By Analiese Paik
This is the sixth in a series of articles about cooking with cast-offs, the edible vegetable parts we commonly throw away. Our first Brussels sprout leaves recipe can be found here. Our full cast-off recipe collection can be found here.
Farmer Patti Popp’s Brussels sprouts are so beautiful that Sport Hill Farm’s stall became a bit of a scene during opening day at the Winter Westport Farmers’ Market this past Saturday. Shoppers chatted excitedly about what to make with the leaves and stems, and I was inspired to post a second time about these mild tasting, quick cooking, winter greens. Brussels sprout leaves lack the cabbage-like flavors of the sprouts, and behave like other members of their species – kale and collard greens – when cooked.
Consider Brussels sprout leaves a bonus when you buy the whole stalk; cook the leaves one day and the sprouts (buds) the next. If you can’t find stalks with both sprouts and leaves on them at your market, ask the farmers what she’s doing with them. These gems should never wind up in the compost heap or as chicken food.
Brussels Sprout Leaves with Cheesy Polenta and Crispy Fried Eggs
You’ve no doubt seen a recipe similar to this using other winter greens, and that’s exactly where I drew my inspiration. This meal is a favorite in my home because it’s so simple to prepare and is versatile enough to be served for brunch, lunch, or dinner. I like to keep the polenta soft and a bit runny, the eggs crunchy on the edges and liquid in the yolks, and the greens cooked just to the point where they’ve yielded to the heat but retain some chewiness. Soft, crispy, chewy, rich and flavorful- this dish is a real crowd-pleaser.
Ingredient notes: Use the freshest produce possible, preferably organic; organic or Non-GMO cornmeal (grits); pastured or organic eggs, and sea salt. Don’t get cheap with your olive oil either. Contrary to urban legend, it’s perfectly healthy to fry in olive oil and I recommend only using the best to avoid detracting from your other quality ingredients and hard work. Refer to our article, 10Things Every Food Lover Should Know About Olive Oil, to learn more.
Serves 4, double to serve more (leftovers can be reheated, except for eggs)
- 10 fresh Brussels sprout leaves, washed well, stacked, then cut into 1/4 inch ribbons
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 cup cornmeal/corn grits for polenta (not instant)
- 3 cups water
- 2/3 cup ricotta, preferably fresh and local or organic (optional)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4 cup whole milk (optional)
- eggs (at least one per person)
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
You’ll be making polenta and adding cheese at the end, sauteeing the greens, and frying eggs. If you are a skilled cook and have at least 3 burners, you can do everything at once. If not, I recommend making the polenta first and holding it on a warm burner, covered, and adding some milk at the end to loosen it up before serving.
Have your ingredients prepped and ready to use to make the process go smoothly.
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 1 quart lidded pot, then add 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt. Add cornmeal and stir well with a wooden spoon, then lower heat to a simmer and cook uncovered. Stir occasionally until cooked through, about 10-20 minutes, being careful to avoid being splatter as it bubbles up in the pan. Always taste test to see if the cornmeal is tender. When cooked to your liking, add ricotta (optional) and Parmesan and stir well . Cover and hold on the stove at the lowest setting until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, stir in some milk before serving.
- Heat a 12″ sautée pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add red onion and sautée until it starts to become translucent, about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add sliced Brussels sprout leaves and stir well with tongs. Do not raise the heat too high or you will scorch the leaves. Add 2 tablespoon of water, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with a lid to wilt the greens. Lift the lid and toss the greens with tongs every few minutes until they’re limp and tender, but have not lost their color, about 10-12 minutes. If there is a still liquid in the pan, keep the lid off so it evaporates.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a heavy 12″ skillet. When oil shimmers, crack and add eggs one by one, adjacent to one another. Your pan may only hold 3-4 eggs, requiring you to work in batches, or add a second skillet if you’re serving more than 4. Salt and pepper the eggs and cook until the whites are solid and crispy on the edges and the yolks are still liquid. Remove from the heat and cover briefly with the skillet lid if you’d like the centers to set up some more.
- Assemble the dishes by spooning some polenta onto each plate or bowl, adding a mound of sauteed Brussels sprout leaves, and topping with an egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheeese and serve immediately. Encourage everyone to break the yolk and use it as a sauce.
- Leftover polenta and greens can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated.