I used to think of Brussels sprouts as funny-smelling little cabbages that in their usual preparation managed texturally to be both hard and mushy and flavor-wise to be both bland and somewhat skunky.
I had much to learn about the Brussels sprout. Firstly, I learned how they actually grew. I had only seen them either en mass in bins in the supermarket or pre-portioned out in Styrofoam and plastic wrap packages. Then I started seeing them during the fall months at the farmers market on stalks. Aha! I quickly found that buying Brussels sprouts on the stems invariably results in a fresher and tastier Brussels sprout (plus, I have to admit that it is kind of fun to walk home with a giant stalk of Brussels sprouts sticking awkwardly out of your green market tote).
Secondly, I learned how to prepare them. My husband's favorite way to enjoy Brussels sprouts are par-boiled in salted water, drained and dried, and then caramelized (to the point of looking scorched) in a hot pan with butter and oil. While I am a huge fan of Brussels sprouts prepared in this way (especially when they are served next to a gooey, rich mac & cheese), lately I have been really into raw Brussels sprouts.
Yes, I did say raw. In this salad, I shave the Brussels sprouts using the blade slicer on my food processor and toss them in a simple fresh dressing with toasted hazelnuts and Pecorino Romano cheese. When sliced thinly, fresh Brussels sprouts are very digestible and actually quite delicate.
Brussels spouts are quite healthy when they are cooked, but when raw they have even more going for them. They contain sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have anti-cancer properties, as well as high levels of vitamin C, Folate, iron and dietary fiber. While it is beneficial to eat Brussels sprouts in any preparation, they hands-down contain the highest levels of sulforaphane and these nutrients when consumed in their raw state.
And, best of all, this salad can be prepared up to 2 hours before serving it, making it an ideal salad to serve with your Thanksgiving dinner, or any other festive meal.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Hazelnut & Pecorino Salad
I grate half of the cheese and dice the other half to create a texturally more interesting salad. Also, the hazelnut oil is really lovely in this salad as it subtly mirrors the flavor of the toasted nuts; however if you aren't able to find it, substitute it for an extra tablespoon of olive oil.
1 1/2 lbs Brussels Spouts
1 c. toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. Pecorino Romano, half grated, half diced
juice from 1 1/2 lemons
1 tbsp. hazelnut oil
3 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Trim Brussels sprouts and remove any discolored or tough outer leaves. Shred by using the slicing blade in your food processor, or slice carefully using a sharp knife or mandolin.
In a large bowl whisk together the lemon juice, hazelnut oil, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust ratios if needed. Toss the shaved Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts and Pecorino Romano cheese in the dressing. Adjust seasoning and serve or keep at room temperature for up to 2 hours.