This recipe is an outline, to be filled out with seasonal herbs to compliment a specific meal, a specific palate. Originally, it was all impulse, an apology to my mother during Christmas dinner, words begging forgiveness yet retaining a distinct feistiness imbedded through flavor and presentation, giving a pop to her favorite vegetable with three ingredients whose rarity of use we've discussed as haunting the both of us (limoncello, poppyseeds and mustard seeds). This recipe has since seen iterations with extra spice from garam masala to slide alongside samosas, crushed red pepper flakes and toasted pine nuts to pair with pasta, oregano-dill and feta to support moussaka. The base brings to each version a subtle bite from mustard seeds and liberal use pepper, tempered by limoncello's touch of sweet, matched by the visual drama and slight nuttiness of poppy. —Gwen
fresh brussels sprouts
olive oil, divided
cloves of garlic
flavorful vegetable broth, non-tomato based
lemon juice (one lemon)
black mustard seeds
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh minced parsley, lemon zest, and optional parmesan (or vegan alternative) to garnish
Preheat oven to 375F. Wash, let dry in a colander, trim the bottoms, and then split brussels sprouts in half, placing them in a large bowl. Pour around two tablespoons of olive oil, or another neutral oil, over the brussels sprouts and toss to coat. Hands work best here. Spread the brussels sprouts cut-side down on a sheet pan, no silpat or parchment please, and generously sprinkle salt and pepper over all. Roast them until they are tender and beginning to brown on their undersides, no stirring necessary, between thirty and forty minutes.
While brussels roast, in a wide and somewhat deep pan (12-inch cast iron preferred, but a saute pan will do), over medium-high heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Add poppyseeds and five cloves of garlic either minced or put through a garlic press, saute until the sharp scent of the garlic dissipates but before it can brown at all, about one-two minutes, stirring frequently. Add mustard seeds, fresh ground nutmeg and pepper, and cook for two more minutes. The poppyseeds should begin to smell nutty at this point. If garlic begins to brown, progress to the next step more quickly: add lemon juice, two tablespoons of limoncello, dijon mustard, and vegetable broth. Turn heat to medium low or low, reduce by half very gently.
When brussels are just nearly finished, just slightly caramelized, turn the heat back up to high on your lemony liquid and add the final two cloves of garlic and two tablespoons of limoncello (more if there are sweet teeth coming to dinner). Swiftly remove the brussels from the oven, and add them to the pan. Stir to ensure they are well coated, continue cooking for another two-three minutes until the glaze has sunk into the sprouts. Check for seasoning, but the initial salting and peppering should suffice. Sprinkle fresh parsley (or any other herb) and microplane lemon zest on top to serve, perhaps grate a light dusting of parmesan or use a vegan alternative. They are best served fresh, still delicious reheated by microwave or oven, and yet equally delicious cold and straight from the fridge.