Monday, September 15, 2008

The Stalk Market

While most markets seem to have struggled over the past week, my new favorite farmers market, located smack dab in the middle of Boston's Copley Square, seems to be chugging along at an impressive pace.

California markets have plenty to boast about in the final weeks of August, with all of the lingering summer produce and stone fruits, but New England markets start coming into their own in these fall-tinged days of September. On Friday, I was lucky enough to find McCouns, my favorite variety of apple, and I bought just enough to hold me over until tomorrow, when I'll be heading back to the market for a dozen more (yes, I eat New England apples at an alarming rate).

Even though I'm an equal-opportunity produce consumer, all of the vegetables I buy in the fall are really just complements, vehicles, and foils for the apples and squash that, to me, are the jewels of New England's best season: autumn. That doesn't mean that I won't get excited about the occasional random find at the market though, and today's recipe proves that claim.

I was browsing at one of the stalls at the market, eyeing the peppers and eggplant, when I spotted a stack of brussels sprouts stalks behind the counter, almost out of view. Perhaps the vendors don't consider brussels sprouts a hot item, but I was intrigued. One of the perks of shopping at farmers markets is that sometimes you get to see the produce in their natural forms, not plucked or shucked or combed-through like they are in the supermarket. I'd seen a stalk of brussels sprouts before, but hadn't ever purchased one. At $3 each, the stalks seemed like a reasonable bargain, and I soon found myself bouncing home with an unwieldy branch of sprouts peeking out of my tote.

I generally think of brussels sprouts as a late-fall or winter vegetable, but I'm not one to turn them down in any season. I prepared them simply; first shredding, then sauteing, then dressing them in a lemon-tahini sauce with just the right amount of acid and sweetness to balance their pleasing cabbage-y bitterness. I often prepare sauteed brussels sprouts with a honey-mustard vinaigrette, but the tahini and lemon here add some extra character and brightness. The recipe below is hardly much of a recipe, but one my favorite things about shopping at the farmers market (aside from walking the mean streets of Boston with giant sprout stalks as my only weapon) is that the cooking really becomes an exercise in letting the beauty of the produce shine through.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon-Tahini Vinaigrette

brussels sprouts (as many as you want to eat)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. spicy or whole-grain mustard
splash of white wine or cider vinegar
1-2 tsp. water
salt and pepper, to taste


Peel outer leaves of brussels sprouts and discard. Slice sprouts in half lengthwise, then finely slice. Rinse and drain thoroughly. Heat olive oil in a small skillet, and add the shredded sprouts. Saute for about 5-10 minutes, until sprouts are vibrant, just beginning to brown, and have wilted slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients to make a vinaigrette. Remove sprouts from heat, and dress with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Mia, this looks so good and simple. and because I cannot eat uncooked vegetables right now, this may be a good alternative when I am craving lettuce and fresh salads. And of course I appreciate your reference to the stock market.

Mia said...

If you like these cooked vegetables, keep checking back for more autumn vegetable dishes!