Thursday, January 19, 2012

Warm Brussels Sprouts salad + Smoked Feta and Candied Pecans

The Wife, who not always loves her veggies, has fallen for the vegetable that is often the butt of the joke: the brussels sprout. She has had me make this salad three times since I made up the recipe just a few weeks ago. I can't say I'm surprised because this dish has it all: sweet, savory, smoky, and rich. A great dish alongside or instead of greens or green beans, it will be a very unexpected treat on your Thanksgiving table.
Serves 4
1 pound Brussels sprouts (15-20 larger ones work best here)
1 1/2 cups whole roasted and salted pecans
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz smoked goat feta (smoked goat mozz works too)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper (to taste)
Start by tearing apart the Brussels sprouts. Cut off about 1/3 of the stem-end and pull the leaves apart. This takes some time, but it's worth it. Start by pressing outward with your thumbs on the cut-side. This will yield the largest leaves and make a for a fluffier salad. When you get to the core, just split it in half and throw it in with the leaves. Blanch the leaves in boiling, salted water (as salty as the sea) until they turn bright green. This will take about 10-15 seconds. Run the leaves under cold water to stop the cooking. Dry the sprout leaves in a salad spinner of lay them out on a clean towel to dry. 

Starting with the sugar in a cold 10-inch frying pan, melt sugar over medium heat. (This is so cool to watch.) Once the edges of the sugar start to melt, stir the sugar until all lumps have disappeared. Remove from heat. Toss the pecans in melted sugar until coated. It will look a bit like spun sugar as you stir the pecans into the sugar and the pecans will stick together as they cool.  Transfer to a plate to cool completely. Once pecans have cooled, break the mass apart using your hands and give them a rough chop. Cut feta into a 1/4 inch dice.

Now you are ready to assemble the salad. Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar into a large frying pan over low heat. The heat should not be so high that the dressing sizzles. Once the dressing is warm, place leaves into the pan, and toss the dressing with the sprouts. Transfer to a large plate. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts then salt and pepper. This wonderful dish is something you will add to your Thanksgiving meal for years to come. Brussels sprouts are no joke.


  1. Has this one been taken? I'd LOVE to.

  2. Woot! And now I have a blog as well...what an adventurous evening.

  3. Hey Chubby, I am having a very hard time locating smoked goat feta or mozz. up here in soggy dairy deprived Portland. :( Can you tell me where you found either and who makes them? I worked in grocery for 7 years here and I know people. Everyone is baffled. I even called the local cheese shops. Can you email me with any help?
    Thanks, Trevor

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  5. Hi Justin,
    I had a great time last night working with your recipe and here are my thoughts. First of all, it was exquisite and full of potential. I hope I am not offending when I suggest a few things here. First of all, I am wondering if our sprouts here are smaller. The largest I could find were approximately two inches long. 20 of them were exactly one pound. I thought the amount of sprouts to the other ingredients was quite low. The completed salad amounted to four avg, certainly not large, servings. I had never peeled them before and my first instinct was to try and start at the top after slicing the bottom off and peel from the delicate end. I rapidly discovered it was quicker, easier and prettier to start from the stem end. It took about 15 minutes to do. The entire recipe took me about 35 minutes...I toasted the pecans before and during the sugar melting. I think I slightly over heated the sugar as it instantly firmed up on the nuts (which had cooled at this point)and I had to work quickly to evenly distribute and it was a beautiful process with a very thread-like, spun sugar sort-of application. I wonder if this happens when you do it? I had to lightly break apart the nuts in order to be able to sprinkle them. They were delicious. Two cups was easily twice the amount I felt it needed. Perhaps this is due to the sprouts size? I used half of the nuts and still felt like it became the predominate component, texture and flavor. At the end, I am including a different recipe for the candied nuts that I make every year, seasoning them in many different ways, and I couldn't help but think you'd find them a refreshing approach to making candied pecans. In my humble opinion, the recipe I am providing would be superb for your recipe. The cheese I used, maple leaf wrapped and maple smoked goat chevre was unbelievably good. Some of the best cheese I have ever had. However, again, it dominated the recipe. I loved the creaminess of the cheese as it was able to add to the dressing by mingling into every nook and cranny but it was such a rich cheese That I'd think anyone using a softer cheese could easily use only 2oz even if the sprouts were larger and there was more volume. I will try the recipe again soon and just use a diced smoked feta or mozzarella, 4oz, because as good as the chevre was, I think your direction is superior. I found it (personally) a little heavy on the oil...I should have used a lighter olive oil but even then, I wished it had been more acidic. I missed brussells sprouts while I was eating it. I really wanted them to be the centerpiece of the salad. All the flavors were exceptional and we really enjoyed it and indeed are planning on adding it to our holiday table, if not more often. We love brussells sprouts around here too. I would love to work on another recipe if you are still seeking input. Let me know and thanks for the opportunity and trust. Trevor Recipe follows...
    I'd leave out the cinnamon for this of course,

  6. I lightened up on the oil and reduced the nuts. I also added a bit more instruction about the candy coating process.

    What do you think?

  7. My goodness, this was delicious! I used 20 large Brussels sprouts and felt like the sprouts/oil/nuts/cheese ratio was perfect with the original 4 tablespoons of oil. I used a smoked goat cheddar from Whole Foods upon your suggestion. It made a large bowlful, and the four of us devoured the whole thing. We even had a 16-year-old who "hates Brussels sprouts" clean her plate.

    I had never melted sugar by itself before, and wasn't sure whether to put the sugar in a hot or cold pan. I opted for the cold pan, and it turned out great. Like the tester above, I had to break up the pecan pieces after they were coated and cooled, but that was no trouble.

    Since I'm used to putting oil in a hot pan, I heated my pan before I put the oil and vinegar in. Oops! We had a splatter explosion once I added the vinegar. I just added a little more vinegar post-explosion, and everything was good. Maybe tell us how to remedy this situation?

    I really like this recipe and plan to add it to my repertoire. It's easy enough for a weeknight dinner while also being impressive enough for a big holiday meal.

  8. Kate. Thank you so much! I made the changes you suggested and I'm so happy that you enjoyed the dish. I especially like that we have a new Brussels sprout convert. The blanching take away a lot of the bitterness. It's a good trick to use on any green vegetable.

  9. Oh, I've always loved the Brussels, but I certainly will be eating this particular preparation often.

  10. You were talking about the teenager being a convert. Duh.

  11. That's right. I know this dish was a winner at family Christmas a few years back when a room full of Brussels sprout skeptics were converted. It was a Christmas miracle.