done, dealing with the leaves. The sprouts are good to go!  Now is a good time to do a final edit on the leaves.  Toss out any of them that look a little janky … some of them may have holes or stains and just ain’t pretty so, let ‘em go.  

Next, mix all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a screw top, glass jar.  Shake the living heck out of it and taste.  Does it need anything? Maybe a bit more mustard, agave or a tad more grapeseed oil?  Don't worry if it seems a bit thin … It’s meant to simply dress the greens, not drown them in a dressing. Although this vinaigrette recipe makes more than you’ll need, it’s excellent and you’ll be able to enjoy it in the week ahead.


To the Brussels sprout leaves, add the remaining ingredients: dried cranberries, almonds, dates and cheese.  Toss the mixture.  Begin by adding the vinaigrette 1/4 cup at a time. You’re aiming for a light covering of the leaves with the vinaigrette, you don’t want to drench it. Give the salad a good toss well and serve!


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