I have a tendency to get into a little bit of a funk in January. The holidays are long gone, the weather is rainy and dreary, and it makes me want to hibernate in my little shack with a warm fire until February comes along. During this month I definitely need a bit of inspiration to get me off the couch and get my creative juices flowing again. Luckily, I received some new cookbooks for Christmas, and inspiration is not so hard to find in this stack of loveliness:
Oh how I love me some new cookbooks. I can't wait to read them all the way through when I first get them, and mentally pick out dishes that I'm dying to try. I even like to read the recipes in bed before I go to sleep, thumbing through the pages until I can no longer keep my eyes open. Unfortunately as much as I love reading and gathering ideas from cookbooks, I am horrible at actually going back to those books on a regular basis and making new recipes out of them. I think it has something to do with the onslaught of cooking magazines I receive each month, when I tear out the glossy pages and place them in a folder that is always overflowing and easily accessible. Instead of reaching for a cookbook, I tend to reach for that folder instead. Not to mention the recipes I get inspired from off of other blogs and cooking websites. With all those other forms of cooking inspiration, I forget about the books that are tucked away in my cupboard, begging to be opened and used.
So I made a pact with myself after obtaining the most recent additions of cookbooks, that I would cook at least one recipe out of each book in the next couple of weeks, and make sure that they don't get put away before that happens. Which is how this delicious bowl of shaved Brussels sprouts with egg, almonds, and a citrus vinaigrette appeared in my kitchen.
This recipe came out of Michael Chiarello's Bottega cookbook, and was a real no-brainer as one of the first recipes for me to make. I had tried the salad at Bottega back in December and had been craving it ever since. Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts, mixed with the finest particles of hard-cooked eggs, salty Marcona almonds, and a decadent tasting citrusy dressing. The combination may sound a little odd, but trust me that it is amazing. I was thinking about this salad way after the rest of the meal was over. Needless to say I was super excited when I received the Bottega cookbook, and saw that the recipe for the salad was included.
As excited as I was to see this dish in the table of contents, I was a little wary as to how complicated the recipe might possibly be. I've made recipes from some of Michael Chiarello's other restaurant cookbooks and I know that the guy tends to not always adapt recipes for the average home cook. The list of ingredients can include items that are expensive and difficult to find at your local grocery store, such as late-harvest olive oil, grey salt, and cheeses that have been aged specific amounts of time. The instructions can also sometimes require tools and equipment that might not always be in every home cook's kitchen.
For example, in this recipe the instructions call for using a juice extractor for the citrus vinaigrette to juice the entire fruit, peel and all. And if a juice extractor isn't available, then I should have the fruits juiced at my specialty produce market. Well I don't have a juice extractor, and I don't have a specialty produce market, so I had to make due with zesting and juicing the citrus instead, and don't worry, it still turns out delicious.
The recipes in the book appear to come straight from the way they probably make them in the restaurant which I can definitely appreciate; it may just mean some tweaking and a little more work on my end, which I don't mind when the results are as good as this salad. Part of the reason this salad works so well, in my opinion, is how finely everything is chopped and shaved so that it all kind of melds together in one delicious forkful. Which means a little bit more prep work than I might normally do for a salad, but is well worth the effort.
If you don't have a mandoline for shaving the sprouts, I think slicing them as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife would work as well. Pressing the eggs through a sieve may seem like an unnecessary step, but what results is the perfect texture for the salad. If a sieve is also not available, the recipe instructions recommend improvising with a grater, colander, mini-chopper, or even a slotted spoon.
What comes together is a bowl of sunshine in the dead of winter. Each bite is a light and fluffy mixture of textures that combine beautifully in your mouth. The citrus vinaigrette brightens up the heartiness of the Brussels sprouts and contrasts deliciously against the saltiness of the almonds. This salad was a real winner, and just what I needed to get me through the occasional dreariness that January can bring.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s Bottega
Note: I think this salad would work great for a dinner party. All the individual elements could be prepped earlier in the day and then tossed all together when it's time to eat.
For the Citrus Vinaigrette
2 lemons (Meyer lemons if available)
1 small orange
1 large shallot, finely chopped
¾ cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
Zest and juice the lemons and orange into a small bowl, and add the chopped shallot. Gradually whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream until it emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Salad
6 cups Brussels sprouts
6 large eggs, hard cooked
¾ cup Marcona almonds, finely chopped*
¼ cup Pecorino-Romano
Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly shave or slice each Brussels sprout, holding the stem end.
Push the hard cooked eggs through a sieve. (Note: If a sieve is also not available try using a grater, colander, mini-chopper, or even a slotted spoon.)
In a large bowl, toss together the shaved Brussels sprouts, sieved eggs, and chopped almonds, reserving some of the eggs and almonds for toppings if desired. Pour on about a ½ cup of the vinaigrette and toss again. Taste, and add more dressing if necessary. Top salad with eggs and almonds (if desired), and cheese.
*Another example of an item that may not be readily available, however I highly recommend using the Marcona almonds (I found mine at Trader Joes). If they are difficult to find, then I think toasted almonds would also work well. The recipe says you can also fry blanched almonds in a few tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of sea salt for a similar taste.