Brussels Sprouts with Dates, Bacon, and Almonds

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Apparently this break wasn’t meant to include much physical activity, which I’m kind of okay with—there are plenty of cookbooks that need to be looked through, lots of movies to be watched, and food to be cooked. I came down with the flu this past week (hence the lack of physical activity), which meant that I did a lot of the aforementioned activities, minus the cooking. I got to lay around like a useless lump, feeling as though I had a throat like a bullfrog, for a couple of days while Jonji made me tea and did all of the dishes. Fortunately, I am now back to normal and can go on hikes, explore LA, and make new friends. Except I won’t do any of those things, but rather continue reading cookbooks and watching movies.

We did manage to get out of our apartment once this weekend, when we went to Todd and Jessica’s place for a “crafternoon” (I can’t take credit for that awesome term). I felt pretty uncreative when I realized that I never craft, unless you count my homework, which would then mean that I do it all the time. Jonji and I decided to follow their lead and make little “moss terrariums” with Todd, who was thoroughly excited about his “artifact” (a rusty metal object) that he had artfully included in his terrarium. Jonji spent a lot of time wrapping string around one of his jars (it looks cooler than it sounds) and I bullied my brain into finding a way to hang a candle 1/3 of the way down inside my jar. Jess made a very successful prism “lantern,” which we all squeezed into the dark bathroom to admire towards the end of the crafternoon.

I have used the past week to catch up on some movie-watching with Kitty, which I really never do. I saw The Martian (liked it), 21 Jump Street (also liked it), The Imitation Game (liked it but also felt a bit down afterward), and Ant-Man (liked that one too). And I watched Ratatouille for the third time because it’s one of my all-time favorites. Other than watching movies, I framed a print I got for Christmas and put it above my desk, made waffles, and meal-planned for the next week. Productivity is my middle name.

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By the way, I added a few more book reviews to my blog, if anyone is interested.

One of the things I miss most about Santa Cruz is its Farmer’s Markets. Each one there is bursting with gorgeous greens, a wide array of flowers, superb fruit, and quite a good selection of meat and cheese. The one I go to here is alright, but the kale is never as good, they don’t even have a good citrus vendor, and the lettuce is passable. Every Sunday when I gear up for the Market I hope that, maybe this week, the vegetables will be outstanding. To no avail. The one good vegetable crop this year is the Brussels sprout, which has only recently been available (and who knows how long it will last). Therefore, I am taking full advantage.

In Santa Cruz you can drive several minutes up the coast and walk along a field of Brussels sprouts that lines the windy cliffs of Three Mile. After the harvest the field is laid bare, except for the trampled stalks and left-behind sprouts that quietly litter the ground like the aftermath of a battle. I am always tempted to scrounge some for myself but, somehow, I don’t think that’s at all legal. I didn’t even begin to like Brussels sprouts until a few years ago, when I ate them, glistening with balsamic vinegar, alongside chunks of bacon. I had only ever seen them in a cream dressing before that which, for some reason, never enticed me. Now a smile instantly jumps to my face when I see a bin full of these bright, tightly-furled little green gems at the Market, and I always bring a bag-full home. The following recipe was inspired by a dish that Jonji and I had at Gjelina Take-Away the other day. Feel free to change anything to your liking, although I have a feeling you won’t really need to.

Brussels Sprouts with Dates, Bacon, & Almonds

serves 2–3 | inspired by a recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

4 oz bacon

1 lb Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2-3/4 tsp salt

4–5 dates (I use Medjool), pitted and quartered
1 shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1–2 tsp honey

1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped

Cut the bacon into 1/4 inch-wide chunks and cook in a pan over medium heat until crispy (but not too crispy). Drain the fat (save for another day) and set the bacon pieces aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half if they’re large, or else leave them whole (just make sure to chop off the tough parts on the bottoms). Toss the sprouts with 3 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt on a large rimmed baking sheet, ensuring all the sprouts are decently coated in oil (add more if not). Add more salt if some sprouts didn’t get much. Bake for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the date pieces, sliced shallot, and 1 tbsp sherry vinegar together. When the sprouts are out of the oven after 20 minutes, stir the date mixture into the sprouts and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the 1-2 tsp honey, then set aside to cool slightly. Move the sprouts to a serving platter and top with the chopped almonds and bacon pieces. Enjoy!

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