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Sunday, October 24, 2010

roasted brussels sprouts with mustard, walnuts and crispy crumbs


Mystery Reader

Last week was my first chance to be a Mystery Reader in Meredith’s kindergarten class. “What is a Mystery Reader?” you might ask. Doesn’t it make you curious? Interested? Even a little excited? Well, that’s just what it does for Ms. Rakos’ kindergartners! A Mystery Reader could be ANYONE coming into the classroom to read a couple of books to the class! It could be someone from the school, or a parent, or a person from the community… and the fun thing is, the kids get to guess who the person is before they arrive. Ms. Rakos gives them three clues, and then they each get to name who they think it might be.

I arrived right on time, and as I walked down the hall toward the classroom, I noticed two of Meredith’s classmates hanging around outside the door. I didn’t know if they were supposed to be out there. Were they young miscreants being disciplined in the hallway, and I shouldn’t be spotted by them? They didn’t seem the type—both the kids had been nice when I’d been in class before. I hid behind the door of the adjacent classroom for little while, waiting to see if they would go back into the classroom.

They didn’t move. How could I approach unnoticed if they were standing out there, clearly watching and waiting? I would spoil the Mystery! But if I waited any longer, I’d be late. So I popped out of my hiding place, and walked up to them. “Are you the Mystery Reader?” they asked. I admitted as much.

“But what are you two doing out here?”
“We’re waiting for you!”
“Oh! What do we do now?”
“We welcome you in.”
“OK.” We all stood there for a few seconds, and then I realized that I had been thereby welcomed. So we walked into the classroom together. Phew!

The clues for me: female, blond, and loves to read. Some of the kids even guessed me correctly! (Of course, I had been in their class helping for an hour that morning, so that might have given them an additional clue.) I was all excited to read two of my (and Meredith’s) favorite and spookiest books, in honor of Halloween. First I read The Widow’s Broom, about a lonely widow who is left a magical broom when the broom falls from the sky, no longer quite powerful enough to hold up its witch. And then I read Heckety Peg, about seven children (each named for a day of the week) who are tricked by a witch and then turned into various kinds of food. Their mother has to outwit the witch to rescue them…

I had a great time reading, and I think the kids enjoyed the books! I can’t wait for my next stint as a Mystery Reader. I just found three more fun and Halloweeny books when I was going through Meredith’s books: Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown, and Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (It’s about a bat! That fits the theme, doesn’t it?). Should I ask Ms. Rakos if I can come back next week? I don’t want to wear out my welcome. Maybe I should I just start setting aside Thanksgiving books. Hmm. Do we have any books about turkeys? Pilgrims?


roasted brussels sprouts with mustard, walnuts and crispy crumbs

This is a fantastic recipe that just adds to the deliciousness of plain roasted Brussels sprouts (already heavenly) with a little Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and caraway seeds…  and then a crispy, nutty topping. The sauce doesn’t overwhelm the sprouts, just adds to their already complex flavor.

I first tried this recipe when Nancy put it in a Glacier Grist, the weekly recipe newsletter we include with our Glacier Valley Farm CSA boxes. I don’t remember what her source was, but I recently ran across it on Fine Cooking‘s website (searching for new recipes to try on my sweet and delicious Alaskan sprouts), and was so excited to be reminded of it that I made it immediately. I really think you’ll love this recipe! 

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted lightly and crushed
sea salt or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut through the core into quarters (or cut into halves for the smallest sprouts)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, or if you have it, cold-pressed walnut oil (I love the Loriva oils)
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped walnuts

1. Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Spray two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray (this makes cleanup easier).

2. In a large bowl, whisk ¼ cup of the olive oil with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, caraway seeds, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and about 10 grinds of pepper. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to thoroughly distribute the mustard mixture. Spread the sprouts in an even layer on the two baking sheets.

3. Roast until the cores of the sprouts are just barely tender and the leaves are browning and crisping a bit, 20 to 25 minutes (if your oven heat is uneven, rotate the pans midway through cooking).

4. While the sprouts are roasting, make the topping. Heat the 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil or walnut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs all at once; toss to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the walnuts and the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring pretty constantly, until the crumbs are browned and slightly crisp and the nuts are golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Dump the breadcrumb mixture onto a plate so they don’t keep cooking and burn in the hot skillet.

5. Transfer the sprouts to a serving platter and season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Or just scoop them off the baking sheet onto your plates. Let people sprinkle the crumbs over the sprouts as they eat them, or sprinkle them yourself just before serving. (I like to add the topping stepwise as I eat this, so the topping stays really crispy.)


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