Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brussels Sprouts; Somebody Likes 'Em

The other day I stopped in at one of our local farmstand markets and there on a long low table were giant wands of green; full stalks of brussels sprouts in their natural state. And I, of course, had to buy one, a nice full one, nearly three feet long, with sprouts both small and large.

Brussels sprouts are one of those classic things you either love or hate. There is very little middle ground when it comes to them. And the faces people make to express their dislike for these cute little round members of the brassica family are among the classics in the annals of food dislike.

I happen to like brussels sprouts, but it wasn't always so. In my household when I was a child, they were, like most vegetables of the 50's, cooked into a grayish mush that guaranteed that no child alive could or would like them. I am sad to say that in this particular era in food history my mother took similar approaches with zucchini, asparagus and anything else green from the garden. Fortunately her tact changed as he children grew.

Recently I have cooked brussels sprouts two different ways that were well loved in our household and not just because the both involved the contribution of bacon or pancetta, although it never hurts, does it? These are both incredibly simple recipes. The first involves shredding the sprouts as if one were making mini-cole slaw out of mini-cabbages and sauteing them; the second just calls for them to be halved, but then roasted. Try either of them with pork or chicken on a chilly Fall evening.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

2o Brussels Sprouts; halved and then sliced thinly
3 oz. Pancetta; diced fine
1 oz. olive oil
S&P to taste (but I like a lot of black pepper on my brussles sprouts)
Water or chicken stock

Heat a heavy saute pan over the flame and add the olive oil and pancetta. Cook until the pancetta begins to crisp slightly and throws a bit of oil. Add the shredded sprouts and toss with the liquid in the pan until they begin to wilt slightly. Add about two ounces of water of stock to the sprouts and toss again. Cook for a minute or two until the liquid is nearly absorbed and serve.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

20 Brussels Sprouts, halved
2 Thick slices of smoked bacon cut into 1/2" pieces
S&P to taste
Water or chicken stock

Pre-heat the oven to 400 while you are halving the sprouts. Put the cut bacon into an oven proof saute pan and add the sprouts. Cook in the oven until the bacon begins to render, then toss to mix. Return to the oven and cook until the bacon is almost cooked through. Add an ounce or two of water or stock, toss and return to the oven for another three or four minutes.
The sprouts will have lost a bit of color, but are, at this point, ready.

1 comment:

  1. love love love love the sprouts! There are a few places here that sell them on the stalk, and everytime I find one....oh yeah. And adding the fifth food group, bacon just makes them even better. Heck, bacon makes bacon better!


Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me

This words below are from our website describing La Cusinga.  The story, however is much deeper and much richer than these introductory words can describe.  La Cusinga represents a noble and successful effort to preserve this section of unspoiled coast and to keep it alive as a model of what true ecology can accomplish.  The dreams and visions of John Tresemer, the owner of La Cusinga and the Finca Tres Hermanas that surrounds it, have been realized here in what is a true example for all who would preserve and protect what remains of this, or any natural wonder. 

La Cusinga 
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible. 

i returned to La Cusinga this past January, 2009, with a dream in mind.  I wanted to create a cuisine for our guests that would bridge the gap between what La Cusinga offered physically and spiritually, and what they were putting in their bodies when they ate here.  I knew from having previously lived in Costa Rica for over two years that there were organic farmers and that sustainable agriculture was being practiced, but at that time it had been limited in its scope as well as its distribution.  

My first steps upon returning were toward the local Feria to seek out and communicate my ideas with the growers and vendors who could provide me with a local, organic and sustainable product.  The fertile valleys of San Isidro that lie over the coastal mountains and to the Northeast of our Pacific location are rich and productive but are only now exploring the potential that they hold.  

I had in mind a vision that would support local farmers, fishermen and food artisans and one that would recreate (or perhaps, create) a new cuisine of Coastal Costa Rica.  I visit the markets each week to talk with growers and to develop the  relationships that I believe will be mutually beneficial as Costa Rica experiences its rapid growth on an international level
Organic farming is a new and not heavily supported concept in our part of Costa Rica.  It is a brave step for farmers to make, as local communities of both growers and consumers have never placed, or not known to place, an importance on farming organically and sustainably.  I feel a responsibility as a Chef here to be at the forefront of those encouraging and supporting these pioneers  

I came to La Cusinga almost three years ago not knowing what to expect.  My first time through here was characterized by a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part as well as an inability to recognize or connect with the local "flavor" that would make for a coherent package for out guests.  I now feel as if I have made a "connect" with the property and the vision.  I am not completely satisfied and hopefully, never will be, until we are able to produce, right here at La Cusinga, the greater share of the produce we serve.  However, the groundwork has been laid with local farmers and the availability and quality of organic produce is impressive.

Now at La Cusinga I serve a variety of organic lettuces and braising greens.  My salads include wedges or slices of rich red tomatoes as well as sweet !00 and yellow pear cherry tomatoes.  I roast organic beets and marinate them in balsamic vinegar to be served alongside the lettuces and topped with a locally made organic goat cheese.

My soups are made from roasted and steamed local organic vegetables and tiny organic yellow creamer potatoes have found their way onto my plates, nestled against filets of locally caught fish.
I am now using a local organic cocoa powder that still contains the nuggets of cocoa butter unlike the fined cocoa powder in the markets.

And better still, I am able to use palmito (hearts of palm), ginger, cilantro and its sawtooth leafed cousin culantro coyote, mangoes, hot and sweet chiles, mandarina limes and yucca root from our own Finca Tres Hermanas to serve in my dining room at La Cusinga.   The connection from jungle and farm to table is evolving.  May it continue to grow.