Saturday, January 19, 2008


I've always thought of Brussels sprouts as little cabbages, but I read that these little green heads are members of the mustard family. Though given the faint cabbage odor they impart during cooking makes me suspect they are at least kissin' cousins.

Last March, I reported that many of us have been enjoying this vegetable sliced and sautéed with shallots, then finished off with a dab of spicy brown mustard. But recently, I ran across another clever rendition that has the core cut out and the leaves separated before sautéeing them quickly in olive oil with sliced shallots and pistachios, then finished with a generous drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper.

The evening I decided to put in the extra effort to separate the leaves from a few sprouts, I started a half cup of Lundberg Farms Japonica rice. That's the combination of black and mahogany rice that I find so full flavored and perfect to combine with vegetables to make a full meal. My local Publix carries a selection of various Lundberg rices. Unfortunately, they don't carry this one. I pick it up at Whole Foods or Chamberlin's and try to always have an extra package tucked away as it makes a great meat substitute for stuffing veggies as well as a good base for a variety of rice bowls.

I gave the rice a little boost by starting it as I would for risotto. After rinsing the rice well in cold water, I heated a small sauce pan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and added half a medium sweet onion, finely chopped. Once the onions had begun to sweat, but not browned, I added the rice and sautéed for a moment or two, stirring to coat each grain with oil, then I added a generous splash of dry vermouth and let that cook down before adding the water and salt, bringing it to a boil, then covering and turning down to a gentle simmer. This hardy rice takes about 40 minutes to cook. I use a pot with a glass lid so I can keep an eye on the evaporation process after the first 30 minutes. Once it appears dry — I leave it covered and move it off heat while I proceed with the rest of the meal preparations.

I have to plead guilty to having no pistachios in the house, but I did have walnuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. Any one of them would have served well to replace the pistachios, but I chose the hazelnuts. I thought the rich, full-bodied flavor, skins and all, would stand up well to the sprouts.

The combination of meaty black rice, sprouts and nuts made a delicious rice bowl once seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. The addition of fresh lemon juice, before serving, gave the bowl a fresh, lively kick. The amazing feature is the bottom line. . . I used a half cup of rice, two shallots, 8 sprouts, a quarter cup of chopped hazelnuts and the juice from half a lemon.

You do the math based on where you live and where you shop — how little does this cost?

Not only is this inexpensive, but how easy it is to prepare a delicious meal simply and quickly with just a handful of ingredients. And the hidden benefit? It's super nutritious!

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