Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy 2017 Monday Night Brussels Sprouts

On Christmas Eve, I wrote the following: I'll get my Brussels Sprouts Party Dip recipe up for you, readers, if not in time for Christmas, then in time for New Year's Eve. I'm so sorry. Can we say that was the old me, the 2016 me? and that 2017 me will be different?

I'll tell you about the Brussels sprouts dip, but first I want to tell you about my day! It was so productive, a great way to start a week, a month, a year! A morning commitment lasted until almost noon, so it seemed counterproductive to go to the office when all of the work I had to do could be done at home. I've been working from home for about two weeks, and I'm still not used to it. I keep feeling like I need to tell someone, except I am the boss. I work very effectively from home, sometimes more effectively (because I'm not doing mental calculations like, "I need to finish this thing so I can leave at that time so I can stop at the store and put the laundry in the machine and what am I going to wear tomorrow? Gotta make time for ironing." NO! I can go to the store before it is crowded and then work late, or not, because I'm not losing any time to a commute. (Not that my commute is long. Also I like my commute; I ride the subway and it's my designated time to read a library e-book on my phone.) This parenthetical has gotten out of hand!) but I still feel guilty about it. I expect that will end at some point.
Anyway, I have signed up for the January Cure, which I also did in 2014, and found it life-changing. To my relief, today's assignment wasn't to go around the house making lists of what was wrong with every room, but instead to completely clean and reorganize a drawer. After mulling over what drawer could possibly be reorganized without prompting the need to empty and organize additional drawers, I knew what it had to be. My desk drawer, specifically, the middle drawer right under where I type, where I got into a bad habit of throwing and stuffing things. I do want the drawer to be a temporary holding place for things I often need, such as eyeliner, bobby pins, and knitting tools, but I think from now on, I need to set a designated day of the week to put all those things back where they belong. Behold my newly organized desk drawer:

And thus my desk became a calm place to work with positive feelings associated with it.

In addition to cleaning out my desk and working, I took some time to go through neglected cookbooks, both to find a recipe that would help me use my sourdough starter (more on that later—the sourdough is becoming a big part of my life now, a new member of the family, a very fun hobby) and to pick out what green soups I'd make this January. Something about January makes me want to make soup, especially green soups from Love Soup by Anna Thomas. Green soup would require a trip to the store, since some mysterious creature has eaten a lot of the kale and chard in my garden (in some cases just removing the leaves, which lay scattered around the plant—who or what would do this!?), and plans to walk to the market were dashed by late afternoon heavy rain that never stopped, and has turned into a thunderstorm. I opted not to drive to the market but rather to shop from my fridge, to instead try Potato and Tomato Soup with Sage from Love Soup (here are some other blogs that have written about that soup, or a modified version of it), to use a big bag of out of season tomatoes before they went bad. (I find that out of season tomatoes are just fine when oven roasted.) I have enough fresh sage to try Green Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Sage (a modified version here; also this blog/podcast is great if you like plants, nature, or food) after I go to the market tomorrow.

To serve with the soup, I made Sourdough Crackers from Zero Waste Chef, which I've been making quite a lot due to all of the sourdough discard accumulating in my life. This time I used butter in place of the oil and put flax seeds on top. They were delicious with sliced kashkaval.

After all this, I still had time to clean the kitchen and start a loaf of sourdough bread (trying a new recipe from The Tassajara Bread Book, another old favorite that somehow became neglected) and feed my sourdough (before I read that I'm actually supposed to feed it from the bread dough sponge tomorrow; whoops.) And I finished a library book (audiobook) while doing all of this!

And it wasn't even 9pm. I sat down, realizing that my house was clean, my breakfast and work lunch were made, and I still had time to read a book. I know this won't last; work will get busy. But compared to other first Mondays in January—the last three I remember trying so hard to get ahead, to get healthy food made (like green soup) and the house and stuff I needed for school and work ready in advance, not finishing before 10pm, feeling run down. I felt so delighted experimenting with sourdough tonight; perhaps it's the science experiment feel of it, or perhaps it's a strong appreciation for having so much more time and freedom over my own schedule than I had during law school.

In less fun news, I have poison ivy! On Christmas weekend, it was sunny and in the 70's, and I finally had the opportunity to tackle a section of the yard I've been tolerating for three years, a section where unraked leaves accumulate because the mess of English ivy and other vines trap the leaves and tear at the rake. Finally I had the time and energy and perfect weather to rake the leaves and pull up the invasive plants that occupied that part of the yard—English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle (and in that dark space, it doesn't even flower!), and dreaded privet. Happily I pulled English ivy and honeysuckle vines from the ground, without irrational fear of copperheads. Happily I pulled English ivy off the trees! Except it wasn't all English ivy. I, a botanist who knows better, who wanted to clear that section of the yard partially because it is full of poison ivy—I who know that dormant winter poison ivy looks like brown nothing but is still just as potent—was pulling up vines and carrying them to a wheelbarrow wearing garden gloves with my sleeves rolled up. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And wintertime poison ivy is worse, even if it is just a little on my forearms, because in the winter you wear scratchy sweaters. This is how I've found myself in the middle of the night Googling various hippie remedies for poison ivy, desperately reading websites I'd normally disregard as unscientific. At least it will clear up in a couple of weeks. Let me be a cautionary tale. When pulling up vines in the winter, remember what that spot looked like in the summer, and wear gloves and long sleeves, at minimum.

On that appetizing note, I promised I'd tell you how I made Brussels Sprouts Party Dip

Brussels Sprouts Party Dip

I had to bring an appetizer to a holiday party, and forgot all of the party foods I had ever made. Friends kept suggesting my Brussels sprouts, but I argued that those were more of a dinner party side dish than an appetizer. A few people suggested serving them with toothpicks, but if I can't be bothered to flip the Brussels sprouts, do you really think I want to stick each sprout half with its own toothpick?

The hostess suggested, "artichoke dip" or something. I thought about dips. Artichoke dip. An elaborately fatty asiago cheese and sundried tomato dip I used to make for college parties, the recipe for which seems to have disappeared off the Internet. Spinach dip. Spinach dip...other vegetable dip...Brussels sprouts dip!? A blended Brussels sprouts dip!

The Internet has thought of it already. I found inspiration from the Minimalist Baker and Closet Cooking. From Minimalist Baker, I got the idea to include shallots and cook chopped Brussels sprouts in a skillet. From Closet Cooking, I had the idea to roast the Brussels sprouts. These recipes also made me think of a less heavy artichoke dip recipe I'd made in college, Heidi Swanson's Baked Artichoke Dip with a silken tofu and yogurt base, instead of mayonnaise and sour cream. I combined the three inspirations, coarsely chopping sprouts and cooking them on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet with chopped garlic and shallots, while a few halved Brussels sprouts and halved shallots roasted in the oven, mixing everything except the halved Brussels sprouts with the tofu and yogurt base from the Baked Artichoke Dip recipe, Parmesan cheese, and a few dashes of Tabasco. Unfortunately, I didn't measure enough to write this up as a clear recipe. I planned to decorate the top of the dip with roasted Brussels sprouts and more Parmesan cheese, as an indicator of what was in the bowl.

Then I had the idea to arrange the Brussels sprouts halves into the shape of a Christmas tree.

Fa la la la la! Isn't it beautiful? Well, it tasted good.
All pictures in this post taken by me and CC 2.0.

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