As I walked up from the mailbox a couple weeks ago, I glanced through the pile of stuff; a bill, some advertisements, blah blah blah, and then something caught my eye. On the cover of the new issue of Whole Living was a pan full of what appeared to be roasted Brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts. “Ooooh,” thought I, “That looks good. I’ll give that a look over as soon as I make myself a cup of tea.” I walked in the door, sat the magazine down and never saw it again.
What happened to it? Who can say? What happens to anything that disappears in a home with five sons ages thirteen (for another two days) and under? Well, sometimes those things end up in the chicken coop under a pile of something I’d rather not describe on a food blog, or on the roof of the shed (not kidding), or buried under the gravel pile (with my soup spoon), or stuck on a pike in the boneyard (not so scary, really, it’s a place where kids found a pile of deer bones left by the previous owner of our property, now a fertile ground for much imaginative play) as a pirate flag, or crammed under beds/van seats/recliners.
But the idea of the dish stayed with me. I didn’t want to overthink it, because Whole Living usually has lovely, uncomplicated, pure flavours in their recipes. They don’t get all wacky and difficult, God love ’em, so I decided the fewer ingredients, the better. I grabbed the ingredients the next time I went to the store and came home to try my hand at the version my imagination had supplied.
I was assembling my pan-o-sprouts when my husband walked by, stopped and backtracked. “You’re putting grapes in with Brussels sprouts?” he asked incredulously? I decided to play it cool and replied with a, “Yep.” He shrugged his shoulders and moved on.
Thirty five minutes later I pulled a tray of roasted sprouts* and other goodies from the oven and took a deep whiff. Oh my. That smelled pretty good. I splashed balsamic vinegar onto the hot pan and vegetables and it smelled even better. I tossed it all together and it smelled best yet. Then I called Mr. Doubtful into the room. “Give it a try,” I said.
One grape, one Brussels sprout half and one piece of walnut in one bite. Then he went into broken record mode, trying the same combination again and again and again. “This is perfect. It is. You need one piece of everything for the perfect bite.”
I probably don’t need to tell you how well this would go with your Thanksgiving feast, but I should probably mention that we ate a full pan of this the first night I made it and forgot all about the rest of the meal. And I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that with a little crispy bacon thrown in, this would be at home between a bottom layer of grits and a top layer of poached or fried egg. Then there’s that little matter of throwing together with pan-fried ham pieces for a quick hash.
…I never did find my Whole living, but I ran my version of the recipe past a friend who did not lose (or have lost on her behalf) her copy. As luck would have it, my method was the same and my end version differed only in the matter of quantity of olive oil and the fact that I didn’t include fresh thyme. How ya like that?
- 1½-2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2-3 handfuls of red, seedless grapes
- ½ cup shelled walnuts (large pieces, not diced)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Trim the Brussels sprouts of any dry ends and loose leaves, then halve. Place halved sprouts along with grapes and walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the sprouts are well-browned in places, the nuts are fully toasted and the grapes are darkened in colour and very plump.
- As soon as you remove the pan from the oven drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the contents of the pan and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little additional coarse sea salt.