Tomorrow is my favorite and only brother’s birthday. I tease him because we are so different yet our lives seem to run along the same parallels. Tommy is wonderful. He rescues me when my dishwasher is falling out of the wall and when my life is falling apart. He often walks the dog and constantly walks with me through Scripture. He gives me strength to get up…the kind of strength needed when life knocks you down so hard you can’t breathe. He doesn’t simply say “C’mon. Get over it.” No. And he doesn’t judge. He gently offers two hands to lift me up out of the secluded corners of pain; he softly brushes off the mud of hard knocks and always has soothing words and hope when my soul has been hurt and buffeted. I lean on him as frequently as he leans on the kitchen bookcase, long and graceful legs crossed, drink in hand, patiently waiting for a taste of whatever I’m cooking. He is my treasure. It hasn’t always been this way. Tommy was separated from our family when he was married. We missed him terribly but he’s back with us now and we’re damn glad. He’s the family prankster, always leaving a couple of sweet potatoes and the odd grapefruit on James’ bed pillows as his calling card. James always came out of his bedroom jubilantly stating, “Uncle Tommy was here!” When I lived at my parents’ house before Jimmy and I married, Tommy hung a few brightly colored bras of mine and a few pairs of bikini panties on the paddles of my bedroom ceiling fan. Round and round they leisurely rotated for any and all to see. He was just pleased as punch at my outrage. As goofy as he sometimes is, he is equally sharp-witted and highbrow in his humor, right up my alley. But his heart…his huge, sweet, kind and giving heart is something to behold. As I type this my eyes sting with tears. My emotions are so close to the surface; I know my 3:00 tequila has nothing to do with it, I love my baby brother so. To celebrate his birthday he’s coming over for dinner tonight and one of his dishes will be these asian brussel sprouts. Because he’ll eat anything and everything, he was given the childhood nickname of “Pigdog” by our little sister and me. I happen to know for a fact he LOVES these brussel sprouts. I have 4 pounds for 3 people. So happy birthday, Pigdog. I love you!
I’ve been obsessed with these asian brussel sprouts for a couple of weeks now. I eat them as a snack they’re so doggone good. Hot, warm or cold, I think they’re fabulous. I find most of the ingredients at my grocery store, Publix, but the bonito flakes I picked up at Whole Foods. Fresh Market probably carries them as well. The sriracha chili sauce adds a tiny bit of heat so if heat ain’t your thing leave it out. The honey gives the sprouts a smooth sweetness while the lemon grass, ginger and fish sauce round out this deep flavor blast. I include any random sprout leaves to the roasting pan as they become crisp and savory during the roasting process much like potato chips. In retrospect maybe they are best straight out the oven but they’re mighty fine the following day, too. Hope you like ’em!
Asian Brussel Sprouts
- 2 pounds brussel sprouts, root end trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 6″ piece lemon grass, cut into thirds and bruised to release flavor
- 4 garlic cloves, grated
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2-3 generous tablespoons bonito flakes
- 1 rounded tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and lightly cover with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine trimmed brussel sprouts, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well with your hands until all the sprouts are coated with the olive oil.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the outside of the sprouts are dark and any leaves are crispy.
- While the sprouts are baking, combine all the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat.
- Cook the sauce for 4-5 minutes until the garlic and ginger are soft. Set aside until the brussel sprouts have finished roasting.
- Remove sprouts from the oven and transfer to a large, shallow bowl.
- Discard lemon grass pieces from sauce, drizzle the sauce over the sprouts and toss well with two large spoons.
- Serve immediately.
Here we are in March…in like a lion, out like a lamb. In south Florida we are most definitely enjoying lamb-like weather. Jimmy and I are found in the courtyard often, reading and writing, the dog typically sprawled at our feet. Jimmy will spend his mornings outside working on his laptop, leisurely smoking his pipe which, by the way, smells positively heavenly. We read the New York Times in the morning and take pleasure in a simple happy hour or dinner in the evening. Clearly the mosquitos haven’t found our house yet…but they will. In the meantime, if it’s morning or evening, assume we’re puttering outside. This dish is a spring and summer joy. Simple and healthful, it may be served as a vegetable side dish or as an entree with a piece of grilled tuna or chicken atop. It’s lovely at a picnic or poolside as it travels extremely well. Spaghetti squash is much lighter than pasta and undeniably lower in calories. Those who are allergic to wheat will love this alternative. No more sneezing and itchy eye! Regardless of your reason to try this dish, I think you’ll truly enjoy it and so will your family.
Fresh Tomato and Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- 2 spaghetti squash, medium size
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2-2 cups fresh basil leaves plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 1 7-ounce container of store-bought pesto or approximately 1 cup of homemade, I use store-bought, reduced fat
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese. This is completely optional and may be left out for a dairy-free, vegan or paleo dish. It’s still absolutely delicious.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and cover foil lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
- Cut both squashes in half lengthwise.
- Using a large, metal spoon, scoop out all the seeds from the squashes. Discard the seeds.
- Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender. I check them at 45 minutes and return to the oven checking for doneness every 5 minutes or so.
- While the squashes are baking finely mince the garlic and place in a medium size, non-reactive bowl. I use glass.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the garlic.
- Using your hands, rip the fresh basil into small, bite size pieces and add them to the garlic-tomato mixture.
- Add the pesto and olive oil to the tomato mixture. If using parmesan cheese, add it as well. Mix thoroughly so all ingredients are well combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the squashes have baked.
- Remove the squashes from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or until they’re easy to handle.
- With a small paring knife cut the flesh of the squashes lengthwise down to the shell being careful not to cut through to your hand, making 3 or 4 parallel cuts, each cut about 3/4″-1″ apart. This allows bite size pieces and makes it easier to assemble the dish.
- With a large, metal spoon scoop the flesh out of the squashes and place into a large bowl.
- Pour the tomato-pesto mixture over the squash and gently toss until all the squash is well coated.
- Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with any fresh basil leaves and serve.
- If serving within a few hours the bowl may be covered with plastic wrap and then transferred to the serving platter right before serving.
This vegetable soup is perfect for those nights when you crave warm, comforting soup but have little energy, never mind time. The vegetables are cut into good-sized chunks, cook until tender then are blitzed with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender. The recipe makes quite a bit but the soup is even more flavorful the following day and packs well for lunch at one’s desk. It’s incredibly thick and hearty so often I serve it alone. Paired with a grilled cheese sandwich of some sort, the soup with half a sandwich will leave you stuffed and satisfied. If you prefer your soup thinner, by all means, add a bit more water or broth. Make certain to blend until smooth and the end result will be a creamy, velvety meal. Enjoy!
Creamed Vegetable Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium onions, cut into eighths
- 7-9 cloves of peeled garlic
- 5 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ rounds
- 5 medium organic carrots, cut into 1/2″ rounds
- 5 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 7 large tomatoes, cut into eighths and core end trimmed off
- 1 pound fresh green beans, stalk end snapped off
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large dutch oven or soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Stir occasionally, and cook until they begin to turn translucent.
- Add the garlic, zucchini, carrots and celery and continue stirring. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the tomatoes, green beans and oregano. Stir until all the vegetables are well combined and the oregano is evenly distributed.
- Add water to the pot just up to the vegetables but not covering them. You can always add more water if needed.
- Bring to a boil then drop the heat down to a medium simmer, cover and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the carrots and green beans are tender and completely cooked through.
- Add the basil, stir, then process until smooth with an immersion blender or transfer to food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Add salt to taste
- Add freshly cracked black pepper over individual servings.
- May be served hot, warm or cold.