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Friday, February 28, 2014

Pasta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Tomatoes

Of all the foods commonly eaten in the U.S., none have a more unjust reputation than the  Brussels  sprout. All across children's media in particular,  Brussels sprouts are lazy shorthand for "gross vegetable," just as the also unfairly maligned anchovy is for "gross fish." In fact, Brussels sprouts are both healthful and seriously delicious, with a deep flavor that's downright rich for a vegetable, and, if properly cooked, an immensely satisfying tender texture. Properly cooked is the rub, though—part of the root of their unfair reputation is that steaming or boiling your sprouts for too long not only makes them mushy, but releases glucosinolate sinigrin, a sulfurous compound that both tastes and smells quite unpleasant. Being more delicate with your steaming will fix that problem, but if you want to bring out the best in the Brussels sprout, the way to go is roasting (high, dry heat denatures the compound altogether, so such problems are entirely avoided.)

This dish was thoroughly an improv dinner for me tonight, but I really like how it turned out, and it has the advantage of being versatile for a wide variety of eaters: leave out the cheese and it's vegan (and will be very nearly as good), take out the hot stuff if you don't go for it, or, if you want to keep away from carbs, leave the pasta out entirely—I think the sprouts and tomatoes alone could serve two quite comfortably and happily, especially if paired with a green salad. Of course, on the other extreme, I'm sure this would go very nicely with some bacon if you felt like throwing caution to the wind. 

Serves 4,  takes around 45 minutes (mostly inactive) if pasta is cooked while vegetables are finishing roasting. 

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed
1/2 pound cherry or grape tomatoes 
1 box angel hair pasta 
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (opt)
1-2 cloves minced raw garlic
2 tsp balsamic vinegar 
2 tsp sugar 
Cayenne (opt)
Pepper flakes (opt)
Olive oil
Black pepper

1.Preheat oven to 375. 
2. Wash and halve Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. Pat dry.
3. Toss Brussels sprouts and walnuts in glass baking dish with enough olive oil to coat, along with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and pinch of cayenne. 
4. Toss tomatoes in glass baking dish with enough olive oil to coat, along with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and sugar. 
5. Move baking dishes to oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, removing when tomatoes are thoroughly softened and slightly blackened, and Brussels sprouts are golden brown inside and completely tender. If waiting on pasta, leave in turned-off oven to keep warm. Don't worry if the outer leaves blacken a bit, they still taste good. 
6. Cook angel hair to desired doneness and strain.
7. Roughly chop Brussels sprouts into bite-sized pieces. 
8. Vigorously toss sprouts, walnuts, tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes, cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil with the pasta until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately with white wine or an IPA. 

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