When it comes to food, here are three of my favorite words, especially when they’re together: sweet and sour. What is it about this combination that is so appealing once it hits the palate? It just tastes, well, right.
The latest Brussels sprouts recipe to join my weekly repertoire depends on this agrodolce, as the Italians so mellifluously put it. You briefly steam Brussels sprouts to get them going, then toss them with a lot of shallots, along with olive oil, salt, pepper — and the all-important marriage of balsamic vinegar and honey. After about a half-hour, the lot is nicely caramelized, and you toss it with cooked lentils.
The finishing touch: more sweet and sour, in the form of more balsamic vinegar you’ve boiled down with a pinch of sugar into a glaze. The result is a warm, hearty salad perfect for the cool weather, served as an entree or side dish. If you save this one for Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t blame you.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Lentil Salad
This salad lends a sweet-and-sour approach to Brussels sprouts, and the addition of lentils takes them into main-course territory.
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
10 large shallots
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Sliced almonds, for garnish
Pour the lentils into a large pot and cover with water by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are tender yet still retain their shape, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain them in a fine-mesh strainer, briefly rinse with cold water, and let dry.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim any damaged leaves off the Brussels sprouts. Trim at the root ends, and make a shallow crisscross cut on the bottom of each one, placing them in a steamer basket set over a large pot filled with a few inches of water. Once they’re all prepped, turn the heat to medium, and, once the water is barely bubbling, cover and cook/steam for about 10 minutes, or until they start to get tender on the outside.
Cut the shallots in half lengthwise, cut off the tough root, and then cut each in half lengthwise again. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, along with the Brussels sprouts, oil, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, the honey or maple syrup, the salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss together and coat evenly. Roast (middle rack), shaking the pan occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then stir in the sugar. Cook until the mixture has reduced by half (to 1/4 cup) to form a glaze. Pour into a glass measuring cup to cool (during which time it will get slightly stickier).
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl, add the cooked lentils and toss well to incorporate. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Divide among individual plates, garnish with the sliced almonds and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.
— Adapted from “Naturally Vegetarian” by Valentina Solfrini (Avery, 2017)