It’s pretty hard for me to stay put sometimes. I’m in Portland on a mission, to not go anywhere for three years. This has proven a mostly easy place to do that: good house, good friends, good city. I’m two years in to my three-year commitment and I have no plans to go anywhere else when that time is up.
There are many small things I miss about being in faraway places, though, and one of them is a narrower food selection. I live just down the street from New Seasons, a grocery store with seasonal veggie burgers in the deli, bulk fresh herbs, and signage on the fish that lines up with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide. On one level, it’s foodie paradise. On another level, however, it’s over the top. It makes me miss the corner store in the village I lived in in Bulgaria, where I’d go to buy bread and cheese and tomatoes, because that’s all I needed for a nice meal. For most groceries I would ask Dani behind the counter – pasta, flour, eggs – and she would pull them from the shelves surrounding her. The produce would often be a little better quality at the farmers’ markets in the city, predictable and daily. In my tiny Euro fridge I would keep only as much as I needed (well, OK, maybe a little more), and foreign treats were excitedly used.
Back in the land of plenty, I can often be so overwhelmed by all the food choices I have that I’ll just give up and order pizza. I mean, I really love pizza, but when was the last time I got excited about a single item? Between poverty, reruns of French Food at Home with Laura Calder, and dinner last night at Cafe Castagna, I’ve decided it’s time to have a simple plate of food again. I pulled out my trusty lidded cast iron pan, clarified some butter, and seared some Brussels sprouts that I’d picked up at the farmers’ market. Three-ingredient eatin’.
Seared Brussels Sprouts
Take a couple of handfuls of Brussels sprouts and cut them in half through the stem. In a skillet that is not non-stick, heat some clarified butter* over medium high heat. When a drop of water sizzles loudly and violently in the fat, put the sprouts in, cut side down, and cook until they are nearly burned, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and immediately slap a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Cook until sprouts are bright green and a knife easily pierces them, 2 minutes. If there’s still water in the pan, uncover to let it cook off. Sprinkle with good salt.
*To clarify butter, melt a stick of it in a pan. When the foaming subsides and the solids have separated and fallen to the bottom, remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve. Obviously you will not use a stick’s worth of clarified butter for this recipe. This means you have plenty left over for various and sundry uses.