When I cautiously posted my beet salad recipe several weeks ago, it was with the assumption that many people still are squeamish about eating certain vegetables raw. I was pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback I received from readers who gave that salad a try, and were instant converts. It has since become one of the most popular posts to date.
After dipping a toe into the water, and being warmly reassured, I eagerly jump with both feet in and unveil my raw brussel sprout salad. While brussel sprouts are undoubtedly off putting to some, it cannot be ignored that when finely shredded and tossed in a salad they are more akin to a crunchy slaw than the overcooked, sulphurous specimen of our youth. In fact when eaten raw, they not only omit none of that dreadful odor that has led many to shun them altogether, but also boast an even more potent concentration of phytonutrients. Sulforaphane, formed when cruciferous vegetables (such as brussel sprouts) are chewed, is a powerful boaster of the body’s detoxification enzymes. These enzymes help to clear cancer-causing chemicals from the body and significantly reduce the development of pre-cancerous cells.
I have to admit that this recipe was not initially inspired by the impressive nutritional data on brussel sprouts. I am, admittedly, flavor driven first and foremost and found that turning these mini cabbages into a creamy slaw with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and toasted pumpernickel bread was a delicious way to utilize this winter vegetable. A wintery salad during a season often sparse with them, it relies on a velvety emulsion of Parmigiano Reggiano, black pepper and fresh lemon juice to coat and lushly dress the otherwise brittle greens. Indeed, a generous proportion of the lemon parmasean vinaigrette is key to making this recipe come together. After stumbling upon another version of this salad online, I was not surprised to see that it was at this step where it clearly failed. Too little dressing and the shredded sprouts will taste like a mouthful of straw that no amount of phytonutrients will make you feel good about.
2 lbs brussel sprouts
1/4 C pumpkin seeds, shelled and toasted
2 slices thickly sliced pumpernickel bread, cubed and toasted with olive oil
1/4 C dried cranberries
1/2 C Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, plus more sliced with a vegetable peeler for garnish
1/3 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey
olive oil or canola oil
salt and pepper
Using a Japanese mandoline, thinly slice each brussel sprout holding the root end with your fingers and pushing the head of the cabbage across the blade. Stop slicing when you are about 2/3 of the way down because the white root end is tough and you only want the fine green leaves in the salad.
For the vinaigrette, add the lemon juice, honey and grated Parmigiano to the base of the blender. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a slightly thick emulsion that just coats the back of a spoon (the appearance should be smooth and creamy, versus broken with particles in it). Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste, and additional honey if desired. If the mixture becomes too thick, add small increments of water to thin it out.
Toss the shredded sprouts with generous amounts of the vinaigrette, then garnish each serving with some dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, croutons and thin slices of Parmigiano Reggiano.