Kids and parents alike exit the holiday season with a bit of a long-term hangover. Too many feasts, treats, and gifts leave us woozy. Adults have forsaken their healthy-eating regimes. And what with classroom parties and cookie-making at home, kids are on a month-long bender. Eat your veggies?
January brings a different mood. We rub our eyes, then our bellies. We search the crisper drawer for reviving vegetables. After all, it’s time to pick up the pace and get back to work. The kids might go one of two ways: some actually feel ready to get back to school and less cloying fare; while others re-enter the real world kicking and screaming.
Is it possible to make this transition just a teensy bit easier? Does the entire family have to go cold turkey?
Maybe not. The other day, I hosted a latke party (for those out of the Maccabee loop, latkes are habit-forming potato pancakes that are cooked in oil and served at Hanukkah with applesauce and/or sour cream). By the time our friends left, I was bloated and determined never to fry again. When suppertime came around, we all were craving vegetables. In a fridge full of kale, collards, salad greens, and bok choy, nothing spoke to me — and all were accounted for in my plans for later in the week.
But shoved to the back of the drawer I saw a lonely little bag of Brussels sprouts, those cute but widely mocked mini-cabbages. I paused. The stakes were high. The previous week, I’d gambled on an Asian-style chicken and Savoy cabbage salad with a tahini dressing that I was sure would be foolproof. Nope.
The kids saw right through my attempt to make raw cabbage attractive. They loathed it. (I’m still working through this defeat — maybe if I’d used lighter, milder Nappa? A better rotisserie chicken?)
I knew how they felt. I always associated cabbage with a terrible smell. In recent years, though, I’ve made an effort to work it in to my repertoire. There’s probably no vegetable out there that delivers a better bang for the buck. Brussels sprouts may not be as thrifty, but in season, they’re affordable. A quick search of my favorite cookbooks and blogs turned up an idea so crazy it just had to work: a homemade version of a bar snack from a trendy restaurant in Brooklyn. The hitch? It was supposed to be fried.
Fortunately, I’ve never met a cruciferous vegetable I couldn’t roast, so that’s what I did. And when it came out of the oven, I did as I was told, tossing the nuggets in a sauce of lime juice, honey, and chili sauce — just enough to add zing, not so much that it hurt my children’s mouths.
And guess what happened? Like bearded Brooklyn barflies, we ate them all up. The kids had to be restrained from licking their plates. For the New Year, I resolve to make these all winter long, whenever the need to cleanse coincides with a reluctance to abandon sin. Because there’s no reason virtue can’t feel good.
Brooklyn Bar Brussels Sprouts
(adapted from Food52.com) Serves 2-4 as a side or snack
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 teaspoon (or to taste) Asian chile sauce (I used Sriracha)
3 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1 large lime
Olive oil, about 3 tablespoons
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Trim the stem ends of the sprouts and quarter them, pulling off any leaves that come off easily and placing them in a medium bowl with the quartered sprouts.
Drizzle the sprouts with two tablespoons of olive oil and a few generous pinches of salt. Toss until well-coated, adding another tablespoon or two of oil if needed. Spread evenly on a rimmed shallow baking pan and set in the oven to roast for 4 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the chile sauce, honey and lime juice. Taste and add more chile sauce or honey if you like.
Check the sprouts, shaking the pan and moving them around to cook evenly. Give them another 3-4 minutes, or more if needed. You want lots of tasty browned bits, but not full-on burning.
When the sprouts are browned and tender, take them out of the oven and slide them into a serving bowl. Pour in the sauce, and toss to coat. Serve immediately, as soon as the sprouts have cooled enough to eat.