Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

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I’ve returned from my adventure in Thailand (more on that coming soon!), and am slowly readjusting to normal life again.  The contrast was stark; in just two very long travel days, I went from 80˚ weather, new colors, foods and experiences, to the all too familiar snow, holiday traffic and the Christmas mania!  No bah humbugs intended, but it was kind of nice trading a couple weeks of the inundation of holiday advertisements and rush to buy presents for trekking, climbing, caving, hanging out with elephants, and connecting with an amazing group of cancer survivors in Chiang Mai.  Can you really blame a girl?  

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Today’s recipe involves a vegetable that the Mister grew up hating.  It’s funny how when you’re a kid, you can’t imagine how the steamed vegetable you can’t stand could have any other incarnations other than the way it’s been prepared on your dinner plate.  I’ve always liked brussels sprouts any which way, but I’d never thought to eat them raw.

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My first dalliance with a Brussels sprouts salad was at a friend’s dinner party this summer.  Although quite simple, with lemon juice and zest, good olive oil, toasted walnuts and parmigiano on the side, it contained the perfect balance of flavors.  I love the simpler lemony version to serve as a side to a rich pasta such as the vegan mushroom stroganoff I seem to make weekly these days (will share the recipe soon!).

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I’ve jazzed up this version of the Brussels sprouts salad to make it complement traditional  holiday dishes.  This latest version is jeweled with dried cranberries, tossed with a lemony maple-dijon vinaigrette, and topped with crispy roasted Brussels sprouts leaves.

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The adventure continues, this time in the kitchen!  I hope you have a wonderfully happy holiday!

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Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Walnuts

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

This festive salad makes a great side to any rich winter dish.  The roasted Brussels sprouts leaves are a fun garnish, but can be omitted if time is limited.

For the salad:

1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup dried cranberries

For the dressing:

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from a large lemon)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a large lemon)

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 -¾ tsp salt, to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted Brussels sprouts leaves (optional):

Reserved outer leaves from 1 ½ lb Brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Cut off the bottom stem of each Brussels sprout, and pull off the outer layer of loose leaves, reserving the crisp ones, discarding any that are wilted brown.

Toast the chopped walnuts in a frying pan over medium heat, until they begin to sweat and smell toasty.  Supervise closely and stir often, as they will burn quickly.  Set aside to cool.

Toss the outer leaves with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove any leaves that are crispy and turning golden brown, stir, and bake for another 2-3 minutes, until all the leaves are crispy and golden brown.  Remove to a paper towel covered plate.

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, then slice very thinly.  Toss the sliced Brussels sprouts, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries together in a large bowl.

Make the dressing:

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream to incorporate.  Adjust salt to taste.  

Toss the dressing with the salad.  Garnish each individual serving with the crispy roasted Brussels sprouts leaves, if using.

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