Brussels sprouts are among the most traditional ingredients on the Thanksgiving table, and, when roasted, this unfairly maligned brassica shines brilliantly among the various sides.
Preparing them is easy: They don't really need too much work to yield layers of complex flavor. First, trim the base, and halve or shred the sprouts. You can mitigate their sharpness by submerging them in a bowl of ice-cold water. (The low temperature will inhibit an enzyme reaction, improving their taste and helping them lose some of their funky smell and bitterness.) Just remember to drain and pat them dry once you're done - with a kitchen towel, though a salad spinner will work wonders here.
Then, choose the right way to cook them. Boiling doesn't always do them justice, often leaving them mushy and insipid - even boring. Roasting and searing are most certainly the way to go, and may spur one of the most marvelous transformations of any vegetable. Against high heat, they develop a medley of flavors and textures: crunchy leaves that shatter in a single bite, only to reveal a tender interior.
Brussels sprouts tend to benefit from a flavorful fat. A dab of butter, a dollop of ghee, a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, or chopped bacon or pancetta will all breathe new life into them. In this dish, they're coated in good extra-virgin olive oil. Then, for a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence, they're scattered over a bed of labneh. Buy some, or make your own: Simply strain full-fat yogurt through a cheesecloth set over a bowl for a few hours. The whey will drain out, leaving behind a velvety lusciousness that provides a creamy-tangy contrast to the crunch of the roasted sprouts. As all this unfolds in the kitchen, a quick cider vinegar pickle of shallots sits in a jar, waiting to add a much-needed spot of brightness.
The final touch comes in the form of the deeply fruity and woody flavors of date syrup or Turkish pekmez, a molasses made by concentrating grape juice. Be generous here. A little extra would not warrant a reprimand. (Honey and maple syrup are also good alternatives, though they won't give the same degree of fruitiness.)
Prepare the components of this dish ahead of time, and assemble them when ready to serve. The warm roasted Brussels sprouts and cool garlic labneh are heightened when finished with the pickled shallots and the sweet-sticky splash of date syrup - a mix of sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty, alongside a multitude of playful textures.
Brussels Sprouts With Pickled Shallots and Labneh
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 40 minutes
For the pickled shallots:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced into rings
For the Brussels sprouts:
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
Fine sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the labneh:
1 cup labneh
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons date syrup or pekmez (or even maple syrup or honey), for serving
Make the pickled shallots: In a small jar or bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, black pepper and salt. Stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add the shallots, and cover the jar with a lid or plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Prepare the Brussels sprouts: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the Brussels sprouts, discarding any stalks or damaged leaves. Halve the sprouts lengthwise, and toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt to taste and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast for 22 to 30 minutes, until golden brown, slightly charred in some spots and a little crispy.
As Brussels sprouts cook, prepare the labneh: In a medium bowl, mix the labneh with the garlic and black pepper, then taste and season with salt.
Spread the labneh on a serving dish or plate, and spoon the sprouts over. Drain and discard the liquid from the pickled shallots, and place them on top of the sprouts. Drizzle with the date syrup and 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Serve immediately.