Roasted Brussels sprouts were a thing of beauty in my book already, but in his book, Plenty More, Yotam Ottolenghi created a masterpiece with them, and they're unlike any roasted Brussels sprouts I've ever had. The sprouts and shallots are simply blanched and roasted with salt and pepper, and in the meantime, pomelo (or grapefruit, if pomelo is unavailable) segments marinate in simple syrup scented with cinnamon and star anise. When everything is cool, the sprouts, shallots, drained citrus, and cilantro leaves are dressed with lemon juice and a bit of the fruity syrup.
Ottlolenghi lures the sweetness out of each component, though each also brings an edge of something else to the party. The roasted sprouts' sweetness is matched by the sugared citrus, but a common note of bitterness echoes between them (although if you can find pomelo, it will be naturally sweeter than grapefruit). The shallots retain a ghost of their normal pungency, though their time in the oven nearly candies them. The softly pervasive waft of warm spices from the syrup feels exotic but somehow totally at home, while the lemon juice and cilantro (which I always love, but which does something particularly special in this mix) remind us that this isn't dessert. It's an odd jumble that totally works, as if Jackson Pollack used produce as his medium instead of paint.
Why I picked this recipe: I love all these ingredients, but would never have thought to combine them.
What worked: Marinating the citrus in spiced syrup is a wonderful technique that results in mellowed, perfumed bites—I want to try it with other fruits, as well. This is a thoughtful, sparkling salad that inspires me to think beyond my tried-and-true.
What didn't: It's best served right away, as directed; it gets soggy after a night in the fridge (though it's still delicious).
Suggested tweaks: Ottolenghi suggests saving the leftover citrusy, spiced marinade for use in fruit salad; I've charged my husband with crafting me a cocktail around it. Whatever floats your boat, but don't throw it out.
Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- 1/2 cup/100 g superfine sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 star anise pods
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 pomelo (2 lb/900 g in total; 10 1/2 oz/300 g after peeling and segmenting)
- 1 1/3 lb/600 g brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 9 oz/250 g shallots, peeled
- 5 tbsp/75 ml olive oil
- 2/3 cup/10 g cilantro leaves
- Salt and black pepper
Place the sugar, 7 tbsp/100 ml water, the cinnamon, and star anise in a small saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Cook for 1 minute, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and set aside to cool.
Peel the thick skin off the pomelo and discard. Divide into segments, release the flesh from the membrane, then break the flesh into bite-size pieces and put in a shallow bowl, taking care to remove all the bitter white membrane. Once the syrup has cooled a little, pour it over the pomelo. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 425oF/220oC.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the sprouts and shallots, and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and pat dry. Cut the sprouts in two, lengthwise, and halve or quarter the shallots (so that they are similar in size to the sprouts). Place everything in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the sprouts are golden brown but still retain a bite. Set aside to cool.
Before assembling the salad, remove and discard the cinnamon and star anise from the bowl. Drain the pomelo, reserving the juices. Just before serving, put the shallots, sprouts, pomelo, and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the pomelo marinade juices, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently mix, then check the seasoning—you might need to add another tablespoon of the marinade—and serve.