I love to roast vegetables this time of year. I know the title of my recipe is a mouthful but I didn’t want any ingredients to feel left out. When I spied that small green mesh bag of brussels sprouts at the market- which should be the name of a youth soccer team in Belgium- I smiled and tossed it into my cart. It’s time for one of my favorite Fall time side dishes of roasted butternut squash and brussels sprouts with all the possible combinations of flavors that will go into this mix of healthy colorful vegetables. If you find vegetables growing in fields interesting then try hiking along the California coast between San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties to take a good look at a seemingly endless supply of brussels sprouts ready to be harvested. More likely you might notice the fields of brussels sprouts while passing through the area in your car, perhaps on the way to the beach in Santa Cruz.
The first and only time I stepped foot onto a field of brussels sprouts was north of Santa Cruz shortly after harvest. It was a foggy morning many years ago, I remember hiking along the coast and wearing a jacket because of the cold weather. I looked down and noticed the unharvested brussels sprouts scattered over the ground. I reached down, grabbed a few handfuls which I stuffed into my pockets. Nobody was around, just me with a couple of pocketfuls of sprouts taken as souvenirs of the experience. Back in those days I only knew of one way to cook my small ‘gleaning’ and that was to boil the sprouts in water until tender -serving with butter, salt and pepper. I think that today a large part of the popularity of brussels sprouts, besides the health benefits, comes from the infinite variations on the way they can be prepared. My favorite cooking method is to first steam them whole until slightly tender then coat them with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt before roasting until browned in a hot oven. The fog was thick early this morning here in the SF Bay Area which made me think about the endless rows of brussels sprouts tucked under that cozy blanket of thick cooling fog. They are quietly thriving in the fields above the coastline of the Pacific Ocean waiting for the moment of harvest and the flurry of shipping that sends them to Thanksgiving tables all the way up north in Canada. If I was reporting on their story, I would write that Local Boy, or in this case Brussels Sprouts- does good.
- 2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 1 & 1/2 pounds peeled and cubes butternut squash
- 1 pound applewood smoked bacon
- 1 head garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 3-4 small sprigs fresh thyme, for vinaigrette plus extra for sprinkling on top
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Steam the brussels sprouts and butternut squash cubes for about 8 minutes, until barely tender, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Allow the brussels sprouts to cool off enough to handle and cut in half.
- Toast the walnut halves in a skillet on top of the stove until slightly browned, set aside.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- Lightly coat the butternut squash and brussels sprouts with olive oil and sea salt, spread on one of the parchment lined baking sheets.
- Place the bacon strips evenly on the other baking sheet.
- Cut the top of the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and place on the baking sheet with the veggies.
- Place both the baking sheets in the preheated oven, roast until the bacon is fully cooked and the veggies are browned, about 18 minutes, remove from the oven, set aside.
- For the Vinaigrette
- Place 3-5 cloves of garlic in a small bowl (the garlic cloves will be slightly soft in the center and more deeply roasted on the outer edges- I used the rest of my roasted garlic cloves the next day mixed with chopped onions for a roasted brisket recipe)
- Add the olive oil, sherry vinegar, thyme leaves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to the roasted garlic cloves, mash and stir together.
- Slice the bacon in 1/4" strips.
- In a large bowl mix together the butternut squash, brussels sprouts, bacon strips and walnuts with the vinaigrette.
- Sprinkle on additional fresh thyme leaves and/or a sprig of thyme.