I don’t know about you, but I blinked, and the weekend was gone!
But what a weekend it was. The air was cool and damp, seeming to promise that summer temperatures are finally behind us (fingers crossed!). I had a dear friend visiting on Saturday: there was brunch, there was a local craft fair, there was shopping, there was delicious Indian food and some smashing cocktails. But tonight, I don’t want to talk about any of those things. I want to talk about brussel sprouts.
As I sat sipping my coffee this morning, in a woolly sweater (yes, I wore a sweater all day today AND yesterday, hoorah!) and cozy socks, contemplating my unremittingly empty fridge, I was at a complete loss for dinner ideas. Some weeks, I love meal planning before a trip to the grocery, and others … well it can feel like such an enormous task! I wanted something easy and delicious, something with vegetables, and something that would welcome the fall temperatures. And then, it hit me … brussel sprouts!
I absolutely adore brussel sprouts and have a couple of tried and true recipes for when I want to make them the star of dinner. The first is this Nigel Slater recipe, which I’ve made dozens of times (usually replacing the creme fraiche, which I never have on hand, with good quality sour cream or plain yogurt, which I nearly always do have). The second is a recipe that I think came from a Trader Joe’s mailer, for Gnocchi with Sprouts and Bacon. I had some turkey bacon to use up, so the gnocchi recipe was the clear winner.
Except when I finally got myself to the little grocery in my neighborhood, there was no gnocchi to be had. Wandering around the store in a tired haze (see: yesterday’s activities!), my brain refused to process the information and figure out an alternative dinner plan. Just after grabbing a bag of regular pasta, with the idea that I’d swap out noodles for gnocchi, I spied a bag of black rice, threw it in the cart with my sprouts, and then came home and took a much needed nap.
Afterward, I felt like a much more functional person, and remembered a great Smitten Kitchen broccoli and wild rice bake that I’ve made a few times. So using that and the Trader Joe’s recipe as jumping off points, I put together this … it’s not a revolutionary dish, it’s not fancy or difficult, but if you, like me, rejoice at the beginning of brussel sprout season (and think that every meal is made better with the addition of cheese), maybe you’ll like this as well.
Broccoli and Black Rice Bake
- 1 c. uncooked black rice
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 4-6 pieces bacon, diced — I used a turkey one that was maple-y, which was quite good, but you could also omit it altogether for a vegetarian dish
- 1 lb brussel sprouts, halfed or, if large, quartered
- spalsh of apple cideer vinegar
- 2-3 TBSP butter
- 2-3 TBSP flour
- 1/8 tsp hot, smoked paprika
- Leaves of a few sprigs of thyme
- 1 c. milk
- 1/3 c. greek yogurt (you could probably omit this if you didn’t have it on hand)
- 1 8 oz block cheddar, grated
- salt and pepper
Cook the rice in a sauce pan according to the package instructions, and drain if necessary (no need to wash that pot yet, we’ll use it again!) I did this step ahead of time since black rice typically takes 45 minutes to an hour to cook.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large frying pan, heat about 1 TBSP olive oil. Add diced onion and bacon and saute until onion has softened. Add brussel sprouts, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until they’ve browned and can be easily pierced with a fork (if they brown too fast, cover your pot with a lid for a minute or two to steam and soften the sprouts). At this point, I had lots of yummy bacon-y goodness stuck to the bottom of the pan, so I deglazed it with a splash of apple cider vinegar, but skip if you don’t feel like it! Combine the rice and brussel sprout mixture in a baking dish, mixing everything together.
In the pot you made the rice in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir until it forms a paste. Add paprika and thyme, then gradually stir in the milk. Once the milk’s incorporated, plop in the yogurt, if using, and stir. When the sauce begins to thicken, season with salt and pepper and add about three quarters of the grated cheese. Pour the sauce over the rice and brussel sprouts, making sure that everything gets coated, top with remaining cheese (if I’d had breadcrumbs, I would have put some on top here, but I didn’t!), and bake in the oven until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. If you’re top isn’t browning, whack it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn!
Once it’s out of the oven, let it stand for a few minutes — I used this time to make a simple green salad — arugula dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. And then tuck into your lovely, cheesy brussel sprouts 🙂
What about you? Do you have a favorite fall vegetable? A recipe that you can’t wait to make as soon as the temperature drops? If so, I’d love to hear about it!