Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses & Shanklish

I feel skeptical whenever people tell me that they don't like brussels sprouts. I always suspect that they've simply experienced a poorly cooked version, and vowed to stay away forever thereafter. The brussels sprout- basically a tiny, adorable head of cabbage- has long been  subject to rampant abuse by home cooks, who throw it carelessly into a steamer basket and steam it into mushy, stinky oblivion. Who wants to eat that? Broccoli and cauliflower often suffer a similar sad fate. Brassicas- the family into which these three tortured veggies fall- take well to roasting and the exquisite caramelization that comes long with it. We shouldn't torture our vegetables (or our guests) by subjecting them to this treatment. Brussels sprouts don't need to be the least liked item on the dinner table.

I first discovered that you could rescue your vegetables from the mushiness when I worked in a restaurant. There I learned that- aha!- you are supposed to blanch some crunchy vegetables before roasting and sauteeing. This does the majority of the cooking, locks in their unique color, seasons them with the salt from the water, and keeps them from drying out in the oven. I've never made a disappointing brussels sprout since. 

In this case, by blanching I mean dropping the veggie of choice in a pot of boiling, salted water, and cooking it until it is crisp-tender. Almost done, basically, but still slightly crisp. In general, when you blanch, you remove the vegetables from the boiling water to an ice bath after just a few minutes of cooking, to cool them quickly and keep them from getting overcooked. 

Sometimes, blanching can be a real pain. You have to bring a pot of water to a boil, and use a whole bunch of salt to season it. And then there's that damn ice bath. But, the difference is worth it. If you're concerned about using that much water, try blanching your veggies for the next few days all in the same water, in separate batches by kind. Then shock them in a big bowl of ice water, and dry them off. From there you can store them in the fridge until you're ready to cook them. 

The blanching process is what enables the brussels sprouts in this recipe. When the mostly-cooked brussels get transferred to the oven, they caramelize beautifully. Then, they get tossed in sticky-sweet pomegranate molasses, and put back in the oven to soak up the flavor. Serve them alongside the tangy, Za'atar spiked sauce called Shanklish and you'll have a veggie side dish that anyone will love. PS: Not to jump ahead of the game or anything but...I think these would make a great side dish atThanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses & Shanklish

Adapted from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, by Amelia Saltsman

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, washed and halved
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, lightly chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Shanklish, for serving (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Boil the Brussels sprouts in salted water until crisp-tender, about three minutes. On the salt, the amount that you need depends on the size of the pot. In general, for blanching vegetables, I like my water to be about as salty as the sea, or slightly less. Drain and dry thoroughly on paper towels or dish towels. (P.S. in this recipe, since you're roasting right away, you don't need to shock the brussels. However, if you would like to complete this step ahead and you won't be roasting right away, I would shock them in ice water before draining and storing in the fridge.)
  3. On a large baking sheet, toss the sprouts with the olive oil, season them with salt and pepper (taste one- they may be salty enough already from the water) and spread them evenly on the baking sheet. (I actually like to spread mine out toward the edges of a rimmed baking sheet so that they get more color. I also like to lay them all cut side down so that the cut side gets all brown and roast-y.)
  4. Roast the Brussels sprouts, turning the sprouts (if necessary) once during cooking. (I didn't turn mine; they didn't need it.) The original recipe says that you roast them for 35 minutes, but mine were totally done at 25 minutes. Then, remove the pan from the oven and drizzle one tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses over the sprouts, toss, and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes to glaze. 
  5. Remove from the oven and scrape the Brussels sprouts and any juices onto a serving platter or bowl. Sprinkle with the walnuts and drizzle with the additional pomegranate molasses. Serve alongside Shanklish. 

For the Shanklish:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup labneh
  • 1/2 tbsp za'atar
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or, if unavailable, smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.